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Press Release No. 40 | 5 October 2021
DFG presents “Funding Atlas 2021”: All the Key Figures on Publicly Financed Research and Funding

First analysis by federal state shows NRW in the lead, with Munich particularly strong among higher education institutions / One in five research projects is international / Third-party funding ratio remains stable

Where in Germany is publicly funded research particularly strong? How much third-party funding goes to which federal states and regions and to which universities and non-university research institutes, who does it come from and how is it used by the recipients? And how significant is such funding as part of the financing of the German higher education and research system as a whole? Answers to these and numerous other questions are provided by the “Funding Atlas 2021” issued by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), which it presented on Tuesday, 5 October together with the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) and the Stifterverband (SV).

Published every three years since 1997, the new Funding Atlas is now the ninth report in which key figures on publicly funded research are presented by the DFG, the largest research funding organisation and central self-governing body for research in Germany. Based on tens of thousands of data from all major public research funding providers in Germany and the European Union, the new Funding Atlas is also the most comprehensive up-to-date compendium of its kind. The reporting period covers the years 2017 to 2019.

“As the analyses contained in the Funding Atlas clearly show, third-party funding performs various different functions: it is an additional and still necessary source of finance for universities and research institutions while at the same time acting as an important instrument of competition, as well as serving the purpose of image-building and quality assurance in the research system,” said DFG President Professor Dr. Katja Becker, who presented the most important results of the Funding Atlas together with Secretary General Dr. Heide Ahrens, HRK Vice President Professor Dr. Kerstin Krieglstein and SV President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Barner in a video conference.

A new feature of the current Funding Atlas is the analysis of acquired third-party funding broken down by federal state. According to the report, a total of approximately €9.48 billion in DFG funding was approved between 2017 and 2019. Most of this went to North Rhine-Westphalia with €1.83 billion, followed by Baden-Württemberg with €1.60 billion and Bavaria with €1.46 billion. These top three are followed by a group including Berlin (€839 million), Lower Saxony (€791 million), Hesse (€636 million) and Saxony (€600 million). They are in turn followed by Rhineland-Palatinate (€304 million), Hamburg (€297 million), Schleswig-Holstein (€221 million), Thuringia (€204 million), Bremen (€201 million), Saxony-Anhalt (€160 million), Brandenburg (€141 million), Saarland (€103 million) and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (€98 million).

Among the regions, Berlin continues to lead with €839 million in third-party funding, now followed more closely by the Munich region, which acquired a total of €816 million. The Lower Neckar region (Heidelberg and Mannheim) comes in a distant third with €432 million. The frontrunners are followed by another 13 regions which have raised over €200 million in third-party funding. “This shows how diverse and in particular how widespread the research landscape in Germany is,” said DFG President Becker.

The known rankings of DFG funding approvals broken down by HEI and academic discipline, which are also set out in detail in the new Funding Atlas, show only a few changes for 2017 to 2019 as compared to previous surveys, though some of these are prominent or significant:

for the first time, both Munich universities topped the list of the 40 universities to have attracted the most funding, with LMU Munich again in first place with €369 million, now followed by TU Munich with €347 million and Heidelberg University with €332 million. These are now followed in fourth place by RWTH Aachen, TU Dresden, which has moved up another rank to fifth place, FU Berlin, the University of Tübingen, the University of Cologne, which has moved up four places to be ranked eighth, the University of Freiburg, and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, which has moved up from eleventh to tenth place. Several universities moved up elsewhere in the rankings, including Bochum (from 22nd to 18th), Duisburg-Essen, which achieved the most significant increase (from 31st to 23rd), Ulm (from 38th to 33rd) and Giessen (from 39th to 34th).

Broken down by academic discipline, FU Berlin and LMU Munich raised the most funds in the humanities and social sciences, followed by the University of Tübingen, HU Berlin and the University of Frankfurt/Main. In the life sciences, LMU Munich, the universities of Heidelberg, Freiburg, Göttingen and TU Munich came out on top; in the natural sciences, the universities of Heidelberg, TU Munich, Karlsruhe KIT and the universities of Mainz and Bonn were the leading contenders. In the engineering sciences, most DFG funding went to RWTH Aachen, followed by the University of Stuttgart, TU Dresden, the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and TU Darmstadt.

A different picture emerges to some extent when the funds raised by a higher education institution are viewed in relation to the number of professors and their subject profile. Universities that are smaller but subject-focused are once again proving successful here. In relative terms, the University of Konstanz received the most DFG funding, followed by the University of Mannheim, which has a strong profile in the economic and social sciences. In total, 29 higher education institutions raised more third-party funding than their size and subject profile by faculty would have suggested.

