Companies & Industrial Research

car with electric drive
Innovation made in Germany: The automotive sector.

German companies are among the most innovative in Europe. Industry-based and -financed investments account for more than two thirds of all R&D funding in Germany.

Companies are especially involved in applied research and work closely with universities, universities of applied sciences and non-university research institutes. Examples of successful technology transfer can be found in the areas of environmental research, resource-efficient production and new materials.

Organisational Details

German companies are affiliated to different, usually industry-specific associations to effectively represent their collective interests. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) is the umbrella organisation for 36 affiliated industrial associations, including a working group that represents the interests of roughly 100,000 companies. The BDI coordinates the views and recommendations of its members and provides business support, such as information covering all fields of economic policy.

Cooperation between Industry and Research

Industry and research cooperate in many areas. For example, there are numerous joint programmes and research projects involving companies as well as research and research-funding organisations.

Companies cooperate especially closely in the field of applied research. They also have strong contacts with the global network of Fraunhofer Institutes and the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF). The Helmholtz Association had 2,000 collaborative projects and approx. 1,300 licence agreements with industry in 2013 . For example, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) has concluded licence agreements with regional companies on a vertical filter system for the biological purification of ground water. The Max Planck Society runs Max Planck Innovation, a separate technology transfer company. It currently oversees roughly 1,200 inventions and has shareholdings in 16 companies. The Leibniz Association has actively engaged in the professional marketing of research findings for many years. Leibniz also especially supports small and medium-sized enterprises with a wide range of services that it offers on its Transfer website (in German).

The German Research Foundation (DFG) also supports knowledge transfer between research and industry. One example is a transfer project on OLED technology in which the University of Augsburg and lighting manufacturer Osram are jointly researching ways of increasing the energy-efficiency and operating life of this promising technology.

Facts and Figures

  • Annual budget for R&D (2014, planned):
    approx. 56.1 billion euros (internal R&D expenditure)

  • Distribution of the internal industrial research budget: 11.0% small enterprises (up to 249 employees), 5.2% medium-sized enterprises (250–499), 83.8% large enterprises (more than 499 employees)

  • Approx. 360,000 research staff, including roughly 200,000 researchers (2013)

Research Activities

Roughly 31% of internal R&D spending in industry was invested in the automotive sector, approx. 18% in the electrical engineering sector, a good 14% in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and about 10% in mechanical engineering.

Particularly in the field of applied research, companies work with universities and research institutes on joint projects that are co-funded by public institutions. The most R&D employees in German industry – roughly 25% – are employed by the automotive industry, while over 20% work in the electrical engineering sector and approx. 11% in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry .

Companies with the highest R&D spending in Germany in 2013

Image Companies with the highest R&D spending in Germany in 2013

Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW are the top three companies in Europe when it comes to R&D investment. German companies take five out of the six top places and 25 of the top 100 in the European ranking of corporate research spending.

Research Budget

Image Research Budget

Sources of Funding for Industry R&D Expenditur

With expenditure of 53.6 billion euros in 2013 and a planned budget of 56.1 billion euros in 2014, German industry is spending more on research and development than ever before. Industry is responsible for carrying out and funding more than two-thirds of R&D activities in Germany.