Research in Germany

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Research in Germany enjoys an exceptional global reputation. Its superb research infrastructure and widespread research institutes mean that Germany is deemed to be among the trendsetting research nations by international comparison. This article provides an overview of Germany as a research location, its research institutes, and useful links to both research and funding opportunities for international academics and researchers.

The German research and innovation landscape

Academia, research and innovation in Germany are characterised by superb infrastructure, a vast bandwidth of disciplines, excellently well equipped research institutions and well trained personnel.

In addition to our numerous higher education institutions and non-university research institutions, the research and development performed by German companies form an important pillar of our innovative prowess. It decisively contributes to the fact that Germany is one of the world’s leading nations when it comes to patent applications.

Germany is investing heavily in research and science to retain and strengthen its innovative edge. Its investment in research and development is currently around three per cent of gross domestic product on an annual basis. And the aim is for this proportion of general government expenditure to rise to at least three and a half per cent by 2025.

Political conditions and research funding

The German government employs various strategies and initiatives to create a political framework that equips Germany for the academic, technological and research-related challenges of the future. A comprehensive research funding system promotes the infrastructure, institutions, projects and individuals. This funding is targeted in particular

toward top-level university research, corporate research, partnerships between companies and academia, and innovative start-ups. The is largely responsible for legislation relating to the funding of school education, extracurricular vocational training, continuous professional development and academia and research; it accordingly provides financial resources.

An aspect of the framework programmes is to determine which sectors are to be prioritised for funding and how the money is invested. The ‘Future Strategy Research and Innovation’ defines core fields for future research in Germany. These include modern technologies that engender an industrial base that is competitive and climate-neutral, a sustainable agriculture and food system, technological sovereignty and a modern, stable healthcare system based on innovative biotechnological and medical procedures.

Top-level university research is assisted via the Excellence Strategy, which funds Excellence Clusters relating to specific fields of research and Excellence Universities – internationally outstanding university locations. The overall programme has access to annual funds amounting to more than EUR 500 million.

The funding of German research is organised on a federal basis, which means that the federal government and federal states act independently in the financing and organisation of research. There are moreover (private) foundations that support academia and research, as well as companies that are firmly committed to research and development. The European Union also finances academia and research via its ‘Horizon Europe’ framework programme, one of the world’s largest research funding programmes.

Research institutes in Germany

Germany as a research location is characterised by multifarious research institutes: research is conducted at venues including universities, universities of applied sciences, non-university institutions, within companies and at federal or state research institutions.

  • There are more than 420 higher education institutions in Germany, including over 100 universities, at which research is conducted in all fields.
  • The 84 undertake fundamental research in the natural and biosciences, and the humanities and social sciences.
  • 76 dedicate themselves to applied research.
  • There are 18 covering scientific-technical and biological-medical research.
  • Research at the 96 extends from knowledge-oriented fundamental research to applied research.

International orientation

Networking with international partners is a key concern for German higher education institutions and research institutions. They are therefore continuously expanding their global collaborations. Support with this is for instance available from the (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD), the , the and their various funding programmes. These scholarships can fund stays in Germany by international students, academics and researchers. Global higher education partnerships represent another important element of internationalisation: German higher education institutions have concluded more than 37,000 cooperation and partnership agreements with partner institutions in 150 countries.

Research careers in Germany

The German universities and research institutions are attractive for international staff. There are diverse research career opportunities open to doctoral candidates, postdocs and experienced researchers – both in university-based research or at a non-university research institution, and in the corporate research and development sector.

Guest lecturers can for a certain period be involved in teaching and research activities at a German higher education institution. A guest lecturer position could enable international researchers to gain experience as well as professional and methodical impetus for their own work.

Applications to a research centre in Germany

An application to a German higher education institution can be submitted by responding to an advertised opening. Many academic staff in Germany are paid according to collective agreements and, in the case of a full-time position, can therefore easily finance a research stay. A job as a research associate can frequently be combined with a PhD thesis. Many higher education institutions in Germany provide assistance in the form of dual career services that help partners with their job search and families to settle into life in Germany. The pools information on the German research landscape, institutions and networks; it also provides an overview of portals for PhD positions, other academic openings and funding opportunities.

It is also possible to obtain a research fellowship for a research stay in Germany. A research fellowship is especially opportune if a time-limited research project is to be implemented in Germany.


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