Digital Landscape

Research & Innovation Programmes

The major German federal government research and innovation funding programs listed below serve to promote the ongoing research and development (R&D) of digital technologies (at an early stage) and aim at speeding up the transfer of scientific findings into marketable high-tech technologies for real-world applications.

Funding programme "Artificial Intelligence"

Mandated by Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conversation and Nuclear Safety

As a part of the National AI-Strategy, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conversation and Nuclear Safety funds projects that aim to cope with ecological challenges and are exemplary for a digitilization that respects environment, climate and nature (“flagship project”).

Funding programme “Development of digital technologies”

Mandated by BMWi

The aim of the programme is to pick up on key trends at an early stage and to accelerate the process of transferring scientific findings into the development of marketable high-tech technologies with high-level potential for practical applications. All of the research programmes that receive funding involve model users who pilot the developments in order to establish their technical and economic viability. The results are then used as a starting point for the creation of market-ready products, solutions, and business models, particularly for SMEs. Funding is devoted to the following programmes:

  • Trusted Cloud develops and tests innovative, secure and legally compliant cloud-computing solutions. 2010 – 2015 (€50m)
  • Smart Data develops and tests new technologies that enable big data to be used in both the private sector and by the general public in a secure and legally compliant manner. The emphasis of this technology programme is on its use in the fields of industry, mobility, energy and health. 2014 – 2017 (€32m)
  • ICT for Electric Mobility III focuses on the key areas of logistics, mobility and energy infrastructure (from 2015). Smart cars, smart grids and smart traffic are the main research pillar of the programme. 2015 – 2019 (€50m)
  • Smart Services World I is meant for internet-based Business Services and seeks to connect digital user areas using a targeted, secure combination of cyber-physical systems, data management technologies, and open service platforms (from 2016). 2014 – 2019 (€57m)
  • Smart Services World II is designed to tap into the application fields that are underrepresented in the programme SSW I. A special focus is given to applications for small towns and rural regions in this programme. 2016 – 2021 (€50m)
  • Smart Home / Smart Living develops and pilots a certification scheme that enables smart home appliances and systems to be tested for interoperability, information security, and functional security. 2010 – 2016 (€13m)
  • Digital technology for the economy – PAiCE aims at transferring digital innovation to the industrial environment. Pioneering technology fields such as product engineering, agile logistics, service robotics, industrial 3D applications and industrial communication as well as their interconnectivity are addressed, which are particularly relevant for the digitization of the economy. 2016 – 2021 (€46m)
  • Smart Data Management is a technology programme for applied research to promote cutting-edge digital technologies. In the field of data economy, it will contribute to exploiting the opportunities of digital transformation in various areas of application. 2019 – 2021 (€60m)
  • In the framework of the KI-Wettbewerb (AI Innovation Competition), the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy wants to support new forms of AI-based platform economy in key sectors of the German economy. In the current competition phase, over 35 networks with 80 project partners will be financially supported by the government. The competition winners will be announced in September 2019, while the project implementation will start in January 2020.

Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand

Duration: since 2008

Mandated by BMWi

“ZIM” stands for “Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand”, which means “Central Innovation Programme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)”. It aims to foster the innovative capacity of SMEs and thus to contribute to economic growth and the creation of new jobs. It launches several thousand new projects every year all around Germany, making it the country’s largest innovation programme for SMEs. ZIM funds innovative companies with business operations in Germany which want to develop new or significantly improve existing products, processes or technical services. The programme is open to all sectors and fields of technology. Funded projects must be highly innovative, market-oriented and entail a substantial technological risk.

KMU Innovativ

Duration: since 2007

Mandated by BMBF

The funding initiative KMU Innovativ (Innovative SMEs) supports SMEs in conducting research by providing financial support for the creation and development of innovative technologies. The main domains covered are medical technologies, production, ICT, autonomous electric driving and others.