The new Funding Atlas also takes a detailed look at international cooperation in connection with research projects funded by the DFG. Of these, a total of more than 12,800 – i.e. almost one in five funded projects overall between 2017 and 2019 – were carried out with at least one international participant. Globally speaking, collaboration with partners in the USA is most common, but China, Australia, Canada and Israel are also frequent cooperation partners. In Western Europe, partners are mainly based in France, Switzerland, Austria and the UK, while in Eastern Europe most partners are from the Czech Republic and Poland. In total, DFG funding recipients cooperated with partners in 126 countries worldwide during the reporting period.

“All these figures and analyses impressively demonstrate the extent to which universities and research institutions invest the third-party funds they raise in further strengthening their subject profiles and international networks. And they also show where and in which fields research in Germany is attractive to partners all over the world,” said DFG President Katja Becker at the presentation of the Funding Atlas.

The number of HEIs that were able to acquire DFG third-party funding continued to increase, from 216 in the period from 2014 to 2016 to the current figure of 225 – including almost 100 universities of applied sciences (HAW). There have hardly been any changes in the gaps between the approvals for higher education institutions at the top and bottom end or between large and small higher education institutions. “As such, we’re still seeing a high level of stability in the higher education system – and not the cut-throat competition that is sometimes assumed,” said Becker.

The previously noticeable trend has also continued in the relative share of third-party funding and basic state funding in the overall financing of universities – something that is the subject of much debate in research policy: after increasing for an extended period and reaching a peak of 28.1 percent in 2013, the share of third-party funding has remained largely stable or has even slightly declined since then, reaching a level of 26.9 percent in 2019. By contrast, the growth in the area of basic funding as seen in past years has continued. “This means that while universities continue to rely on third-party funding for adequate financing, the pressure to acquire third-party funding is no longer increasing – not least thanks to the ongoing momentum in basic funding,” said Becker.

In total, higher education institutions in Germany received approximately €23.7 billion in basic funding and €8.7 billion in third-party funding in 2019. The DFG continued to be the largest provider of third-party funding with a share of 31.5 percent. The federal government’s share has increased further, from 22 percent in 2010 to the current level of 29 percent. Approximately 10 percent of all third-party funding came from the EU in 2019. Third-party funding from industry and business has continued to decline, from 21 percent in 2010 to 19 percent in 2015 and 17 percent in 2019, the year under review.

Two special chapters supplement the current key figures on publicly financed research and funding to include historical perspectives, thereby offering a long-term impression of the German higher education and research system. Firstly, an analysis of the funding granted between 1921 and 1945 by the DFG’s predecessor organisation, the “Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft” (“Emergency Association of German Science”) shows that research and funding were heavily concentrated in Berlin, for example. By contrast, while the sites and institutions located in the territory of the modern federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria are very successful in acquiring DFG funding nowadays with their varied higher education landscape, they were only minor players in the pre-war period. These and other analyses of historical research funding are closely linked to the “GEPRIS Historisch” database, which was established by the DFG on the occasion of its centenary in 2020 and processes data relating to more than 50,000 funding proposals prior to 1945.

The second special chapter entitled “30 years of Unified Research” takes DFG funding as a basis for analysing the gradual integration of former GDR research after reunification into the now all-German research and funding system, where the number of DFG projects pursued in the East German states currently corresponds almost exactly to the share of the nation’s population in those states. Success stories such as that of the TU Dresden are striking here, as is the very vigorous cooperation between federal states under DFG-funded programmes.

“With its wealth of data, depth of detail and diverse perspectives, this Funding Atlas is a comprehensive source of reference for the general public, too, thereby contributing significantly to the transparency of our funding activities. At the same time, it is a tool for service, planning and decision-making available to the universities and non-university research institutions as well as to research policymakers, also enabling the DFG to fulfil its service and advisory mandate within a competitive and highly complex higher education and research system,” said DFG Secretary General Ahrens at the presentation.

This service notion is also borne out by the comprehensive Funding Atlas web page, which in addition to providing numerous detailed tables also includes an extensive section containing “at a glance” indicators for individual institutions. There are also numerous interactive maps showing the federal states and regions, for example.

As Ahrens pointed out, all figures and data contained in the Funding Atlas are collected from the funding institutions and not from the funding recipients. The current edition was once again created with the financial support of the Stifterverband and is available in German both as a print and online version, with a summary due to be published in English in spring 2022.

Further Information

Media contact:

Specialist contacts at the DFG Head Office:

The complete Funding Atlas 2021 and further materials are available at:

A print edition is issued under the title Förderatlas 2021 – Kennzahlen zur öffentlich finanzierten Forschung in Deutschland, published by the DFG, Bonn 2021, 156 pages.
A review copy can be requested by e-mail to Link auf E-Mailpresse@dfg.de.