About AiF

The AiF supports Research and Development in SMEs

Entrepreneurial innovation is Germany’s most valuable resource. The German Federation of Industrial Research Associations – AiF in short – is the leading national organisation promoting applied research and development benefiting Germany’s small and medium-sized businesses. It builds up alliances together with partners from industry, science and government in order to turn ideas into successful products, processes or services in the market. As an industry-driven organisation, the AiF aims at initiating applied research and development (R&D) for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as qualifying the new generation of academics in innovative fields and organising the distribution of scientific knowledge.

Industry-driven innovation network

100 industrial research associations with approx. 50,000 businesses, mostly SMEs, as members, 1,200 associated research institutes and the AiF’s affiliates in Cologne and Berlin contribute to the AiF innovation network. As an independent industrial federation, the AiF is financed entirely by industry and receives no institutional funding. In addition to the AiF’s permanent staff, several hundred representatives and experts – both from industry and research – work in an honorary capacity within the AiF system of Collective Research. 

The AiF manages public programmes of the German federal government to strengthen SME competitiveness. Pre-competitive Industrial Collective Research ("Industrielle Gemeinschaftsforschung", IGF) is the AiF’s core activity. The AiF thus connects enterprises, research and government as well as providing a meeting ground for representatives of business and research.

Centre of Excellence in R&D Support for SMEs

The AiF’s activities as a centre of excellence in R&D support span the whole innovation chain. The support programmes, which the AiF manages all aim at strengthening firm’s innovation capacity through R&D. They help SMEs successfully tackle technological challenges and support cooperation with other firms and with research organisations.

  • Industrial Collective Research for the benefit of entire industrial sectors or branches –“Industrielle Gemeinschaftsforschung“ (IGF), funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy
  • Governmental R&D programmes to raise the innovativeness of individual enterprises: ZIM cooperation as one module of the ZIM programme (Central Innovation Programme) focuses on R&D cooperation between SMEs and between SMEs and research institutes funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy

AiF-members: Industrial research associations

The AiF system of Collective Research is based on industrial research associations. The research associations collect ideas for research projects and decide whether they represent common research needs within an industrial branch or field of technology. The associations have scientific committees and boards, with representatives from both industry and research, for this purpose. Their prime tasks are:

  • discussion of ideas, problems and needs arising “bottom up“ from industry
  • development of research projects
  • evaluation of proposals for research projects
  • selection of qualified research facilities
  • monitoring and controlling research work
  • evaluation of research results
  • transfer and dissemination of results
  • training and advising on the utilisation of results.

A research association seeking public financial support for a collective research project applies for funding to the AiF. The AiF, acting on behalf of the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, takes care of the entire administrative process, starting with the organisation of the evaluation of proposals.

International Activities

Research and development plays a vital role in developing new markets for small and medium-sized enterprises. That is why the AiF is committed to several international activities as the representative of German SME interests in international research.

Both Industrial Collective Research within the initiative CORNET and the Central Innovation Programme offer the possibility to carry out international R&D-projekts. The initative IraSME supports SMEs in their transnational innovation activities, too.

In addition, the AiF is a member in several organisations to help SMEs benefit from European R&D programmes:

  • Membership of EARTO, EU Liaison Office of the German Research Organisations  
  • Membership of KoWi, Koordinierungsstelle EG der Wissenschaftsorganisationen (KoWi)

Excellent Return on Investment

Public funding of R&D activities is a very good investment in the international competitiveness of Germany. Every funding euro is multiply complimented by industrial R&D expenses. Hence, the AiF is a competent and committed partner to both public funding agencies and innovative companies in order to strengthen the German economy.

In 2020, the AiF has disbursed about 5.5 million euros of public funding, in particular on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. Since its foundation in 1954, the AiF has disbursed more than 13 billion euros in funding for over 240,000 research projects for SMEs.