AI Research and Funding in Germany

AI research

Artificial Intelligence is already part of our everyday lives – in smartphones, cameras, our social media feeds or even in our bank accounts.

Some of the basic and applied research that made these features possible, is being conducted in Germany.

On this page, we would like to show you more about the AI research landscape in Germany, and give you an overview on the various projects, institutes and networks that focus on AI, as well as different funding programmes that allow you to plan your next career step in Germany.

Who does AI research in Germany?

AI research in Germany is conducted at universities and also at non-university research institutions. Almost all universities host an AI research section. The spectrum ranges from small monothematic working groups to large interdisciplinary departments and covers a variety of topics.

For a first comprehensive overview, please take a look at our poster “Research in Germany - Artificial Intelligence Research”.

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Research in Germany - AI Research (2020, poster)

Download (PDF, 698 KB)

Research institutions focusing on AI research

Here are now some examples of outstanding institutions and projects that focus on AI research, both at non-university and university-based research institutions:

The aim of the Cluster of Excellence is to enable machine learning to take a central role in all aspects of scientific discovery and to understand how such a transformation will impact the scientific approach as a whole. The research cluster was established in 2019 and is funded by the German Research Foundation. It brings together scientists from various disciplines of the sciences and the humanities.

While machine learning methods have been used in the past to tackle isolated prediction problems, recent breakthroughs open up an exciting new opportunity: Automated inference methods will become increasingly useful in the process of scientific discovery itself, supporting scientists in identifying which hypotheses to test, which experiments to perform, and how to extract principles describing a broad range of phenomena.

The Cluster of Excellence aims to drive new developments in machine learning, by identifying and solving overarching problems that are common to many scientific disciplines. It pursues to advance scientific application domains by creating a sustainable impact on science through machine learning. Last but not least, the researchers of the cluster investigate long-range implications of the envisioned transformation of science through machine learning. They study possible consequences on the general scientific approach using methods from philosophy of science and research ethics.

Website: www.ml-in-science.uni-tuebingen.de

Email: ml-in-science@uni-tuebingen.de

Twitter: @ml4science

Founded at the end of 2016, Cyber Valley has quickly grown into Europe’s largest ecosystem for research and innovation in machine learning and related fields. Located in southwestern Germany, Cyber Valley counts four academic partners, namely the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen, the Max Planck Society, and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. It also comprises seven industrial partners, a start-up network, and an investor network. Cyber Valley’s overarching aims are to train the AI researchers of the future, promote knowledge and technology transfer between basic and applied research, and foster a culture of entrepreneurship among scientists in the Stuttgart-Tübingen region. Of course, none of this would be possible without outstanding basic research: with a growing number of professorships, research groups, and clusters of excellence, Cyber Valley institutions have some of the world’s leading scientists among their faculty. At present, the Cyber Valley ecosystem counts more than 1000 researchers, among them 160 PhD students.

Researchers at Cyber Valley partner institutions have consistently had a high number of papers accepted to the world’s leading machine learning conferences. At NeurIPS 2020, the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen, the Max Planck Institutes for Intelligent Systems and Biological Cybernetics, and the Bosch Center for Artificial Intelligence have a total of 31 papers.

Website: www.cyber-valley.de

Twitter: @Cyber_Valley

The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, DFKI, ranks among the most recognized “Centers of Excellence” in the international scientific community. DFKI projects cover the whole spectrum from application-oriented basic research to market- and client-oriented design of product functions. Currently, DFKI is the biggest research center worldwide in the area of AI and its application in terms of number of employees and volume of external funds. The financial budget in 2019 was 57.5 million Euro from public national and European research grants as well as industrial contracts. About 1,080 employees from more than 65 countries are conducting research in all major areas of AI. The fundamental orientation of DFKI is human-centric AI.

