German Research & Development


Research and Development Project Incentives (R&D) is considered to be among the most important areas for the development of the German economy.

R&D incentives programs in the form of grants generally support R&D project personnel expenditure. Costs for instruments, equipment and materials may also be eligible if they can be clearly attributed to the relevant R&D project.

German Federal Government R&D Grants: High-Tech Strategy

The High-Tech Strategy defines six “future priorities” with a focus on ongoing high-tech research and development:

  1. digital economy and society;
  2. sustainable economy and energy;
  3. innovative workplace;
  4. healthy living;
  5. intelligent mobility; and
  6. civil security.

Each area consists of a number of different R&D programs. More than EUR 6 billion is awarded each year to R&D projects in the form of nonrepayable grants. Grant rates can reach up to 50 percent of eligible project costs. Higher rates may be available for SMEs and collaborative projects. Partnership between project partners, especially between enterprises and research institutions, is usually required. The federal government periodically calls for R&D project proposals followed by a competition of best project ideas. Watch this space for details on calls as they open up.

Central Innovation Program for SMEs (ZIM)

In addition, a number of national programs without a specific technological focus also exist. Of these, the Central Innovation Program for SMEs (ZIM) is the most prominent. Application may be submitted at any time during the year. Companies may apply on their own or in collaboration with others. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy allocates more than EUR 550 million to the ZIM program each year.

German Federal State Funding

In addition to programs run by the federal government, each German federal state offers R&D funding programs. Regional conditions and structures influence the R&D funding programs available. Some states place particular focus on specific industry clusters. However, there are also a number of programs where a specific technological focus is not required. Cooperation between project partners is not always necessary.

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