R&D policy framework

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Germany is one of the world’s leading countries in research and development. This is due not least to its strong system of research support. It not only finances infrastructure and institutions, but also and especially provides support for university-based cutting-edge research and researching enterprises, for cooperation between industry and science and for innovative business start-ups.

Here we will introduce you to the most important instruments of government research funding.

Germany has set itself the goal of spending 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product on research and development by the year 2025, one of the highest proportions of any country worldwide. Among others, framework programmes like the High-Tech Strategy define which areas will be prioritised and how the money will be invested.

Universities and higher education institutions are important research actors in Germany. They and the publicly funded non-university research organisations spend approx. 32.6 billion euros a year on research and development. The Federal Government and the German states have established special funding programmes to secure the sustainability – also in personnel terms – of educational, scientific and research organisations, to enable cutting-edge research and improve the quality of teaching.

  • Excellence Strategy
    Enabling and accelerating cutting-edge research is the goal of the Excellence Strategy. A commission of international experts decides on the distribution of millions of euros of funding for excellence clusters and excellence universities.
    www.dfg.de > Excellence Strategy 
  • Pact for Research and Innovation
    The large non-university research organisations also face international competition. The Pact for Research and Innovation aims to strengthen their position here. It is creating the stable financial conditions and freedom of movement needed by cutting-edge research at the international level.
  • Future Contract for Strengthening Studying and Teaching
    Following in the footsteps of the Higher Education Pact 2020, the Future Contract for Strengthening Studying and Teaching aims to secure internationally competitive study conditions and high-quality teaching at all German universities.
  • UAS.International
    Universities of applied sciences (UASs) – or Fachhochschulen – form the second pillar of the German higher education landscape alongside more traditional universities. The training students receive here is practice-based and work-related, while the research is application-oriented. UAS.International is a programme that aims to strengthen the internationalisation of studies and teaching at these higher education institutions by supporting their students and staff on stays abroad as well as universities engaging in collaborative projects with international partners.
    www.daad.de > UAS.International

  • Innovation in Higher Education Teaching
    The Agreement on Innovation in Higher Education Teaching was concluded by the Federal Government and the German states (Länder) to strengthen and develop teaching in higher education and improve study conditions at German universities. Various funding measures are being used to support projects for improving the quality of study programmes and teaching as well as for further qualification or knowledge transfer.

The focus here is on cooperation: science and industry working closely together in an interdisciplinary way and across national borders. This aims not only to strengthen regional potential, but also to address global challenges.

  • go-cluster
    Research partnerships also need management. This is where the go-cluster programme provides support for members of clusters. It assists with marketing, international networking and continuous further development.
  • Internationalisation of Leading-Edge Clusters, Forward-Looking Projects and Comparable Networks
    How can small and medium-sized enterprises realise successful international cooperation in research and development projects? By taking advantage of the programme called Internationalisation of Leading-Edge Clusters, Forward-Looking Projects and Comparable Networks, for example. It supports cooperation of regional clusters and networks with international partners in which small and medium-sized enterprises are involved.
    www.bmbf.de > Cluster – Networks – International
  • Innovation and structural transformation
    This funding concept focuses on structurally weak regions throughout Germany. It aims to strengthen regional potentials in a targeted way in order to support structural change. In the process it is funding broadly based, interdisciplinary alliances that cross sectoral and institutional boundaries. Civic initiatives and other actors are also to be involved in a targeted way.
    www.bmbf.de > Innovation and structural transformation / WIR!
  • Research Campus
    Science and industry work together in the supported research campuses: for example, on new methods for diagnosing infectious diseases or on the reorganisation of the electricity supply for the energy transition. They are supported here by the Research Campus – Public-Private Partnership for Innovation funding initiative.
  • Innovative Hochschule
    The Innovative Hochschule funding measure focuses on transfer and innovation and is especially aimed at small and medium-sized universities as well as universities of applied sciences.
    www.bmbf.de > Innovative Hochschule
  • Research at Universities of Applied Sciences
    Feasibility and practical application are the main focus of research at universities of applied sciences in Germany. Providing targeted support for this research and making its findings accessible to the economy and beyond are the goal of the programme “Research at Universities of Applied Sciences”.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often excel as so-called hidden champions and are technological pioneers in their field. It goes without saying, however, that it is not particularly easy for small businesses to finance fundamental or larger research projects. As a result, many funding programmes aim to support these enterprises and their research projects.

  • Industrial Collective Research
    Though basic research is also important for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), they are often unable to finance it. Industrial Collective Research (IGF) facilitates joint research on good project ideas. The findings are then available to all enterprises.
    www.aif.de > Collective Research
  • Central Innovation Programme SME
    Innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and cooperating research institutions can receive grants for their R&D projects.
    www.aif.de > Central Innovation Programme SME
  • KMU-innovativ
    Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often have little experience of the public funding of research projects. The KMU-innovativ programme helps them to find and apply for funding, gives advice about how to provide proof of equity capital and ensures that cutting-edge research can also be realised in small businesses.

Young firms are already of major importance in several economic sectors. Business founders from the world of science and research can receive support from funding programmes that assist, for example, in obtaining venture capital from private investors.