National Programs and Initiatives

This directory presents a selection of programs and initiatives that focus on the development of key innovative digital technologies (AI, Big Data, IoT and IT security & trust). If you are missing a relevant program or initiate that should be featured here, please write us under info[at]


Foundational Research
Applied Research
Data Infrastructure
Test and Transfer

Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture


Mandated by BMEL

The funding programme is divided into two parts: AI in rural regions and AI for agriculture and food production. While the former part focuses on creation of equal living conditions between cities and rural areas, the later supports projects that use artificial intelligence for increasing transparency, efficiency and sustainability in agriculture and food production. The improvements yield by the products are to be understood in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Application closed at the end of April 2020, whereby a total of 82 projects were submitted.

Experimental Fields

Mandated by BMEL

The funding programme “Experimental fields” supports a selection of 14 projects that pursuit innovations in agriculture. It is part of the programme “Digital Policies in Agriculture” that comprises a total funding of € 60 million until the end of 2020, of which € 50 million will be invested in the experimental fields. These fields will be accompanied by the the Competence Center for Digitalisation in Agriculture and act as testbeds in farms and rural regions for digital solutions that enhance environmental protection, animal welfare, biodiversity and work facilitation for farmers. Spread all over Germany, the testbeds address different focal points.


Mandated by BMEL

The initiative “Smart countryside regions” aims to promote digitalisation in rural areas. By implementing digital technologies, living and working conditions for the local population shall be enhanced, especially with hindsight to basic services, such as public transport and waste management. In addition, the initiative wants to support local stakeholders with digital skills and the development of new digital services together with Fraunhofer IESE. A digital platform will support the exchange of knowledge and the establishment of a digital ecosystem. The initiative is part of the federal programme “Ländliche Entwicklung”.

Zukunftsregion Digitale Gesundheit

Mandated by BMG

The initiative “Future-oriented region digital health” promotes the use and exploration of the potential of digital solutions in healthcare, both for service providers and for patients and citizens. In addition, the establishment of digital processes between the players is intended to promote networking across disciplines and sectors. The goal of the initiative is to make digital solutions tangible in everyday care in order to gain insights into the acceptance and use of digital applications in healthcare. The projects will be conducted in test-regions in Berlin and Brandenburg.

Zukunftszentren (KI) (in German)

Mandated by BMAS

The funding programme “Future Centres (AI) – Support of SMEs and employees in the exemplary and participative testing of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, for company practice” was launched in August 2020 and focuses on supporting companies and their employees in the co-creative implementation of  AI-based systems. The future centres are based upon the German AI Strategy. Within this programme, two key activities will be funded: “The Regional Future Centre” and the “AI Knowledge- and Training Centre”. The later pursues the supra-regional generation and transfer of knowledge on human-centred AI systems. It thereby closely cooperates with the AI Observatory, which is also mandated by BMAS. 


Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation

Mandated by BMBF and BMWi

Founded in Leipzig in December 2019 the objective of the “SprinD GmbH” is to foster leapfrog innovations from Germany by bridging the gap between research and practical implementation. This is done by providing financial and consulting support to projects as well as by linking them with the right networks from science, business and politics. If promising innovative ideas have been identified, projects will get the chance to implement their ideas within limited project companies with a maximum duration of five years. One important instrument to qualify for funding is constituted by the innovation competitions. Apart from this, project proposals can be submitted under PROJECTS@SPRIND.ORG

Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand

Mandated by BMWi

“ZIM” stands for “Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand” (Central Innovation Program for SMEs) and aims at fostering the innovative capacity of SMEs. It launches several thousand new projects every year all around Germany, making it the country’s largest innovation program for SMEs. It also often sets up funding programs with other countries. ZIM funds innovative companies with business operations in Germany which want to develop new or significantly improve existing products, processes or technical services. The program is open to all sectors and fields of technology. Funded projects must be highly innovative, market-oriented and entail a substantial technological risk.

