Research work is performed by research institutes contracted for a particular project by the responsible research association. About 1,200 university and other research institutes are continuously involved in the system of collective research. Relationships between particular research associations and institutes can be very strong. 37 of them even run their own research institutes, mostly organized as private non-profit organizations. Other industrial research associations work primarily or entirely with external research institutes such as universities. Institutes owned by research associations and university institutes each carry out about 40% of German collective research projects. Other types of institutes and laboratories – such as Fraunhofer-Institutes – also take part in collective research.
Project monitoring committees consisting of industrial representatives are established in the research associations to monitor each project and ensure its continuing focus on industrial needs.