VET and HRD research in European countries > Overview

Germany  [5]  Funding framework of VET/HRD research

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The German research landscape is highly diverse and complex in structure. For example, public-sector institutions are financed both by the state and by industry, while private research also receives state support. Funding for research projects is provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour (BMWA), the federal states governments, social partners and foundations. 

>  Government related research

There are two federal institutes which are part of the civil service and funded by the respective Ministry: The Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB) with the BMBF and the Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB) with the BMWA. 
Since 1995 the BMBF and the BMWA have established Project management agencies (Projekttraeger), consisting of organisational units sited within qualified institutions, that carry out scientific, technical and administrative management tasks, in various areas. The main tasks of project management agencies consist of providing project support. Their work is focussed on advising applicants in technical and administrative matters, preparing decisions on support, supporting ongoing projects and monitoring project success. 

Project management agencies also perform a number of additional tasks, such as supporting planning, analysis and evaluation of programmes, organising technical conferences and workshops, carrying out activities for international co-operation and advising applicants regarding the EU's specialised programmes. Loan-funded project management agencies are empowered not only to prepare funding decisions for the BMBF, but also to take such decisions themselves, within certain technical guidelines. The main project managing agencies are the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

In addition to its use of project management agencies, the BMBF and the BMWA operate two advising programmes designed to provide potential applicants for support with fast, clear information about the ministries’ project-support activities: the electronic application system “easy and profi – the project-support information system" enables persons and organisations interested in obtaining support to submit applications for support online. 

To support the participation in the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (priority 7:"Citizens and governance in the knowledge society"), the BMBF has established a national contact point which is located within the DLR offices.

>  Publicly funded non-government research 

Beyond research in federal or state institutes under their auspices, the Federal Government and the Laender are jointly funding research carried out by independent institutes through research societies. Under Art. 91 b of the Basic Law, the two sides cooperate in supporting scientific research institutions and projects of supra-regional importance. This includes the key players in Germanys research landscape such as the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), the Max Planck Society (MPG), the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG) and the Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat).

Funding is mostly provided on an institutional basis. In each case, the percentage of a research organisation's total budget that is provided as basic institutional financing depends on the organisation's profile. Universities are the basis of Germany's research system. Increasingly, basic financing provided to higher education institutions – funding for which the Laender are responsible – is being tied to performance indicators. Along with basic financing, project funding from industry and from research sponsors – such as the BMBF or the EU Commission – has increasingly been promoting greater orientation to applications and fostering competition leading to more efficiency. 

Scientists of the Max Planck Society (MPG) primarily carry out knowledge-oriented basic research. This is why nearly 90 percent of the MPG's budget is provided as basic financing. On the other hand, basic financing accounts for only about 40 percent of the total budget of the Fraunhofer Society (FhG), which is highly application-oriented. Basic financing for the FhG supports preparatory research that enables Fraunhofer institutes to develop their competences continually and to maintain their contacts to the academic world. Since the FhG's basic financing is linked to third party funding that the organisation is able to attract, the FhG has a high incentive to mobilise such outside funding, especially from the business sector. Both the MPG and the FhG have member institutes for certain fields of research. 

On the other hand the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Science Association (WGL) is an association of individual institutes which are also jointly financed within a framework agreement on research support ("Blue List" framework). Funding for the programme is normally shared by the Federal Government and the Laender on a 50:50 basis, although funding for some institutions, especially service-function institutions, is split differently. To date 85 institutes are on the Blue List, some 10 of which are doing social science research. 

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) provides a rather open funding structure. It awards its funding, on a competitive basis, for winning project proposals – especially from universities and research institutes. The main task of the DFG is to support research at universities and public research institutions, although most of its resources go to the university sector. DFG statutes furthermore stipulate the tasks of supporting co-operation between researchers, supporting young scientists, providing scientific advice for parliaments and authorities and fostering relations between the science communities in and outside Germany. To fulfil these tasks, the DFG has the following instruments and procedures at its disposal: Individual grants, Priority programmes, Research groups, Research centres, Collaborative Research Centres, Transfer units, Research Training Groups (Graduiertenkollegs).

>  Foundations 

Major science-promoting foundations make a valuable contribution to safeguarding the quality of research in Germany. The foundations complement public research funding and are an expression of private financial commitment. The recent amendment to Germany’s tax law provisions for foundations has enhanced tax incentives for potential donors and improved instruments for long-term protection of foundations' vitality The Association of German Academic Foundations (Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft e.V.) is an example of industry's concerted efforts to promote German science and research. Other large German foundations such as the Volkswagen Foundation, the Robert Bosch Foundation and the Bertelsmann Foundation also sponsor projects or institutions in the field of education and training. Eleven organisations for the promotion of young talent, financed largely from federal funds, play a particularly important role in the German system of foundations because of the grants and scholarships they provide to undergraduate students and PhD candidates. 

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Source: Cedefop - National Research Report Germany (details see Bibliography)
Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO