Government Funding

Researcher with goggles in laboratory

The Federal Government places a clear emphasis on higher education, research and high technology through numerous strategies and initiatives, such as the Excellence Initiative, as well as its successor, the Excellence Strategy, the Internationalisation Strategy and the High-Tech Strategy. Almost one third of spending on research and development in Germany is provided by federal and state governments. Government is thus the main sponsor of research in Germany alongside industry.

Federal and state government financial support for research essentially consists of:

  • Institutional funding: In the case of institutional funding, the government directly finances almost 1,000 non-university research institutes as well as approx. 240 public higher education institutions. Over one third of all government funding is spent on this kind of financial support.
  • Project funding: Direct project funding is allocated to concrete areas of research and is implemented through programmes. This funding does not only benefit higher education institutions and research facilities, but also companies. However, unlike direct institutional funding, project funding is short- to medium-term in nature.

Indirect project funding primarily supports the research work of smaller and medium-sized research institutes and enterprises.

  • Departmental research: Ministries play a special role in the funding of science and research. They channel the federal share of funds and define their own key areas through specific programmes and approx. 40 federal institutions with R&D responsibilities. German states and municipalities also act as research funding bodies and operate several Länder research institutions that support state research activities. There are more than 150 institutes covering a broad range of research areas. In addition to the research carried out by federal and state institutions with R&D responsibilities themselves, research contracts are also awarded to third parties.

Constructive Cooperation between the Federal Government and the States

Joint Research Funding by Federal and State Government 2017

When it comes to projects of national significance, the Federal Government and the states have defined rules that enable cooperation and influence within the German research area. This applies for example to the funding of large German non-university research organisations: the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the institutes of the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Society. Additionally, both the Federal Government and the states support academies of science and humanities as well as the German Research Foundation (DFG), which was founded jointly as Germany’s main research funding organisation.

Higher Education Funding

Fundamentally, Germany’s approx. 240 public higher education institutions are funded by the Länder, whose autonomy in cultural and educational matters is anchored in the Basic Law. However, the Federal Government and the states also cooperate when it comes to support for science, research and teaching. Projects of supraregional importance are funded jointly.

Additional Research Funding

In addition, the Federal Government finances large-scale scientific research projects (for example, in the fields of aviation, space, marine or nuclear research). Researchers from German universities participate in research projects involving internationally leading large research infrastructures, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland or the new European XFEL X-ray laser facility near Hamburg.