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Research location Germany

Around the world, Germany is known as an attractive place to do research. Research and development play an important role not only in the most innovative German companies – university and non-university research institutes also enjoy an excellent reputation. This is why there are numerous good reasons for doing research in Germany and for following the example of well-known German researchers.

Examples of German researchers

Carl Benz (1844 – 1929)

The engineer created the “Benz Patent-Motorwagen Nummer 1” in 1885, the world's first modern car.

Gottlieb Daimler (1834 – 1900)

The engineer and industrial designer developed the first high-speed liquid petroleum fueled engine and the first four-wheeled vehicle with a combustion engine.

Harald zur Hausen (1936)

In the 1980s, the physician discovered a virus which causes cervical cancer, enabling the development of vaccinations. Cervical cancer is the second most frequent type of cancer affecting women.

Wilhelm Barthlott (1946)

In the 1990s, the bionics specialist developed surfaces with a self-cleaning effect, so-called lotus effect: As in the case of the lotus plant, water drops off and takes dirt particles with it.

Melitta Bentz (1873 – 1950)

In 1908, the housewife and mother from Dresden developed the coffee filter from the blotting paper of her son's exercise book. This enabled coffee brewing without coffee grounds.

Rudolf Diesel (1858 – 1913)

The engineer constructed the diesel motor, which was named after him, in 1892.

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

The physicist developed the theory of relativity and received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.

Peter Grünberg (1939 - 2018)

In 1988, the physicist discovered the GMR effect which was revolutionary for hard disk technology. Through the superimposition of ferromagnetic and non-ferromagnetic layers, the resistance of electricity can be precisely controlled by changing the magnetisation direction.

Heinrich Hertz (1857 – 1894)

In 1886, the physicist proved the existence of electromagnetic waves with the hertzian oscillator. The unit of frequency cycle per second was named after him, the "hertz".

Hugo Junkers (1859 – 1935)

The engineer developed the basics of aircraft construction and is therefore known as the "father of civil aviation".

Käthe Kruse (1883 – 1968)

The actress designed and produced dolls, which were recreations of her daughters. This authenticity made her dolls world-famous in 1910.

Christiane Nüsslein-Vollhard (1942)

The biologist researches on the genetic control of early embryonic development. In 1995, she received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Philipp Reis (1834 – 1874)

The physicist and inventor developed the first functional instrument for the transmission of sounds through electric lines and named it "telephone" in 1861.

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845 – 1923)

The physicist discovered Röntgen rays (X-rays), which are named after him in German, and received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901 for his discovery.

Konrad Zuse (1910 – 1995)

In 1941, the construction engineer and inventor developed the first fully automatic, program-driven and freely programmable computer, the so-called Z3.

Committed companies

Research and development (R&D) is very important for German companies, whether large groups or small and medium-sized businesses. Investment in R&D has been rising for years: at nearly 54 billion euros, the majority of the 79 billion euros invested in research and development in Germany in 2012 were invested by businesses.

Compared with other countries, expenditure on research and development by the German industry sector is growing at an extremely dynamic rate: at just 1.4% worldwide in 2014, for German companies it was more than 11.3%. The most prolific sector here is the automotive sector, but the chemicals and electronic engineering industries are also strongly committed to R&D.

Excellent universities

German universities invested some 14 billion euros in research and development in 2012. Since 2005, the German government has been promoting outstanding university programmes through its “Excellence Initiative”. This financial aid is helping to create even better work conditions for young researchers from Germany and from abroad. More than 4 billion euros have been granted since 2005 under the Excellence Initiative; currently, 39 universities are receiving funding. You can find a list of them on the website of the German Research Foundation. Find out more about German universities.

Renowned non-university research institutes

Besides industry and universities, non-university research institutes in Germany also offer good work opportunities for top-level international researchers. These include institutes funded by the federal, state or local governments, as well as publicly funded private non-profit organisations. Examples of these are the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association and the Leibniz Association. With more than 60 research units, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is the largest applied research organisation in Europe.

These research bodies do top-level research in a multitude of different domains: the environmental and energy sector, biomedicine and the humanities, or as service providers for the public, political and industrial sectors.

Research in bodies funded by federal or state government

Besides these organisations, other bodies do research funded by federal or state (Land) government. For example, the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin investigates issues of disease surveillance and prevention, while the Institute of Microelectronics in Stuttgart researches into new technologies.
There are a total of 38 research institutes working for different federal government ministries and doing research in the ministries' respective sectors. The German federal states fund more than 100 other institutes doing research in the life sciences, as well as the humanities and law.

You can get a good insight into non-university research bodies and those funded by the federal or state (Land) governments on the Research in Germany website.

Networked research

Networking is crucial to science and research. This is why the German federal government has created a number of “cluster” projects. These projects specifically promote collaboration between researchers in the businesses and universities in a particular city or region.

This is beneficial for the development of new technologies on both sides: innovative ideas from academic research are combined with industry’s service-providing skills, both sides together enhancing Germany’s standing as a centre of innovation. You can find out more about cluster projects and networks here.

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