KI-Leuchttürme für Umwelt, Klima, Natur und Ressourcen (in German)

Mandated by BMU

As part of the national AI Strategy, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature and Nuclear Safety (BMU) started the funding programme in August 2019 in order to support AI projects that are stand as lighthouse projects for an ecologically as well as socially friendly digitalisation. This implies especially research in the area of climate change, preservation of biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, consumption and mobility as well as the access and use of environmental data, the reduction of energy and resource consumption, sustainable programming of AI algorithms and knowledge transfer. The project manager for this funding programme ist the Zukunft-Umwelt-Gesellschaft (ZUG) gGmbH.

KMU Innovativ…/kmu-innovativ (in German)

Mandated by BMBF

The funding initiative KMU Innovativ (Innovative SMEs) supports SMEs in conducting research by simplifying and shortening the application and approval process of funding for SMEs. It thereby provides financial support for the creation and development of innovative technologies. Among the domains covered are medical technologies, production, ICT and autonomous electric driving.

Funding Program "Programs on AI in digital technologies“

Mandated by BMWi

The aim of the funding program “Development of Digital Technologies” is to pick up on key technological trends at an early stage and to accelerate the process of transferring scientific findings into the development of marketable high-tech technologies. Funding is devoted to the following programmes:

  • 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. 2016 – 2022 (€50m)
  • Smart Services World II is designed to tap into the application fields that are underrepresented in the programme SSW I. The programme SSW I was aimed at internet-based Business Services and sought to connect digital user areas using a targeted, secure combination of cyber-physical systems, data management technologies, and open service platforms. Some of the projects are continued in SSW II. A special focus is given to applications for small towns and rural regions in this programme. 2016 – 2021 (€50m)
  • 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 digitisation of the economy. 2016 – 2021 (€46m)
  • Smart Data Economy 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 first competition phase, over 35 networks with 80 project partners were financially supported by the government. The competition winners were announced in September 2019, while the project implementation started in January 2020. The current third call funds proposals and methods for the assessment and evaluation of economic, health and socio-political consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the derivation of measures and options for action – preventive and in crisis.
  • The “Secure Digital Identities” showcase aims at strengthening digital sovereignty by developing German eIDAS solutions, which are equally user-friendly, trustworthy and cost-efficient. These solutions should be easier to access for administration, businesses – especially SMEs – and the population. The aim is to create application-oriented eID ecosystems that are characterised by openness, interoperability and simple, intuitive and barrier-free usage. 11 projects are currently being funded under this scheme.
  • The BMWi supports a limited number of “bilateral cooperation projects” with selected partner countries in the European and international arena. The aim is, on the one hand, to transfer technological developments to foreign application areas and markets and, on the other hand, to use the specific competences of research institutions and companies from the respective partner country in current funding areas for joint activities. The document can be accessed and downloaded here.

National Research Data Infrastructure…/nfdi

Mandated by BMBF

The National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) is tasked to manage scientific and research data, provide long-term data storage, backup and accessibility, and network the data both nationally and internationally. The NFDI brings multiple stakeholders together in a coordinated network of consortia that provide science-driven data services to research communities.

Framework Program Microsystems Technology

Mandated by BMBF

The Framework Program Microsystems Technology of the German federal government fosters the potential of microelectronics as one of the key enabling technologies of central importance for the entire manufacturing industry. The program is targeted at companies in microelectronics and related application industries as well as at universities and non-university research institutes. The funding is focused on the following fields of application where ICT is a major driver of innovation: automotive engineering, medicine, logistics, energy and mechanical as well as plant engineering. The program is part of the Hightech-Strategie 2025. 

Smart Energy Showcase – Digital Agenda for the Energy Transition

Mandated by BMWi

Smart Energy Showcase – Digital Agenda for the Energy Transition (SINTEG) is a funding program that includes five large-scale model regions, so-called “Schaufenster” (showcases), in which best practice solutions for future energy supplies are developed and tested. The focus is on the digitization of the energy sector, especially intelligent networks of power generation and consumption, as well as the use of innovative network technologies and operating concepts. Issues discussed include the legal framework, digital business models, standardization, IT security, jobs in the energy sector and smart European energy regions.

