Research funding system

Research funding system

Over 92 billion euros were invested in research and development in Germany in 2016. Many different organisations and institutions are involved in funding research and fostering young academic talent. Below you can find out who they are and what this support looks like.

Public sector funding

The public sector provides almost 30% of all spending on research and development in Germany (in 2016 this amounted to approx. 27.5 billion euros).

The Federal Republic of Germany is based on the principle of federalism and on constructive cooperation between the Federal Government and the 16 individual states, the so-called Länder. That entails a differentiated distribution of the responsibilities for and the financial costs of research and research funding. The Federal Government and the states act independently with regard to the funding and organisation of research.

In addition to funding higher education, the public sector also finances non-university research organisations that are especially involved in fostering research talent.

The Federal Government and the Länder continue to finance funding organisations such as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the world’s largest funding organisation for the international exchange of students and researchers, and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), whose main task is the selection and funding of the best research projects by scientists and scholars.

Industry funding

Second, German companies make the largest contribution to German research and development funding. In 2016, for example, business enterprises invested approx. 63 billion euros in R&D. Industry runs its own research institutes in specific fields and cooperates with public institutions through various interfaces. Furthermore, German companies invest a great deal of money in developing academic talent, especially by funding dual study programmes and internships.

Funding by foundations

In addition, there are approx. 5,500 foundations incorporated under civil law in Germany that aim to promote science.

The Stifterverband is an association of foundations that provided 12.5 million euros in funding for education, research and science in 2017 alone. Additionally, roughly 11.5 million euros are used to fund endowed chairs.

EU funding

Last but not least, the European Union funds top-level research and outstanding scholars and scientists in a variety of ways. Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, will be making available a total of 24 billion euros for excellent science and bottom-up projects until 2020. This will not only increase funding for forward-looking basic research, but also the support for fresh academic talent and the exchange of scholars and scientists – also in Germany.

Germany is making an above-average commitment to financing what is the world’s largest research and innovation funding programme. In 2018, after Horizon 2020 had been running for four years, the share of funding that flowed to Germany was roughly 18%. From the time of the programme’s launch in 2014, German institutions had received roughly 4.7 billion euros in funding. European research funding therefore makes a substantial contribution to the third-party income of German research establishments.