A primer on agricultural research in Germany

Germany is a federally structured country; the federal states are known as „Länder“ (singular: Land). This has implications also for the organization of publicly funded agricultural research in Germany.

University research is under the authority of each Land. The federal government and most Länder maintain their own research institutions for policy advice, for information for extension services, and for practitioners. In several states, chambers of agriculture, funded by contributions from farmers and the state governments, also conduct agricultural research. Research institutes with a special thematic focus have mixed funding from federal and state governments and belong to one of several associations (Fraunhofer, Helmholtz, Max-Planck, Leibniz). In addition, there are other research institutes with public funding. Due to the diversity of purposes and responsibilities of DAFA members the strategies developed by DAFA can extend all the way from basic science to application in practice and society.

Member institutions

Locations of agricultural research institutions

Locations of agricultural research institutions

Funding structures

The largest funder of public research is the federal government. It is funding the research institutions within the portfolios of ministries. Similarly, the Länder fund their own research institutions and support the chambers of agriculture. Federal and state governments jointly fund research centers on specific topics and they fund the German research foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG).

Beyond basic funding for infrastructure, permanent staff, and statutory work, the institutions can apply for additional (external) funding from research programmes set up by federal and state governments, foundations, industry, EU, and other sources. Relevant foundations for agricultural researchers are Alexander von Humboldt, Robert Bosch and Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt). Companies may also buy research services from public institutions.

Project funding by the federal government, DFG und EU, 2014–2016, for agricultural and food science and related topics. (Source: DFG-Förderatlas 2018. Project funding by federal states, foundations or companies was not considered in the thematic section of DFG-Förderatlas.)

Project funding in M€/year Federal government
DFG EU
Funding programme
Food, Agriculture, Consumer Protection
Agriculture, Forestry, Veterinary Science
Food, Agriculture and Forestry, Fisheries, Bioeconomy
Full universities and universities of applied sciences 35 33 10
Federal research institutes 12 3 3
Fraunhofer , Max-Planck, Helmholtz and Leibniz research centres 16 5 6
Other institutions 18 1 7
Total 81 41 26

Earlier survey of staff and funding sources

In 2005 the German Council of Science and the Humanities surveyed 90 agricultural research institutions (WR 2006).

Permanent staff in agriculture, forestry, horticulture and food sciences in 2004

Professorships Researchers
Faculties of Agriculture 450 835
Veterinary medicine (only animal production) at universities 30 40
Food sciences at universities 25 30
Research Centres 40 480
Federal research 10 635
Total 895 2480

External funding [M€] in agriculture and horticulture, average of 2001-2003

Total Federal DFG EU Länder Industry
Universities 57 31% 25% 12% 13% 16%
Research Centres 20 44% 13% 13% 4% 14%
Federal Research 12 43% 9% 18% 12% 11%
State Research 12 21% 1% 15% 20% 33%
Universities of Applied Sciences 7 37% 1% 17% 27% 9%
Total 110 34% 16% 13% 13% 14%

Sources of information in English

Projects, institutions and companies with a history in agricultural research

Projects, institutions and companies with a history in agricultural research

Fisaonline.de gives you an overview of research in agricultural and food science, which is financed by public funds. The research aims and areas of the Federal Government and the Länder as well as the related research funding of the public sector are presented here.

Structure of Research in Germany

Research infrastructures

RIsources (RI = Research Infrastructure) is a portal operated by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) containing information about scientific research infrastructures which provide researchers with resources and services for planning and implementing research projects.

Research priorities at universities and colleges

Research priorities at universities and colleges

The German Rectors‘ Conference (HRK) publishes a bilingual Research Map (Forschungslandkarte) that details the key research priorities of higher education institutions. The Research Map allows you to search for the research areas that are of strategic institutional importance for each institution. The research areas can be searched by subject area and by region.

Funding structures in Germany by DFG

Funding structures in Germany by DFG

The Funding Atlas 2015 is the latest in a series of detailed reports on key figures relating to publicly funded research in Germany published by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). This edition is the seventh in the series, which began in 1996.

Education and Research in Figures 2017

Education and Research in Figures 2017

The federal report on research and innovation is the standard reference for research and innovation policies in Germany. It provides an up-to-date overview of the various elements of the German research and innovation system. Additional information and tables are available from the German site.

Document search portal for medicine, health, nutrition, environmental and agricultural sciences

Document search portal for medicine, health, nutrition, environmental and agricultural sciences

LIVIVO, the interdisciplinary search engine for life sciences, is provided by ZB MED Information Centre for Life Sciences. Scientifically relevant informations from the ZB MED subjects fields medicine, health, nutrition, environmental and agricultural sciences is bundled and provided on a standard interface for free research.

German Council for Science and the Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat)

German Council for Science and the Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat)

The German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) provides advice to the German Federal Government and the State (Länder) Governments on the structure and development of higher education and research.

DAFA – German Agricultural Research Alliance

DAFA congregates the competences of the German, publicly funded agricultural research institutions. Members of DAFA are units at universities, non-university research facilities as well as federal and state research institutes and chambers of agriculture.

DAFA provides solutions for complex questions of great societal relevance and seeks to implement them into praxis. The network aims to increase the capacity and the international visibility of German agricultural research.

DAFA supports the dialogue on research policies between ministries, funding agencies, companies and our members. With our annual Strategic Forum, we address important current topics and seek to foster the capacity of agricultural research in Germany.

DAFA was established in 2011. It is funded by membership fees and a contribution by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. A governing board of seven persons, elected by the member institutions, leads the alliance.

Expert groups work on great societal challenges and propose research strategies contributing to their solution. The topics for expert groups are suggested by DAFA members or the DAFA governing board and are endorsed by the membership. All concerned stakeholders are invited to contribute to the strategies. After public presentation, drafts of the strategies undergo one or more revisions and are finally adopted by the members’ assembly.

So far, DAFA has set up six expert groups: Livestock, Legumes, Grassland, Aquaculture, Organic Food Production, Bees and Agriculture. Their strategies are published in both, English and German. Research funding programmes by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture have taken up all or parts of the strategies after additional political and administrative considerations. As a result, more cohesive research has been funded in the areas of the expert groups.

The Strategic Forum meets annually to discuss or review the structure and direction of agricultural and food research. Topics are suggested by DAFA members or the governing board. Recent topics for strategic forums, included:

  • Tomorrow’s Food – Science & Fiction?
    Research needed to make tomorrow‘s food production successful, sustainable, and safe.
  • Dimensions of agricultural science
    Science is more than research – where is the balance?
  • New breeding techniques
    What perspectives provide CRISPR/Cas etc. for agriculture?
  • Big Data and management of research data
    Curse or blessing for agriculture?
  • Foresight agricultural science
    What changes are needed now for the future we want?
  • Research infrastructures
    Large installations: what do we have, what can we share, what do we need?
  • Evaluation of applied research
    How to “count” the impact of research on practice?

Contact Managing Directors

Deutsche Agrarforschungsallianz
c/o Thünen Institut
Bundesallee 50
38116 Braunschweig
Germany

© Deutsche Agrarforschungsallianz