German Medical Informatics

Duration: 2016 - 2025

Mandated by BMBF

The aim of the German Medical Informatics Initiative is to address the gap between the research and healthcare and harness research findings to the direct benefit of patients. The objective is to ensure that, in future, each doctor, patient and researcher has access to the information they require. This will lead to more precise diagnostics, and better treatment decisions. At the same time, robust data protection and security will be a top priority. In the initiative’s first phase, university hospitals and partner organizations will establish and link data integration centers. These centers will allow research and healthcare data to be aggregated and integrated across multiple entities and sites. At the same time, innovative IT solutions for specific medical applications will be developed to demonstrate the benefits of high-tech digital healthcare services and infrastructures.


Duration: 2016 - 2020

Mandated by BMVI

The funding programme is designed to promote R&D projects related to digital data-based applications for Mobility 4.0. It supports founders, start-ups, businesses, authorities, and institutions of higher education. Funding recipients develop digital business ideas that are based on mobility, spatial and weather data.

Programme “go-digital”

Duration: until 2021

Mandated by BMWi

Modules: digital business models, digital market development and IT security

The funding programme supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and craft enterprises that want to optimize their business processes with the help of digital solutions in a service- and customer-oriented, efficient and secure manner.

Technik zum Menschen bringen

Duration: 2016 - 2020

Mandated by BMBF

The research programme “Technik zum Menschen bringen” (Bringing Technology to the People) focuses on the social challenges caused by digitalization. Central topics in this programme are “Intelligent Mobility”, “Digital Society” and “Healthy Lifestyle”. Aside from the technical dimension, the programme addresses the ethical and legal implications of the Human-Machine-Interaction.

Gründerwettbewerb – Digitale Innovationen

Mandated by BMWi

The Gründerwettbewerb – Digitale Innovationen (Founders Competition – Digital Innovations) is a contest of innovative ideas financially supported by the BMWi. The projects should focus or be based on modern information and communication technologies. The Ministry offers up to 32.000 EUR for each idea, coaching, workshops and networking opportunities with experts from the industry. The competition takes place in two rounds every year.

Microsystems Technology

Duration: 2016 - 2020

Mandated by BMBF

The German Federal Government is strengthening and bundling its measures to expand the microelectronics sector in Germany. The Framework Programme Microsystems Technology fosters the potential of microelectronics to bolster the innovative dynamics of industry in Germany. It is targeted at small, medium and large companies in microelectronics and related application industries as well as at universities and non-university research institutes. It also addresses companies and investors who wish to establish production in Germany as one of the leading locations for innovations worldwide.

Supercomputing 2.0

Duration: since 2017

Mandated by BMBF

High performance computing is one of the decisive factors for the success of Germany’s science and industry. It helps to expand Germany’s leading position in key technologies and to make Germany a pioneer in solving global challenges. The Federal Government has been investing in R&D since 2007. Another significant funding (225 million Euro) was provided in 2017, bringing the country into the second phase – Supercomputing 2.0. The programme’s main focus is to support the development of computer structures and software technologies.

Transfer Initiatives

The German Federal Government provides support to multiple stakeholders, who work on the development and deployment of digital technologies. Tailor-made initiatives for specific industries were created to facilitate knowledge transfer and offer support to those seeking assistance in the implementation of digital solutions.

Digital HUB Initiative

Duration: since 2017

Mandated by BMWi

With the Digital Hub Initiative, Germany is strengthening its position as the world’s leading digital ecosystem and an attractive digital location. Startups, established business and academics come together in 12 digital hubs spread all over Germany (see map). By combining the know-how of established companies with innovative startup ideas and scientific excellence, the Digital Hub Initiative promotes the emergence of a strong culture of innovation and new digital business models ranging from artificial intelligence to new mobility to smart infrastructure.

Digital Testbeds

Mandated by the BMVI

The initiative provides the research community and industry with an opportunity to test their mobility technologies in real world environments and to gain experience in driving in various degrees of complexity and environments. Digital testbeds are “laboratories with real-life conditions” on motorways in rural or urban areas, allowing the public to interact with the latest technological developments in real-life conditions.

I 4.0-Testumgebungen

Mandated by the BMBF

The I 4.0-Testumgebung (I 4.0 testbed) aims at improving the innovation potential of SMEs to test products, components and digital processes in real-life conditions. Aside from the infrastructure, the SMEs have access to expert knowledge that help them further develop their digital technologies with the right tools.

