Germany has a long scientific tradition. Science has always been practically orientated, providing revolutionary inventions offering many benefits. Currently, Germany has set itself the goal of spending 3,5 % of gross domestic product on research and development by 2025.

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, Carl Friedrich Gauss revolutionized mathematics, and Carl Benz developed the first automobile. Wilhelm Röntgen developed the X-ray (in German: 'Roentgen rays') and Albert Einstein developed the theory of general relativity, which generalised special relativity and Newton's law of gravitation. Justus von Liebig discovered the pivotal role of nitrogen in fertilisers (manure) and Robert Koch identified the tuberculosis pathogen. Emmy Noether, one of the few women in her discipline, made substantial contributions to abstract algebra, Konrad Zuse invented the computer, while Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fission. The Nobel laureate Christiane Nüsslein-Vollhard discovered the genes which determine the majority of animals’ body structure. The lesser known Karlheinz Brandenburg developed the mp3 format.

German scientists have been awarded about 10 percent of all Nobel Prizes. Last in 2021, Benjamin List received the Nobel Prize for chemistry and Klaus Hasselmann the Nobel Prize for physics. Since 1998, German scientists have been awarded seven Nobel Prizes for physics, four for chemistry, and three for medicine.

Germany has a highly developed scientific system, containing more than 800 publicly funded research institutions. Outstanding scientific work is conducted at more than 400 universities and colleges. Currently, more than two and a half million students, eleven percent of whom are from abroad, are registered at institutions of higher learning in Germany. Most universities and colleges are organised within the German Rectors' Conference. On the pages of Higher Education Compass, information on the many partnerships between German and Israeli universities can be found.

Besides universites and colleges, especially the research institutes of the four great science organisations (see German Research Organisations) play an active role in research. In addition to that, there are a variety of independent research centers, and the roughly 40 Federal Republic’s  and the about 160 federal states’ research institutes. The page Research in Germany provides a useful overview of the German research landscape.The Federal Ministry’s website provides further information particularly concerning the Federal Republic’s and the federal states’ departmental research institutes. Besides publicly funded research institutes, also a great number of privately funded institutions is located in Germany.

While engineering, chemistry, medicine, physics, and mathematics have always been the strong sectors of German science, German researchers are also actively involved in future disciplines, such as ecological research, information and communication technologies, neuroscience and biotechnology, optical technologies, and micro-system technologies. The humanities and social sciences are traditionally also well represented in Germany.

The hallmark of the science infrastructure in Germany are federalism and the division of labor between institutions financed by the government and by private sector businesses. Despite this division, there are many overlaps and interrelations. The federal government is responsible for the funding of scientific research and controls the fundamentals of science policy in keeping with the Framework Act for Higher Education. The federal states are principally responsible for the running of institutions of higher education.

In addition, the federal government is mainly involved by providing temporary third-party funding. The German Research Foundation is the central control mechanism for the distribution of third-party funds. Among others, it bundles research potential by establishing collaborative research centers. Another support programme is the Excellence Initiative, which the federal government and the federal states introduced in 2005.

In 2006, the federal government established a High-Tech Strategy, which is continuously adapted to meet new challenges. The current High-Tech Strategy 2025 aims to transform research results into good products and services. Companies, universities and research institutions should also build international networks in order to achieve this. The new "Future Strategy for Research and Innovation" is intended to strengthen Germany's innovative strength and secure Europe's technological sovereignty. The new strategy replaces the previous High-Tech Strategy 2025 and will be published in autumn 2022.

In addition, the Federal Government has been laying the foundations for a more networked international cooperation with the new Strategy for the Internationalization of Education, Science and Research since 2017.

Over and above these programmes a 2014 change in legislation allows the federal government to promote also open-ended research projects of national importance at higher education institutions.

Furthermore, enterprises and research institutions pool their research and development activities in networks and clusters.