Germany is one of the leading countries for research and science. This is thanks, not least, to the distinct system of government research funding, which not only finances infrastructure and institutions, but also supports outstanding researchers. Together with the private sector, government is the biggest source of funding for research in Germany. Almost 30% of investments in R&D are financed by tax money. Thus Germany is among those nations worldwide whose governments invest the most in R&D – both in absolute terms and as a proportion of GDP.
What is funded?
In Germany, the Federal Government and the 16 states (Länder) share responsibility for funding education, science and research. There are three instruments for this:
- Institutional funding This focuses first and foremost on basic equipment as well as on staff salaries and materials budgets for research organisations and universities. Investments in new buildings or new purchases of research equipment or infrastructure likewise come under this category. More than a third of government research support is spent on institutional funding.
- Project funding This type of financing relates to specific, fixed-term projects and is allocated via special funding programmes. Project funding is provided to drive improvements in higher education programmes and teaching, for example. It also supports joint research projects involving academics, researchers and SMEs in particular, or contributes to projects with international participation.
- Departmental research funding Policymakers and public administrations also need scientific support and advice. Contract research is required to provide that. Naturally, federal ministries or state (Länder) authorities primarily grant research contracts to the government’s own research institutions; however, other research institutions can also be commissioned with R&D projects.
The Federal Government spends 17.3 billion euros a year on R&D. Of this amount
- 61% is spent by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
- 21% by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and
- 6% by the Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg)
In addition to this, the German states invest another 12.4 billion euros a year in R&D.
Support for individual researchers
Direct government funding is not available for individual researchers. Instead, they can seek support from research funding organisations (which primarily receive public-sector finance), such as the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the German Academic Exchange Service or the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. These organisations have specially tailored programmes for international (junior) researchers, for international partnerships and for supporting (joint) research projects.
The Federal Government spends 17.3 billion euros a year on R&D (2018). The German states invest an additional 12.4 billion euros (2016).