Initiative „Research Campus – Public-Private Partnership for Innovation“

Duration: 2011 – 2026

Mandated by the BMBF

The funding initiative supports large-scale and long-term cooperation between science and industry. It provides funding to universities, research institutes and companies to jointly work on research projects of common interest. Nine research campuses cover a wide range of industries, e.g. health, mobility, environment, energy, logistics and technology production.

Initiative Stadt.Land.Digital

Duration: since 2019

Mandated by BMWi

Initiative Stadt.Land.Digital (City.Countryside.Digital) sees itself as a competence center, contact partner, multiplier and supporter for all relevant actors and topics on the way to the “smart” city and the “smart” region. It aims to promote intelligent networking in Germany. The initiative provides information, support, advice, networking and support in the design and implementation of digital strategies.


Mandated by BMVI

mCloud is an open data portal of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure with free access to data from the mobility, spacial and weather forecasting sectors. The database is constantly updated by the ministry with raw data. It is primarily aimed at users from administration, research and business sectors.

Mobility Data Marketplace

Mandated by BMVI

The Mobility Data Marketplace (MDM) is a central online portal for traffic data and brings together the traffic data from providers, users and refiners. As a neutral platform it ensures transparent terms and safe technical standards. This makes it very simple to provide, search for and subscribe to traffic-related data.


Duration: since 2012

Mandated by BMWi

Mittelstand-Digital (SMEs go Digital) is an initiative consisting of twenty-five competence centres scattered throughout Germany providing information and support to SMEs free of change about the chances and challenges posed by the digitalization. They provide expert knowledge, use cases, networking and an environment for exchange of experiences. Check the map with all competence centres.

Smart Data Innovation Lab test

Duration: since 2014

Mandated by BMBF

The platform is a powerful in-memory computing infrastructure offered free-of-charge to research projects and gives the researchers a unique access to a large variety of big data and in-memory technologies. It enables research projects to carry out their big data analyses using state-of-the-art technology by providing special hardware and software. The research projects focus on the strategic areas of Industry 4.0, Energy, Smart Cities and Personalized Medicine.

Schaufenster intelligente Energie - Digitale Agenda für die Energiewende (SINTEG)

Mandated by BMWi

SINTEG includes five large-scale model regions, so-called “Schaufenster” (showcase), in which best practice solutions for the future energy supply are developed and tested. The focus is on digitizing the energy sector. A total of over 300 project partners are tackling technical as well as economic and legal challenges. The focus is on the intelligent networks of power generation and consumption, as well as the use of innovative network technologies and operating concepts. The work is concentrated in six working groups: legal framework, digital business models, standardization, IT security, jobs in energy sector and smart European energy regions.

Governmental Councils

To bring together German federal government officials with digital experts, various councils and committees have been created. They address the latest challenges posed by the effects of digitalization, including ethics, legal frameworks, and technical capabilities. The councils and committees listed below serve as advisory bodies for decision-making authorities.

Digitalrat BMVg

Founded in May 2019

The Digitalrat BMVg (Digital Council of the Ministry of Defense) was set up on the April 16, 2019  to advice the Federal Minister of Defense in questions related to the digital transformation of the German armed forces. Together with a Digitallabor (digital laboratory) and a Digitalgalerie (digital gallery) it forms the so-called Digitalen Campus (digital campus). The Digitalrat has six permanent members, each appointed for two years, from science, industry, business and the BMVg as well as two so called “jumper” from the startup scene and the German armed forces. The constitutive meeting was on May 15, 2019.

Hightech Forum

Founded in 2019

Hightech Forum is the main advisory body of the German government for accompanying the implementation of the Hightech Strategies, which set the priorities for the governments research policy. The body was first introduced by the Federal Ministry of Research and Education as a sign to also acknowledge the civil society. In the years since 2006, when the first Hightech Strategy was published, the Forschungsunion, which only consisted of representatives from research and business, had the advisory role. The Hightech Forum is always set up for one legislative period and currently consists of 21 experts from research, civil society and the business sector.


