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Germany enjoys an excellent international reputation as a country of research and innovation. Its ‘Future Research and Innovation Strategy’ is aimed at strengthening its powers of innovation and securing Europe’s technological sovereignty. Germany has set itself the goal of investing 3.5 percent of its GDP in research and development by 2025.

Germany is one of the world’s leading countries in research and innovation. University research institutions, non-university research organisations, companies conducting research, and research establishments of the Federal Government and the Länder form the backbone of this success. German businesses pioneer innovative products and the label ‘made in Germany’ continues to be considered a guarantee of high product quality worldwide. The Research in Germany website provides an up-to-date overview of the research landscape in Germany. Research in Germany is a communication initiative funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with a view to strengthening Germany’s profile as an internationally attractive location for research and innovation.

Diverse research and innovation landscape

Germany has a highly differentiated science system with more than 1,000 publicly funded research institutions. The German science system is characterised by its federal structure and the sharing of responsibilities between publicly funded institutions and the private sector. The Federal Government is responsible for the provision of funding for scientific and scholarly research and defines the general direction of science policy with the Framework Act for Higher Education. University education for students falls within the remit of the Länder.

In the winter semester 2022-23, German higher education institutions counted around 2.9 million students; 20 percent of those enrolled were students from abroad. The majority of higher education institutions is part of the German Rectors’ Conference. This association hosts the website International university partnerships, which provides an overview of the many partnerships between Germany and Israel.  Next to Germany’s universities, the establishments of the four large science organizations play an especially active role in research.

In addition, there are the independent research centres and institutions of the Federal Government and the Länder (approx. 40 establishments at federal level and 160 at Länder level) There are also numerous privately funded research institutions in Germany.

Furthermore, the Federal Government is committed to providing (time-limited) third-party funding. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) is the central instrument for the allocation of third-party funds and establishes collaborative research centres in order to pool research potential as necessary.

Strategic framework for international cooperation

In autumn 2022, the Federal Government adopted its Future Research and Innovation Strategy. The aim of the Strategy is to dare more progress in order to strengthen German powers of innovation and secure Europe’s technological sovereignty. The Strategy lays the foundation for the Federal Government’s research and innovation policy and defines three overarching goals:

  1. Striving for technology leadership,
  2. Advancing research transfer,
  3. Enhancing openness to technology. The Strategy is centred on six missions to guide activities within the innovation system.

The Federal Government adopted its Strategy for the Internationalisation of Education, Science and Research in 2017 with a view to strengthening international cooperation. Five target areas in particular are at the heart of the Strategy:

  1. Strengthening excellence through global cooperation,
  2. Developing Germany’s strength in innovation on the international stage,
  3. Developing the international aspects of vocational training and qualifications,
  4. Working with emerging and developing countries to shape the global knowledge society, Tackling global challenges together.

Moreover, the BMBF engages in global efforts to create the conditions for international networking and cooperation. The pillars of its science diplomacy are:

  1. Building partnerships (Connect),
  2. Providing knowledge-based advice to policy-makers (Inform),
  3. Creating the conditions for independent science, research and teaching (Enable):

Groundbreaking discoveries and excellent researchers

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Carl Friedrich Gauss revolutionised mathematics. Carl Benz designed the first automobile. Wilhelm Röntgen discovered x-ray radiation, called ‘Röntgenstrahlen‘ (Roentgen rays) in German. Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity. Justus von Liebig invented fertilizer. Robert Koch identified the tuberculosis pathogen. Emmy Noether made important contributions to mathematics in the field of algebra (and was one of few women in her discipline). Konrad Zuse invented the computer. Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fission. Nobel laureate Christiane Nüsslein‑Volhard identified the genes that regulate the vertebrate development of almost all animal species. The perhaps less well-known Karlheinz Brandenburg developed the MP3 format. The late Nobel laureate Harald zur Hausen, who passed away in May 2023, proved that human papillomaviruses cause cervical cancer. And most recently, Benjamin List and Klaus Hasselmann were awarded the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics respectively in 2021. Since 1998, seven Nobel Prizes in Physics, four Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, and three Nobel Prizes in Medicine have been awarded to German researchers.

The strength of German research traditionally lies in mechanical engineering, chemistry, medicine, physics, and mathematics. However, forward-looking disciplines such as environmental research, information and communication technologies, neuroscience and biotechnology, optical technology and microsystems technology also play an important role. The humanities and social sciences also traditionally play a strong role in Germany.