Companies & Industrial Research

car with electric drive
Innovation made in Germany: The automotive sector.

German companies are among the most innovative in Europe. Industry based and financed investments account for almost two thirds of all R&D funding in Germany. Companies are especially involved in applied research and work closely with the global network of Fraunhofer Institutes and the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF). Examples of successful technology transfer can be found in the areas of environmental research, resource-efficient production and new materials.

Close cooperation between industry and research

Industry and research cooperate in many areas. For example, there are numerous joint programmes and research projects involving companies as well as research and research-funding organisations.
Companies cooperate especially closely in the field of applied research. They also have strong contacts with the global network of Fraunhofer Institutes and the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF). The Helmholtz Association had 2,000 collaborative projects and 1,400 licence agreements with industry in 2012 – for example, in energy research or in nanotechnology and biotechnology. The Max Planck Society runs Max Planck Innovation GmbH, a separate technology transfer company. It has concluded approx. 2,000 utilisation agreements since 1979 and supported roughly 100 spin-off companies since 1990. The Leibniz Association has set up a transfer website that provides access to the various offerings of Leibniz Institutes. The German Research Foundation (DFG) supports knowledge transfer by research institutions and facilitates the foundation of research training groups in which universities and companies work closely together.

Facts and Figures

  • distribution of the internal industrial research budget: 11.0% small enterprises (up to 249 employees), 5.2% medium-sized enterprises (250-499), 83.8% large enterprises (more than 500 employees)

  • approx. 350,000 research staff, of which 25% work in the automotive industry (2011)

  • annual budget (2013, planned):
    approx. 53.1 billion euros (internal R&D expenditure)

Research Activities

Roughly 32% of internal R&D spending in industry was invested in the automotive sector, approx. 13% in the electrical engineering sector, a good 15% in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and about 9% in mechanical engineering.

Where does industrial research take place?

The Federation of German Industries (BDI) is the umbrella organisation for enterprises and industry-related service providers. The BDI coordinates the views and recommendations of its members and provides business support, i.e. information covering all fields of economic policy. Particularly in the field of applied research, companies work with universities and research institutes on joint projects that are co-funded by public institutions. The industrial research budget is distributed as follows: 11% small enterprises (up to 249 employees), 5.2% medium-sized enterprises (250-499) and 83.8% large enterprises (more than 500 employees). The ten large enterprises listed below account for the lion’s share of the total industrial research budget.

Companies with the highest R&D spending in Germany in 2010

Image Companies with the highest R&D spending in Germany in 2010

Research Budget

Image Research Budget

German industry spends approx. 53.1 billion euros on internal research (2013, planned). Industry is responsible for carrying out and funding at least two-thirds of R&D activities.

Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) by funding sources; % of total GERD (2010)

Federation of German Industries (BDI)

Federation of German Industries (BDI)

Read more about the umbrella organisation for industrial businesses and industry-related service providers here. Federation of German Industries (BDI)

Germany Trade & Invest

Germany Trade & Invest

This organization promotes Germany as a business and technology location, supports companies based in Germany with global market information and informs and advises international companies setting up business in Germany. Germany Trade & Invest