Shortly after the advent of Deep Learning, DFKI launched its Deep Learning Competence Center (DLCC) with the cross-sectional functionality to connect DL competences across DFKI. Across the 21 research departments, DFKI‘s DLCC brings together hundreds of experts focusing on the development and application of Deep Learning approaches in their respective fields. Apart from pushing the limits in each domain, the DLCC especially focuses on current DL specific research areas such as Efficiency, XAI, Robustness, Trustworthy AI, Small Data, Unsupervised / Self-supervised Learning, Generative Approaches, collaborating with other researchers and experts, and teaching these novel approaches to a new generation of students embracing machine learning.

Website: www.dfki.de/en/web/; https://www.dfki.de/en/web/news-media/news-events/events/neurips-2020/

Twitter: @DFKI

The Max Planck Society is Germany’s most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, more than 20 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The currently 86 Max Planck Institutes and facilities conduct basic research in the service of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Max Planck Institutes focus on research fields that are particularly innovative, or that are especially demanding in terms of funding or time requirements.

Of the 86 Max Planck Institutes, several focus on AI research. For the 2020 NeurIPS virtual conference, the Max Planck Society put together a comprehensive website: https://maxplanckneuroscience.org/neurips/

Funding for AI researchers in Germany

Whether you are a young international researcher looking for a scholarship, an early career researcher wanting to pursue a PhD in the field of AI research at a German graduate school, or a more experienced researcher who wants to start a collaboration with a German partner – the right funding programme can help you with your next career step. Finding the right programme can make all the difference.

Here are some funding programmes and projects especially for AI researchers:

The DFG (German Research Foundation) has launched a strategic funding initiative in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Projects from all areas of AI research are to be financed in various funding programmes in the years 2020 to 2022 as part of the initiative.

Artificial intelligence techniques are increasingly becoming an integral part of the research process in many branches of science. In recognition of this, the AI initiative addresses different areas of action: On the one hand, it highlights the need for top-level academic research in this area closely interlinking research on AI methods with basic research in the disciplines in which AI methods are increasingly being used. At the same time, success in the competition for the best researchers in this field plays an important role in terms of positioning Germany’s AI research landscape internationally.

Check out https://ai-initiative.dfg.de/ for more information on these funding opportunities.

Freedom for creative ideas and ideal conditions for independent research – these are the opportunities that an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship offers to leading researchers who come to Germany from abroad to pursue research on Artificial Intelligence or its broader implications.

The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship is the most valuable research award in Germany. Award winners are nominated by German universities with the aim of conducting research in Germany long term. For this purpose, they receive up to five million euros for their research which can be used very flexibly. The award amount covers the first five years of financing a professorship. When nominating a candidate, the universities submit a strategy for continuing to sustainably finance the professorship when this period comes to an end.

Six Alexander von Humboldt Professorships for Artificial lntelligence can be granted annually. Researchers from all disciplines who focus on the investigation and use of AI as well as its societal impacts are eligible to be nominated.

Website: www.humboldt-foundation.de/en/ahp

Twitter: @AFAvH, @AvHStiftung

This new initiative by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) – funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) – connects Postdocs to top researchers in their research field and provide insights into the research system, career options and employers expectations in Germany. At the core of the program is a five-days information visit for all successful participants covered by the DAAD, including comprehensive information and networking before and after the trip. All applicants will be granted access to comprehensive information on the host institutions and on funding opportunities. Additionally, it offers information sessions on research funding and opportunities in Germany to all applicants and offer even more events for shortlisted candidates.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic on-site visits are currently replaced by virtual group visits and one-on-one meetings with the researchers from the guest institutions. Additionally, successful participants will get financial and organizational support by DAAD for individual on-site visits (when the travel regulations will permit it).

The new call is out now - Apply for the Networking Tour in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence: www.daad.de/ainet/apply

Website: www.daad.de/ainet

Mail: ainet@daad.de

You can find even more funding opportunities in our brochure „Funding your research in Germany“.

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Funding your research in Germany (2019, 76 pages)

A selection of funding programmes for German and foreign academics run by the most important research funding institutions. Target group: international students, graduates, post-docs and academics interested in a research stay in Germany.

Download (PDF, 10 MB)

Most of the funding programmes that are included in the brochure, are offered by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. You can find more detailed descriptions of these organizations here: