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Innovation in Germany - Research and Development

The worlds of business and science work hand-in-hand to create German innovation that is a global export leader.

Germany is home to many companies that are global leaders in the development of new technologies. For over a century, “Made in Germany” stands for innovation and excellent product quality. According to World Bank statistics, German high-tech exports reached EUR 177.7 billion in 2021.

Innovative Power

The high-tech location Germany is a first-class address for realizing your business ideas. We help you to find the best partners for your investment project.

Strong innovation performance

Germany enjoys an excellent reputation for its dynamic and innovative R&D environment. This is regularly confirmed by leading international organizations. Germany ranks fourth in the EU after Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands in the 2023 Global Innovation Index published by the World Intellectual Property Organisatzion (WIPO). Similarly, Germany is among the strong innovators in the European Commissions’s 2023 version of the European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS). Germany is a prime destination for R&D projects.

A proof of the 'world class performance' of German R&D departments is provided by the results of the surveys of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany (AmCham). In 2023, 94 percent of the American companies interviewed rated Germany’s quality of research & development as “good” or “very good.” The survey further highlights the quality and availability of skilled employees as wells as the regulatory environment for R&D. 

European patent leader

The great innovative power of German companies can be seen in the number of patents filed. In 2022, 24,684 German patent applications originating in Germany were registered by the European Patent Office - more than twice as much as French applications alone. Germany also leads Europe in triadic patent applications - the series of corresponding patents filed at the European Patent Office (EPO), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Japanese Patent Office (JPO). With around 54 patents per one million inhabitants, Germany occupied fifth place in Europe following Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland in 2020.

Industry potential to invest in research and development

Germany's position as a high-tech location is no mere accident. Companies invest significant sums in order to continually bring innovative products and services to the market. According to the Joint Initiative of German Industry for Promoting Science and Humanities (Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft), internal economy-related research and development expenditure accounted for EUR 75.7 billion in 2021.

Germany’s Research and Development Landscape

Business and science work hand-in-hand to create innovative products and technologies - underpinning the success that will support your project in Germany.

Rising R&D spending

In Germany, enormous sums are invested in the development of new technologies and innovations. No other country in Europe invests a greater amount of money in research and development (R&D).  Germany’s R&D expenditures have been rising constantly for almost a decade.

In 2021, public and private spending on research projects in Germany amounted to approximately EUR 113 billion – representing 3.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). This share places Germany in the EU's fourth position only behind Belgium, Sweden and Austria but significantly ahead of France and the EU average.

This means that Germany has already achieved the three percent goal specified by the European Union for the fifth time in a row. More than two thirds of R&D spending originates from the business enterprise sector.

R&D personnel

Germany is home of the biggest R&D community in Europe – 24 percent of the scientists and engineers in the EU live and work here. Moreover, researchers located in Germany are engaged in projects all over the world. For example, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft currently cooperates with international partners in more than 120 countries.

Renowned research institutes

In global comparison, Germany holds a unique position thanks to its publicly subsidized research communities outside the universities.

The application-oriented research communities, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and Leibniz-Gemeinschaft, provide mainly small and medium-sized companies with access to top R&D facilities. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft currently holds R&D funds of EUR 3.0 billion which are disbursed in more than 76 institutes with over 38,000 employees. A considerable part of the Fraunhofer budget is raised through contract research in collaboration with the private sector. The network of the Leibniz-Gemeinschaft comprises 97 institutes and around 20,500 employees. 

Renowned institutes for fundamental research are located in Germany as well. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft enable companies to outsource costly fundamental research, thus reducing the risk associated with the development of new products and technologies.

The interaction between universities, non-university research institutes and indsutrial R&D departments constitutes a division of labor in the creation of new knowledge which is unique in the world. The entire range of R&D - from pre-competitive basic research supported by the public sector up to application-oriented research financed by the private sector - can be found in Germany.

Effective networks of competency

Germany is characterized by an advanced structure of highly innovative regional networks and clusters providing companies with excellent access to knowledge, technologies and value chains. Interactive research and learning processes ensure a faster diffusion of technology, including a subsequent introduction in the market.

A special quality seal is the membership in the “go-cluster“ initiative of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action. This initiative includes almost 100 clusters that meet strong criteria for membership. Admission depends on the level of cooperation between industry and science. This includes the extent to which a potential member is actively dedicated to innovation. Additionally, “go-cluster” membership facilitates access to funds for the development of special cluster services.

Research and Development News | August 2023

Therapeutics and autonomous driving, recycling and space junk, are all part of our regular survey of some of the most interesting developments in German research and development.

Hepatitis treatment

Scientists from the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) in Heidelberg and Hamburg have successfully concluded a preclinical study on a monoclonal antibody, VIR-3434, to combat hepatitis B and D. The antibody was discovered by American company Vir Biotechnology. Some 300 million people world-wide suffer from hepatitis B. Clinical testing is underway.

Viruses versus bacteria

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön are exploring how to genetically engineer so-called phages to combat bacteria resistance. Phages are viruses that can only infect bacteria. By understanding more about how bacteria evolve, it is hoped that time and money can be saved in the development of phage therapeutics.

AI autonomous driving

The Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration (IZM) – together with a trio of German companies and the University of Bielefeld – has developed improved integrated sensor systems to aid autonomous driving. The concept uses AI algorithms to allow cars to detect fine details at expanded ranges. That would allow for fewer autonomous driving radar stations on highways.

Recovering raw materials

A team from the technical university TU Bergakademie Freiburg has come up with an improved process for recovering the precious metals used in electrolyzers. Employing a hydrometallurgic method and a newly developed process for separating individual metal ions, the scientists achieved a recovery rate of 90 percent. Electrolyzers are central to Germany’s ongoing build-up of an economy for hydrogen as an energy carrier.

Dodging danger

Scientists from the Technical University of Darmstadt and the European Space Agency have devised efficient algorithms allowing satellites and space craft to avoid collisions. The novel system can track up to one million objects, compared with the 30,000 currently followed. It mathematically derives objects’ position one to two weeks in advance.

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