Science and research are held in high esteem in Germany. Over the past few years, businesses and the government have continually increased their knowledge work budgets. In 2013 the proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP) spent on research was 2.84 percent. Internationally this put Germany in the top group of countries that invest more than 2.5 percent of their GDP in research and development (R&D). In 2013 in Germany a total of almost 80 billion euros was spent on R&D. Industry accounts for around 67 percent of spending on research, with higher education institutions contributing 18 percent and the state 15 percent. The European Commission’s “Innovation Union Scoreboard 2015” study places Germany, together with Sweden, Denmark and Finland, in the top group of “innovation leaders” in the European Union (EU). On a worldwide level, Germany accounts for seven percent of global spending on R&D, even though it only has 1.2 percent of the world’s population. Between 2010 and 2013, industrial companies in Germany increased spending on R&D by more than 22 percent to in excess of 57 billion euros, thus investing more than ever in innovation. Between 2005 and 2015 the Federal Government increased its spending on education and research by 65 percent. In 2015, 15.3 billion euros are earmarked for the education and research budget, with further growth of 25 percent envisaged by 2017.
German academics’ results are highly presentable: In the Nature Index Global, which evaluates the publication output of research facilities and higher education institutions, published in late 2014, Germany achieved top marks in Europe. At the international level it is in third place behind the USA and China. Since 2006 Germany has developed a particular innovation tool in the form of its interdepartmental High-Tech Strategy. Since then, High-Tech Strategy research projects have prompted a raft of innovations – from energy-saving LED bulbs to a tissue-engineered heart valve. The High-Tech Strategy initially had the market potential of specific fields of technology in its sights, whereas since 2010 it has been focussing on society’s need for solutions that are fit for the future, and their realisation.
Translating good ideas into innovative products
In 2014 the High-Tech Strategy was redefined: The goal is to help researchers address topics with future potential and swiftly translate good ideas into innovative products. Six thematic priorities serve as orientation: the digital economy and society, the sustainable economy and energy, the innovative workplace, healthy living, intelligent mobility and civil security. Within the framework of the High-Tech Strategy, 15 cutting-edge clusters which receive special funding were selected in three competition rounds. In 2014 an evaluation revealed that the cutting-edge clusters had produced 900 innovative products, 300 patents, 450 dissertation and habilitation theses, 1,000 Bachelor’s and Master’s theses, and 40 start-ups. Germany boasts more than 800 publicly financed research facilities. Alongside higher education institutions, it is primarily four non-university research organisations that form the backbone of the research sector.
Excellent non-university research institutions
Founded in 1948, the Max Planck Society (MPG) is the most important centre for conducting basic research outside universities in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. 5,600 researchers, 40 percent of them international scientists, work at the 78 Max Planck Institutes in Germany and five other institutes in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, and the USA. Since it was established, the Max Planck Society has produced 18 Nobel laureates. It is number two and the only European research organisation in the Top 10 in the worldwide ISI Citation Index of the most-quoted research works in 22 fields.
The Helmholtz Association conducts cutting-edge research in six fields: energy, earth and environment, health, aeronautics, space and transport, key technologies and matter. The Helmholtz scientists concentrate on highly complex systems and projects. With 14,700 scientists and 6,200 doctoral students at the 18 independent Helmholtz centres, including the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which has 16 sites alone, it is Germany’s biggest research organisation. With 67 institutes, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft is considered to be the largest application-oriented development organisation in Europe. Its most important fields of research are health, security, communication, mobility, energy, and the environment. With subsidiaries and offices, not to mention cooperation agreements, in no less than nine European countries, two in each of North and South America, seven Asian, three African and Arab countries, as well as in Australia, it has a truly global research reach.
The Leibniz Association is the umbrella connecting 89 independent research institutions that range in focus from the natural sciences, engineering and environmental sciences through economics, spatial and social sciences to the humanities. A focus common to the 9,200 researchers is knowledge transfer to policy makers, industry, and the general public. The German Research Foundation (DFG), Europe’s largest organisation of this kind, is responsible for funding science and research. Alongside its head office in Bonn, the DFG maintains offices in China, Japan, India, Russia, North and Latin America, and promotes cooperation between researchers in Germany and fellow researchers abroad.