Medical Informatics Initiative

Mandated by BMBF

The Medical Informatics Initiative addresses the gap between research and healthcare. It harnesses 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 are a top priority.

Agricultural Systems of the Future

Mandated by BMBF

Started in 2016, this programme aims at tackling future challenges such as population growth, urbanisation, climate change and shrinking farmland by paving new ways in the agricultural economy. Since 2019, the BMBF has been subsidising a total of eight research consortia to develop cross-disciplinary alternative approaches over the next five years. In terms of agriculture 4.0 and corresponding bioeconomic principles, smart and high technology, artificial intelligence (AI), digitalisation and resource-efficient closed energy and material cycles play a central role. The consortia are examining alternative production systems extending from the rural to the urban space.


Mandated by BMVI

The funding program mFUND 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.

Kompetenzzentren für KI-Forschung…/kuenstliche-intelligenz (in German)

Mandated by BMBF

The five Kompetenzzentren für KI-Forschung (AI Research Centers), established by the German federal government, are to form an essential pillar of AI research in Germany. Their tasks include not only the dissemination of new research findings, but in particular the creation of a network for the exchange of competencies and research results. And most importantly, they ensure that Germany’s AI research is and remains internationally visible. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will double the funding of the AI competence centers until 2022 to support their expansion. This map provides an overview of all institutions of this kind.

Research Campus - Public-Private Partnership for Innovation

Mandated by BMBF

The funding initiative Research Campus – Public-Private Partnership for Innovation 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 all over Germany cover a wide range of industries, e.g. health, mobility, environment, energy, logistics and technology production.

Kompetenzzentren für IT-Sicherheitsforschung…/kompetenzzentren (in German)

Mandated by BMBF

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding three Kompetenzzentren für IT-Sicherheitsforschung (Cyber Security Research Centers). The task of these centers is to develop long-term strategies for cyber security and to carry out related research projects to meet current and future challenges.

Support Program for Artificial Intelligence…/our-support-programme-for-artificial-intelligence

Mandated by BMU

Through the support program for Artificial Intelligence, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conversation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) funds projects that aim at coping with ecological challenges and are exemplary for a digitalization that respects environment, climate and nature (“KI-Leuchttürme”, AI flagship projects).

Innovation Spaces

Mandated by BMAS

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) wants to encourage and support companies in setting up in-house Innovation Spaces in order to test the potential of new ideas regarding the future of the working world. To facilitate networking and exchange between companies, the Ministry has created an online platform, where companies are able to present their Innovation Spaces and can learn about each other’s projects. The Ministry supports the creation of Innovation Spaces with funding and advisory services.

Funding Program Digital Testbeds

Mandated by BMVI

The initiative Digital Testbeds 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.

Gründerwettbewerb – Digitale Innovationen…/Gruenderwettbewerb (in German)

Mandated by BMWi

The Gründerwettbewerb – Digitale Innovationen (Founders Competition – Digital Innovations) is a contest of innovative ideas. Projects should focus or be based on modern information and communication technologies. The Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) offers up to €32.000 for each idea, as well as additional coaching, workshops and networking opportunities with experts from the industry. The competition takes place twice a year and each time, up to 22 winning teams are awarded.

Technik zum Menschen bringen (in German)

Mandated by BMBF

The research program “Technik zum Menschen bringen” (Bringing Technology to the People) focuses on the social challenges caused by digitalization. Central topics of this program are intelligent mobility, digital society and healthy lifestyle. Aside from the technical dimension, the program addresses the ethical and legal implications of the human-machine-interaction.

Smart Data Innovation Lab

Mandated by BMBF

The Smart Data Innovation Lab provides 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. Research projects wanting to apply should focus on the strategic areas of industry 4.0, energy, smart cities and personalized medicine.

Förderprogramm “go-digital"…/go-digital (in German)

Mandated by BMWi

The funding program “go digital” supports SMEs and craft enterprises that aim at optimizing their business processes with the help of digital solutions in a service- and customer-oriented, efficient and secure manner. The program connects SMEs with authorized consulting firms that provide them with expert advice and support in the implementation of innovative measures for setting up or expanding modern IT systems.

