Research funding system

man giving a lecture

Approximately 89 billion euros are invested in research and development in Germany every year.  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 per cent of all spending on research and development in Germany (in 2015 this amounted to approx. 26.5 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 German Research Foundation (DFG), whose main task is the selection and funding of the best research projects by scientists and scholars.

Industry funding

Second, German industry makes the largest contribution to German research and development funding. In 2015, for example, business enterprises invested 61 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 over 4,000 foundations incorporated under civil law in Germany that aim to promote science and research.

The Stifterverband is an association of foundations, which alone provides nearly 22.5 million euros in funding for education, research and science. Roughly 10 million euros of this total is 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 education and research 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. After running for two years, the proportion of German contributions to the funding awarded to EU member states amounted to over 19 per cent. In the opposite direction, over 2.2 billion euros went to German research institutions during this period. European research funding therefore makes a substantial contribution to the third-party income of German research establishments.