How does government funding work?

The diversity of the German research system is also reflected in its funding. The so-called financing sector consists of government, industry, foundations and private non-profit organisations as well as foreign donors, which include, above all, the European Union.


The so-called performing sectors are higher education institutions, government institutions (i.e. publicly funded R&D organisations), business enterprises and private non-profit organisations. Many of them are not only funded by government, but also by third-party funds from industry or funds from abroad. Conversely, private research by industry can also receive a certain element of public funding (see diagram).

What are the criteria for funding?

Federal Government research funding is intended to finance the development of new ideas and technologies. Funds are made available for a broad spectrum of research: this ranges from basic research in the natural sciences and structural research funding at higher education institutions to innovation support and technology transfer.

The criteria for research funding are

  • Level of innovation: How innovative is a project from the research or technological perspective?
  • Utility: What are the prospects of success? In the case of technological developments, is there a utilisation plan?
  • Avoidance of double funding: Has the project idea already been funded?

Who receives funding?

Public-sector research funding is provided to support research institutions and commercial companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The funding of individuals is not permitted. Individual funding is awarded by research funding organisations like the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

How is research funding implemented?

Research funding is usually oriented towards certain research fields. At the same time, however, there are several cross-departmental measures organised in an interdisciplinary way. The funding database of the Federal Government provides information about the funding programmes of the Federal Government, the Länder and the European Union (only in German).

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