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Study in Germany

Major German associations and programs for researchers

From economics to chemistry and Leibniz to Einstein, Germany has long had a reputation for excellence in academics. Find out which organizations drive research in the country today.

Two scientists in protective suits perform their work in a laboratory

Billions of euros in public funds are allotted each year for research in Germany

Germany houses a number of renowned institutions, associations and support programs devoted to research that span the academic spectrum. Many of these programs encourage foreign scholars to come to Germany and pursue their projects with fellowships and other initiatives. Below, Deutsche Welle provides an overview of some of the country's most vital research centers and programs.

The Fraunhofer Society

Founded in 1949, the Fraunhofer Society pursues applied research in an international network. The Society's goal is to conduct research that addresses practical problems, and it accepts contracts from companies in the service and industrial sectors as well as from public organizations. Helping to develop the MP3 audio file format is among the Society's most well-known inventions.

More than 80 institutions make up the Fraunhofer Society, and they are located throughout Germany as well as in Asia, the US and the Middle East. Students with at least a Master's degree can find opportunities to further their education at these institutions by conducting praxis-oriented research.

The Helmholtz Association

The Helmholtz Association consists of 16 large research centers not directly associated with universities. The majority of its 3-billion-euro annual budget comes from the state of Germany, but the Association accepts some funds and contracts from private sources as well. Research is conducted in six areas: energy, earth and environment, health, key technologies, structure of matter, transport and space.

Although the Helmholtz Association's member bodies are not universities, the organization maintains close ties and cooperations with many graduate colleges and other university centers.

The Leibniz Association

The Leibniz Association consists of 86 member institutions that conduct wide-ranging interdisciplinary research in the following five areas: humanities and educational research; economics, social science and spatial planning; life sciences; math, natural science and engineering; environment. Member organizations include the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, the Institute for Economics Research in Halle and Mannheim's Institute for the German Language.

Max Planck in a black and white portrait

German physicist Max Planck received the Nobel Prize in 1918

The Max Planck Society

The Max Planck Society is a non-profit, independent and internationally-oriented research organization. It enjoys considerable renown in Germany and beyond, and 17 of its researchers have won Nobel Prizes since the organization's founding in 1948. The Society consists of 80 institutes, centers, laboratories and work groups that deal with a wide range of scientific topics. Max Planck centers often conduct pure research or examine innovative questions and issues that have not yet been researched heavily at universities.

"International Max Planck Research Schools" have been established to promote international cooperation among scientists and scholars. These schools support doctoral candidates in particular and set aside around half of their funding for applicants from other countries.

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

The Humboldt Foundation supports around 1,800 research residencies each year, primarily in Germany. Most of the residents come from other countries, and their fields span the academic spectrum. The Foundation's most well-known grant offers support to scholars for a year-long research residency in Germany with around 2,000 euros or more for families. Humboldt scholars also receive funds to attend congresses and for language instruction.

Of the 23,000 men and women from 130 countries that belong to the Humboldt alumni network, 41 have won a Nobel Prize.

DFG (German Research Foundation)

TheDFG ("Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft" or German Research Foundation) is one of the most important bodies for distributing research funds in Germany. The agency receives its annual budget of two billion euros largely from the government. The DFG offers financial support to institutions, individual researchers and even universities across all academic disciplines. In recent years, the DFG helped sponsor the Excellence Initiative that identified top German universities and gave them additional funding.

Author: Claudia Unseld (gsw)
Editor: Kate Bowen

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