Which institutions carry out research in Germany?
In Germany there are 428 higher education institutions that carry out research to a significantly large extent within the higher education sector, of which 106 are universities.
Additional research activity takes place at non-university research institutions, i.e. public institutions that only carry out research. These include the numerous institutes of the Fraunhofer Society, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Society, as well as the academies of sciences.
In addition to this there are several research institutes belonging to central or regional government, such as the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the Robert Koch Institute, the German Meteorological Office (DWD) or the Institute for Employment Market and Career Research, all of which research on behalf of political and administrative bodies.
However, the main employers are companies engaged in research – they provide more than 60 per cent of all research jobs.
Research and development in German industry
Industry’s share of the expenditure on research and development (R&D) in Germany is very high – two thirds. In their conviction that ‘innovation and growth go hand in hand’, many companies constantly increase their R&D investments. Particularly in knowledge-based industries, such as car manufacture, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and the chemical industry (including pharmaceuticals), companies are equipped with outstanding R&D departments and offer job applicants excellent career conditions. According to European Commission data, Volkswagen, Daimler, Bosch, BMW, Siemens and Bayer are the top R&D companies in Germany – they alone invest over 40 billion euros annually in research and development. Vacancies in these companies are often advertised internationally. English-language job advertisements are also to be found on their respective web pages.
An important organisation for supporting knowledge transfer to industry is the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF).
Working as a foreign researcher in Germany
Internationality is seen as a valuable asset at universities and other research institutions in Germany. It is evidence that the institution in question enjoys high regard even beyond the nation’s borders, or perhaps may even belong in the international top league. For this reason, many positions are also advertised internationally. In addition, various academic organisations provide a number of funding programmes that enable doctoral students or postdocs to work in Germany.
Of the 387,000 academic or artistic staff working in German universities in 2016, almost one in eight came from abroad. Most of them came from non-EU countries. At institutions devoted purely to research, the proportion is even higher. At the Max Planck Institutes, for example, four out of ten scientists have a nationality other than German.
Researchers who come from non-EU countries normally need an entry visa. The international offices of the universities can provide further information.
Organisation of research funding in Germany
Most universities and research institutions are publicly financed, and receive a basic financial package from their supporters. The universities use these basic funds for teaching, administration and their own research projects. Institutions devoted purely to research also finance part of their research from them, as well as their administration. By securing third-party funding, they can carry out additional research projects. These third-party projects have now become an indispensable feature of the research scene, and four out of ten academic staff are involved with such projects. Since third-party funds have to be acquired in competition with other research projects, they are seen as proof of academic excellence.
The most important third-party sponsor for universities is the German Research Foundation (DFG), which is primarily financed through funds from central and regional government. In 2016 it funded around 30,000 research projects with a total of 3.1 billion euros. This means that it supplied a third of all the third-party funds that were granted in that year. An additional 27 per cent of funds came from specific funding programmes of the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Research Ministry. Commercial industry ranks third with 20 per cent of funds, followed by the European Union and foundations such as the Volkswagen Foundation.
Fellowships are also an option for financing a research stay. The most important grant-awarding bodies include the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions of the European Commission, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
Many universities have a third-party funding agent or advice centres for research funding, which also advise international academics.