Companies & Industrial Research

Innovation Made in Germany: The Automotive Sector

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 the global network of Fraunhofer Institutes and the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF). Examples of successful technology transfer can be found in the areas of environmental research, resource-efficient production and new materials.

Close 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 1,400 licence agreements with industry in 2012 – for example, involving cancer research, the development of the electric motor or a proton therapy for eye disease. The Max Planck Society runs Max Planck Innovation GmbH, a separate technology transfer company. It currently oversees more than 1,440 inventions and has shareholdings in 16 companies. The Leibniz Association was involved in over 1,600 national and international collaborations with companies in 2013. The companies also gain access to the various services of the Leibniz Institutes via a transfer website. The German Research Foundation (DFG) supports knowledge transfer by research institutions and facilitates the foundation of research training groups in which universities and companies work closely together.

Facts and Figures

  • annual budget (2013, planned):
    approx. 55.9 billion euros (internal R&D expenditure)

  • distribution of the internal industrial research budget: 10.5% small enterprises (up to 249 employees), 5.0% medium-sized enterprises (250-499), 84.5% large enterprises (more than 500 employees)

  • approx. 367,000 research staff (2012)

Research Activities

Roughly 37% of internal R&D spending in industry was invested in the automotive sector, approx. 14% in the electrical engineering sector, a good 14% in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and about 9% in mechanical engineering.

Where does industrial research take place?

The Federation of German Industries (BDI) is the umbrella organisation for enterprises and industry-related service providers. The BDI coordinates the views and recommendations of its members and provides business support, i.e. information covering all fields of economic policy. 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 30% – are employed by the automotive industry, while almost 20% work in the electrical engineering sector and some 12% in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

Companies with the highest R&D spending in Germany in 2012

Image Companies with the highest R&D spending in Germany in 2012

Research Budget

Image Research Budget

With expenditure of 53.8 billion euros in 2012 and a planned budget of 55.9 billion euros in 2013, 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


Federation of German Industries (BDI)

Federation of German Industries (BDI)

Read more about the umbrella organisation for industrial businesses and industry-related service providers here. Federation of German Industries (BDI)

Germany Trade & Invest

Germany Trade & Invest

Germany Trade & Invest promotes Germany as a business and technology centre, supports companies based in Germany with global market information and informs and advises international companies setting up business in Germany. Germany Trade & Invest