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

84 industrial research associations with approx. 135,000 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. The AiF thus connects enterprises, research and government as well as providing a meeting ground for representatives of business and research. 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 representatives and experts – both from industry and research – work in an honorary capacity within the AiF system. 

Centre of Excellence in R&D Support for SMEs

The AiF manages public programmes of the German federal government to strengthen SME competitiveness. 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.

AiF-members: Industrial research associations

So called industrial research associations are the members of the AiF. Within the system of pre-competitive Collective Research, they 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.

Collective research is a mechanism enabling businesses to solve shared problems through shared projects. It gives SMEs access to a continuous stream of new knowledge which can be used to develop their own products, processes and services as well as giving them the opportunity to build up their individual innovation networks. By joining a research association and taking an active part in its committees etc., SMEs directly influence the association’s research agenda and priorities. 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. This kind of pre-competitive research closes the gap between basic research and industrial application. After the completion of such a research project, the results are available for everyone interested and the basis for individual adaptations within enterprises.

Collective research projects can be funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. A research association seeking public financial support for a collective research project applies for funding to the DLR PT, which is - on behalf of the ministery - responsible for the administrative process. International collective research projects can be funded by a variant called CORNET.

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.

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.

Since its foundation in 1954, the AiF has disbursed more than 14 billion euros in funding for over 247,000 research projects for SMEs.