Steinbeis today spans a worldwide network dedicated to the transfer of know-how and technology. The foundations of our organization were laid in the 19th century by Ferdinand von Steinbeis, to whom we owe our name. It was his dedication and commitment to economic development that attracted the financial rewards of industry and this enabled Ferdinand von Steinbeis to establish the first Steinbeis Foundation in 1868/69. Its aim: to foster the vocational training of young people.
Professors at five universities of applied sciences in Baden-Württemberg found the first Technical Consulting Services (TCS) as contacts for small and medium-sized enterprises.
During the period of high inflation in 1923, the Steinbeis-Stiftung was disbanded. The foundation was re-established in 1971 as a foundation under the German Civil Code and a key service provider in supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg. The interdisciplinary Technology Consulting Service Centers emerged as one of the key instruments in providing services. At the time, they were associate institutions to the universities of applied sciences in Baden-Württemberg and arranged for knowledgeable technical advisors to support SMEs throughout the area.
The key milestone followed in 1983 at the instigation of Prof. Dr. h. c. Lothar Späth, then Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, who appointed Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. mult. Johann Löhn the first Government Commissioner for Technology Transfer. Johann Löhn held this office until 2006 and assisted the state government in supporting SMEs in the area. At the same time, he became the full-time chairman of the board of the Steinbeis-Stiftung that he reformed. Johann Löhn’s position in state office and his work with private business under the auspices of the Steinbeis-Stiftung leveraged numerous synergies and allowed the foundation to grow rapidly. He made the foundation of Transfer Centers one of his top priorities at the time. Initially regarded as associate institutions of the State’s universities of applied sciences, Transfer Centers were to focus chiefly on specific project work with customers as well as consulting services. Today, all types of universities and numerous research institutions are home to these Centers.
Steinbeis begins activities in the newly formed federal states of Germany. The Commissioner for Europe of the Baden-Württemberg Minister of Economics is integrated into the Steinbeis Foundation.
The Steinbeis organization was restructured in 1998. The Steinbeis GmbH & Co. KG für Technologietransfer was established as a new operational unit to separate the tasks of the foundation and the organization’s greatly expanded commercial activities. In the same year, the privately-operated Steinbeis University was founded and recognized by the state. Johann Löhn became its first president and hold that office till 2018.
Steinbeis founds its own independent publishing house, Steinbeis-Edition, to publish specialist publications issued by the Steinbeis Network. Steinbeis-Edition helps realizing the Steinbeis-Stiftungs' mission: making scientific and academic findings available to business.
In 2004, Johann Löhn handed the chair of the Board of Directors of the foundation over. The new Board of Directors, now made up exclusively of full-time members, also manages the Steinbeis-Stiftung and the Steinbeis GmbH & Co. KG für Technologietransfer. Steinbeis awards the first Steinbeis Foundation Transfer Prize – the Löhn Award for extraordinary transfer projects in competitive knowledge and technology transfer.
The Steinbeis Beratungszentren GmbH and the Steinbeis Forschungs- und Innovationszentren GmbH, both founded in 2005, consolidate the expertise in consulting and coaching as well as market and transfer-oriented research and development. In addition to its Steinbeis transfer centers and transfer institutes, Steinbeis starts to establish Steinbeis research and innovation centers as well as Steinbeis consulting centers.
With the first Stuttgart Competence Day, Steinbeis begins the establishment of three central forums for competence, consulting, and engineering, plus related conferences.
Founded in 2008, the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute of the Steinbeis Foundation (FSTI) now coordinates activities in the context of digital transformation and technology convergence and conducts transfer-oriented research in the field of digitization and networking. The FSTI is also an affiliated institute of the Steinbeis University.
As a further development of research at the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute, Steinbeis founds the Ferdinand-Steinbeis-Gesellschaft für transferorientierte Forschung gGmbH der Steinbeis-Stiftung (FSG). As a non-profit subsidiary, the FSG promotes cooperative and interdisciplinary research.
Over 40 years have passed since the reorganization of the Steinbeis Foundation in 1983 as a start-up with the business idea of a platform for business start-ups. What began as five Technical Consulting Services at universities of applied sciences in Baden-Württemberg, had by 2021 grown into a Transfer Network of more than 1,100 enterprises. This network encompassed approximately 5,200 people with a commitment and passion for targeted transfer.
The publication "Steinbeis 1983-2008" provides detailed information on Steinbeis history, while the anthology published in 2023 shows what our association is all about to this day: creating meaning and value for science, business and society.