Digital HUB Initiative

Mandated by BMWi

With the Digital Hub Initiative is strengthening Germanys position as a leading digital ecosystem and an attractive digital location. Startups, established businesses and academics come together in 12 thematically-focused 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.

Initiative Stadt.Land.Digital…/Stadt-Land-Digital (in German)

Mandated by BMWi

The initiative Stadt.Land.Digital (City.Countryside.Digital) sees itself as a knowledge 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 at promoting networking in Germany. The initiative provides information, support, advice, networking and support in the design and implementation of digital strategies.



Mandated by BMEL

With the “Land.Digital” support scheme, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) supports the digital transformation in rural areas and disseminates model practical concepts under the umbrella of the Federal Rural Development Scheme (BULE) throughout Germany. In 2017, on behalf of the BMEL, the Rural Development Competence Centre (KomLE) issued a call for project proposals entitled “LandDigital: opportunities of digitalisation for rural areas” to look for interested parties who wanted to improve rural life through the smart use of information and communications technologies. Thereby, 61 projects received a funding guarantee of up to EUR 200,000. All projects will be completed by March 2022 at the latest. The project areas comprise the seven thematic areas “Economy and Labour”, “Volunteering and Involvement”, “Mobility”, “Education and Training”, “Health and Care”, “Local Service Provision” and “Information and Communication Platforms (ICT platforms)”.

Mittelstand-Digital (in German)

Mandated by BMWi

The funding initiative Mittelstand-Digital (SMEs Digital) informs SMEs about the opportunities and challenges of digitalization. 26 “Mittelstand 4.0-Kompetenzzentren” (SME 4.0-competence centers) scattered throughout Germany provide SMEs with expert knowledge, demonstration centers, best-practice examples as well as networks for the exchange of experiences. All services offered by Mittelstand-Digital are free-of-charge for SMEs.

Normungsroadmap KI…/normungsroadmap-ki (in German)

Mandated by BMWi

The Normungsroadmap KI (roadmap for norms and standards in the field of AI), a joint project of BMWi, DIN and DKE, aims at developing a roadmap for norms and standards in the field of artificial intelligence together with experts from business and society. The goal is the early development of a framework for standardization that supports the international competitiveness of German industry and raises European values to the international level.

Regulatory Sandboxes…/regulatory-test-beds-testing-environments-for-innovation-and-regulation

Mandated by BMWi

The Regulatory Sandboxes by the BMWi are facilities for testing innovation and regulation which enable digital innovations to be tested under real-life conditions and experience to be gathered. In May 2020, the BMWi selected nine projects out of 125  applications that best show how the use of digital technologies can create value locally. Such real-world testing environments are operated for a limited period of time and across a set area. The purpose of regulatory sandboxes is to learn about the opportunities and risks that a particular innovation carries and to develop the right regulatory environment to accommodate it.

mCloud (in German)

Mandated by BMVI

mCloud is an open data platform that provides free access to data from the mobility, spacial and weather forecasting sectors. The database is constantly updated by the ministry with raw data and takes into account data from private providers from the mobility sector as well. It is primarily aimed at users from administration, research and the business sector.

Mobility Data Marketplace

Mandated by BMVI

The Mobility Data Marketplace (MDM) offers suppliers and users of mobility data a neutral B2B platform to share, search and subscribe to traffic-relevant online data. The platform forwards the data supplied by the data suppliers unchanged to the data clients. With its defined standards for data exchange, MDM is nation’s biggest volume of information on traffic flows, traffic jams, road works, mobility options, parking facilities and more.

Bundescloud…/Bundescloud (in German)

Mandated by BMI

The Bundescloud (Federal Cloud) was developed as a cloud-based service for the Federal Administration. Users can store and process official data here, as well as share and exchange data between authorities and departments. The control of data and data traffic is located within the Federal Administration, which enables a high level of information security.