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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” has stood for innovation and excellent quality. According to World Bank statistics, German high-tech exports reached EUR 158.2 billion in 2020.

Innovative Power

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

Strong innovation performance

Germany enjoys an excellent reputation for its dynamic and innovative R&D environment. This is regularly confirmed by leading international studies on innovative capability. The latest example can be found in the current issue of the European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS) which is used as an instrument by the European Commission to  monitor the innovative performance of the European countries. The EIS ranks Germany high in the group of leading innovators. Within the EU, only the Scandinavian countries and Belgium are ahead of Germany. With its innovative capability output, Germany is a prime location 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). Ninety-one percent of companies rate Germany’s research & development as “good” or “very good.” The survey further highlights the availability of highly qualified scientists 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 2020, 20,056 German patent applications were approved 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)). In 2019, with around 55 patents per million inhabitants, Germany occupied fourth place behind Switzerland, Japan and Sweden respectively.

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 64.3 billion in 2019.

Germany’s Research and Development Landscape

Business and science work hand-in-hand to create German innovation. These impressive numbers underpin the success that will support your project.

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 more than a decade.

In 2019, public and private spending on research projects in Germany amounted to approximately EUR 110 billion – representing 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). This share places Germany in third spot in Europe behind Sweden and Austria but significantly ahead of France, the United Kingdom and the EU average.

This means that Germany has already achieved the three percent goal specified by the European Union for the third time in a row. More than two thirds of R&D spending comes from funds provided by research-intensive private enterprises.

R&D personnel

Germany is home of the biggest research community in Europe – 24 percent of the scientists in the EU live and work here. Moreover, German researchers cooperate in projects all over the world. For example, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft currently cooperates with scientists in more than 110 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 research. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft invests EUR 2.7 billion of R&D funds in its more than 72 facilities and over 19,200 employees. A major part of this funding is generated through contract research in collaboration with industry.

Leibniz-Gemeinschaft's network comprises 95 institutes and almost 13,000 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 thereby decreasing R&D spending levels.

The interaction between universities, research organizations, industrial research and other entities constitutes a division of labor in the creation of value-added new knowledge which is unique in the world. This differentiated performance of tasks by the institutes involved covers the entire range from pre-competitive fundamental research mostly supported by the public sector up to tradeable application research financed by the industry.

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 Energy. This initiative includes more than 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.

Leading  reform initiatives

In shaping the knowledge-based society, Germany's federal government and the federal states have set the course to master the challenges that arise from intense global competition for innovation.

Among the various funding programs initiated, the Excellence Strategy aimed at strengthening cutting-edge research at universities is of special importance. Two funding lines must be differentiated: Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence.

The Clusters of Excellence funding line provides project-based funding in internationally competitive fields of research at individual universities or university alliances. The Clusters of Excellence involve researchers from various disciplines and institutions working in a collaborative project. The funding provides them with the opportunity of focusing intensively on their research objective, training young scientists and recruiting highly qualified international researchers.

The Universities of Excellence funding line sets out to strengthen universities or university alliances as institutions and to expand their leading international position in research on the basis of successful Clusters of Excellence. Universities must therefore already have at least two Clusters of Excellence – and in the case of university alliances at least three Clusters of Excellence – in order to be eligible to apply for University of Excellence status.

Research and Development News

Germany's research and development (R&D) landscape is second to none in the EU- whether it be practical, theoretical or industrial research. Here’s a round of some of the latest R&D breakthroughs “Made in Germany.”

German researchers create “smart” car headlights

Scientists from five of Germany’s renowned Fraunhofer Institutes have found a way to better utilize the limited space available inside motor vehicles. They combined navigation and piloting systems with cars’ headlights to form “smart headlights” that integrate radar, LiDAR and light technologies. This innovative will also help drivers cope more easily with foggy conditions.

Study shows biogas potential of fallen leaves

The Leibniz Institute for Agrarian Technology Bioeconomy has an innovative idea for what to do with the 36,000 tons of leaves that fall in Berlin ever autumn. The institute says that, rather than simply disposing of the foliage, it would be more profitable to use it as biomass to produce biogas.  It estimates that the dead leaves could cover the annual electricity needs of some 5,000 Berliners.

German start-up makes human tissue with 3D printer

Berlin company Cellbricks has successfully used additive manufacturing to create simple, living human tissue. The technique, which involved a printer named Dagobah after the planet in the “Star Wars” films, focuses on human cells and self-produced “extracellular matrix.” The promising young start-up has already developed a biological dressing for wounds that recently won the 2022 digital prize “The Spark.”

Novel microscope wins 2022 German research prize

A team from Carl Zeiss Microscopy in the German optics hotspot of Jena has won the latest edition of the prestigious German Research Award. Physicists Thomas Kalkbrenner, Ralf Wolleschensky and Jörg Siebenmorgen, came up with a new microscope that uses lasers to illuminate bio-marker-prepared cells and microorganisms. It improves researchers’ ability to observe long-terms developments in cells.

Scientists in Leipzig discover ancient enzyme

Researchers at the University of Leipzig have succeeded in reconstructing an RNA polymerase as it likely existed roughly two billion years ago. The enzyme doesn’t work continuously and is thus more effective much like modern-day enzymes. The reconstruction allowed scientists for the first time to understand the evolutionary advantages of current enzymes.

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