How do I start a career in business R&D in Germany?

Why not seek a job in the business economy as a young researcher? After all, German companies spend a lot of money on research and development, pursue international activities, enjoy worldwide success and have labs and R&D departments that could hardly be better equipped. R&D enterprises are recruiting international researchers by offering them well-paid jobs and special funding programmes.

Companies provide funding, too

German industry does not always act only as an employer here. Many companies also support research and early career researchers or endow professorships. For example, companies finance approx. 350 of the current total of 780 privately funded chairs.

Excellent equipment

One aspect that makes research in business companies so attractive is the excellent equipment. As a postdoc you will benefit from the well-funded research environment German companies provide. This gives you the chance to gain deep insights in the field of discovery research.

International contacts

In globally active R&D companies, you will have the opportunity to acquire international experience and make contacts around the world. This may well be of interest to you as an international postdoc in particular, as the company may have a research centre or contacts in your home country.

Career options

If you are seeking a future in applied research, would like to see your results swiftly transformed into practical applications and regard the constraints of feasibility and economic viability as a challenge, then a research job in a R&D company could be a highly attractive option. This would see you working in a team and establishing a new network.

Here discoveries flow directly into new products or solutions. What is more, your career prospects will also be good – even if you decide to return home at a later date.

You will have no teaching duties here, nor will you be under any pressure to publish. However, that is also one reason why the path back into a university is not necessarily easy. You should therefore carefully consider a move to industry.

However, in the engineering sciences for example, experience in a company has traditionally been an important requirement when applying for a professorship. And if you aspire to a career as a professor at a university of applied sciences, subject-related experience outside higher education is generally a prerequisite. A postdoc position in a company will then enable you to gain the necessary practical experience.

Team players needed

So how does one become a postdoc in a research-based company? Is a good PhD enough? The most important thing, experts say, is your ability to think and behave like an entrepreneur.

To successfully prepare new products for the market, genuine team players are needed who stand out on account of their innovative ideas and persuasive communicative skills.

What’s in it for me as a postdoc?

  • You will gain professional experience in business.
  • You can acquire additional qualifications.
  • Your career prospects improve, even if you return home.
  • You achieve qualifications necessary for a professorship at a university of applied sciences.
  • You will have (international) networking opportunities.

Facts and figures

309,000 researchers work in R&D in companies (2019).

Only 3 industrialized countries have companies that employ more professionals who are engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge.

Around 350 endowed professorships established be companies (2022).