Founded in 2018

Digitalrat (Digital Council) was set up by the Federal Government in order to advise the Federal Government on the digitalization and shaping of the digital transformation of society. It is a team of 10 volunteer professors, researchers, entrepreneurs and computer scientists. The Council meets at least twice a year with the Chancellor and members of the government.


The IT-Rat (IT Council) is the main political committee for overarching topics on digitalization. It is responsible for controlling the IT infrastructure in the federal administration. Its members are state secretaries of all federal ministries that are responsible for the digitalization of the administration sector.


The IT-Planungsrat (IT Planning Council) is the political steering committee for IT and e-government at federal, state and local level. The IT Planning Council is intended to promote user-oriented electronic administrative services and ensure the efficient and secure IT operation of the administration. The tasks of the IT Planning Council include the coordination of the work between the Federal Government and the Länder on IT issues, management of e-government projects, planning and further development of the Deutschland-Online Infrastructure (DOI) in accordance with the IT Network Act.

Enquete-Kommission „Künstliche Intelligenz”

Founded in 2018

Enquete-Kommission „Künstliche Intelligenz” (Committee of Enquiry “Artificial Intelligence”) is made up of members of the German parliament and external experts, which explore the influence of artificial intelligence (AI) on our life and German economy. The team discusses a variety of technical, legal and ethical questions. Its goal is to identify and formulate the social and economic opportunities derived from AI, as well as foresee and minimize potential risks that come along.


Founded in 2018

Datenethikkommission (Data Ethic Commission) develops guidelines for protection of individuals and proposes regulations for the social good, based on scientific and technical expertise. It seeks to answer the questions regarding the impact the digital technologies, algorithms and artificial intelligence will make in the near future. The commission consists of 16 members, who advise both the government and the parliament.

Kommission Wettbewerbsrecht 4.0

Founded in 2018

Kommission Wettbewerbsrecht 4.0 (Commission “Competition Law 4.0”) is a platform to debate the development of the national and European competition law. It deals with the competition issues emerging from the advanced development of the data-driven economy, online platform markets and Industry 4.0. The commission will elaborate and deliver by the end of 2019 a set of concrete recommendations for the EU competition law.

Deutscher Ethikrat

Founded in 2017

Deutscher Ethikrat (German Ethic Council) addresses the ethical questions of society, health, science, law, digitalization and their possible implications for the community that result from the research and innovation developed in various areas of life sciences. The Council enhances dialogue in society and comes up with policy recommendations for the government and parliament.

Ausschuss Digitale Agenda

Founded in 2014

With 21 members onboard, the Ausschuss Digitale Agenda (Parliamentary Committee Digital Agenda) is responsible for the digital policy within the German parliament. It discusses various issues of digitalization across all sectors.

Beirat Junge Digitale Wirtschaft

Founded in 2014

The Young Digital Economy Advisory Board gives the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy first-hand advice on current issues of the digital transformation, focusing on the development and potentials of young digital economy in Germany. It aims to facilitate a direct and practical dialogue between policy makers and the young German digital and start-up community.

German Council for Scientific Information Infrastructures

Founded in 2014

German Council for Scientific Information Infrastructures (Rfll) monitors transitions in the German academic system at large and gives practical recommendations to academia and the government. The Council, consisting of 24 members, focuses on the topics of “Research Data – Sustainability – Internationality” in its first term of office.

Hochschulforum Digitalisierung

Founded in 2014

As an independent national platform, Hochschulforum Digitalisierung (HFD) provides a framework for discussing the wide-ranging impact of digitalisation on higher education institutions, and especially on higher education teaching. HFD supports Higher Education Institutions in making digitalisation an integral part of their institutional strategy and in incorporating it in their teaching activities. Hochschulforum issues recommendations to decision-makers in German higher education policy. HFD is a joint initiative by Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, CHE Centre for Higher Education and the German Rectors’ Conference. It is financed by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Digital Gipfel

Since 2006

The Digital Gipfel is a summit intended to develop concepts for strengthening Germany as an IT location. It acts as a central platform of cooperation between politics, business sector, science and society to shape the digital transformation process. It consists of nine platforms and two forums. The yearly summit sums up the results of the previous year, sets up new priorities and discusses the current challenges and trends.