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Research Funding

German research gets 10 years of funding increases

Deal by federal and state legislators will facilitate long-term planning

by Laura Howes
May 10, 2019

20190510lnp1-karliczek.jpg
Credit: BMBF/Hans-Joachim Rickel
German minister for education and research Anja Karliczek

After negotiations that went on until midnight, German federal and state legislators announced on May 3 that they had agreed to continuing 3% increases in research funding annually for 2021–30. Research organizations greeted the deal with relief.

“Both as spokesman for the Alliance of Germany’s Scientific Organizations and as president of the Leibniz Association, I very much welcome today’s decisions,” said Matthias Kleiner at the time. They are “an extremely positive and encouraging signal and an important step for German science,” he added.

After considerable investment in the past few years, the German research budget is around 3% of GDP, compared with a European average of just under 2%. However, research organizations had been concerned that falling tax revenue and political disagreements could have brought this growth to an end.

The agreed increases mean that the total budget amounts to €160 billion ($180 billion) committed over ten years, including €120 billion for nonuniversity based research institutes such as the Leibnitz and Max Planck institutes that are found across the country.

Funding agreements in Germany usually only cover 5 years, so the 10 year commitment is unusual. The federal government has covered recent budget increases, so one of the goals of the deal is to rebalance funding between the federal and state governments. The guarantee of the next 10 years of funding will also help with more long term planning, says Martin Stratmann, president of the Max-Planck Society, adding that two-thirds of the directors of Max Planck research institutes will retire by 2030. “This decision provides the Max Planck Society with planning security and fresh momentum for major decisions in the coming years,” he says.

State leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to give final approval to the plan on June 6.

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