Companies & Industrial Research

Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the most research-intensive companies in Germany.

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 that represents the interests of roughly 100,000 companies with more than 8 million employees. 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. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) receive support here from the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF), the leading national organisation for the promotion of applied research and development in the SME sector.

Companies cooperate especially closely in the field of applied research. There are many examples of this:

  • Many companies collaborate closely with the global network of Fraunhofer Institutes; as a result, Fraunhofer earns 640 million euros (2015) by carrying out contract research for industry.
  • The Helmholtz Association was involved in 2,400 collaborative projects and had approx. 1,100 licence agreements with industry in 2015.
  • 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 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

  • R&D spending by industry: 1.95% of GDP ; internal R&D expenditure: 57 billion euros (2014)

  • Distribution of the internal industrial research budget: 9.2% small enterprises (up to 249 employees), 4.7% medium-sized enterprises (250–499 employees), 86.0% large enterprises (more than 499 employees) (2014)

  • Approx. 371,000 R&D personnel (2014)

Research Activities

Image Research Activities

Roughly 35% of internal R&D spending in industry was invested in the automotive sector, 17% in the electrical engineering sector, almost 14% in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and about 10% in mechanical engineering.

The highest number of R&D employees in German industry – roughly 27% – are employed by the automotive industry, while almost 21% 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 2014

Volkswagen leads the global ranking of the world top R&D investors. In Europe, Volkswagen, Daimler and Robert Bosch are the top three companies when it comes to R&D investment. German companies take five out of the six top places and 24 of the top 100 in the European ranking of corporate research spending.

Research Budget

Image Research Budget
Sources of funds for industry R&D expenditure


With expenditure of 57.0 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.




The BDI is the umbrella organisation of German industry and industry-related services. It speaks for 36 trade associations and over 100,000 enterprises with roughly 8 million employees. BDI



Germany Trade & Invest promotes Germany as a business and technology location and supports companies based in Germany with global market information. GTAI

German Centres for Industry and Trade

German Centres for Industry and Trade

German Centres are based in China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Singapore. They offer offices, services and networks and bring together German and local businesses with foreign trade development agencies of German industry, the German states and the Federal Government under one roof. The German Centres are primarily open to German enterprises. German Centres for Industry and Trade