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Which are the most important institutions for artificial intelligence in Germany? What is the focus of their activities? And what is the state of the nationwide offering of AI degree programs? An overview.


Although the first attempt to define the term artificial intelligence was made as early as 1955, and the theoretical concepts surrounding AI even go back to antiquity, it was not until the 1980s that artificial intelligence was able to establish itself institutionally in Germany.

With the national AI strategy announced in 2018, the government launched a broad-based attempt to further establish AI in Germany by 2025. Meanwhile, a lot has happened institutionally in Germany regarding AI.

AI development with tradition

Academically, artificial intelligence has been promoted in Germany since 1988 by the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), which was founded at that time. What was once considered a pioneering institution for AI research in Germany has, according to DFKI's own statement, since developed into "the world's largest and most renowned scientific institution for artificial intelligence."


DFKI operates sites in several German cities and enjoys an impeccable reputation, particularly among politicians and business leaders. For example, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) also provides significant support to the AI research center in the form of several million euros per year as part of its current AI strategy.

In the meantime, there are other research centers that, in contrast to the DFKI - whose focus is on the often low-publicity development of prototypes - carry out more practice-oriented projects and have also developed appeal beyond politics and business in terms of scientific excellence.

The Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association, and the Technical University of Munich, for example, each ranked first in machine learning publications between 2006 and 2016. DFKI, which has done a lot of research on symbolic AI, ranks 20th.

Worldwide, Germany ranked 4th in terms of scientific publications on artificial intelligence in 2021 - behind China, the EU including the UK, and the USA.

Important AI institutions in Germany

Currently, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting six centers of excellence through funding programs on big data and machine learning. As research institutes, these are intended to strengthen Germany's top AI research and develop international appeal as part of the AI strategy.


The competence centers cooperate regionally with industry partners and form a national network for the exchange of research results. They are considered to be the mainstay of AI research in Germany and are intended to carry the brand "AI made in Germany" to the federal states according to the aspired model "AI made in Europe".

Five of these centers - except DFKI - are integrated into universities and will receive equal shares of funding from the federal and state governments starting in 2022, with up to 100 million euros each per year on a permanent basis. The six competence centers are:

  • BIFOLD (Berlin Institute for the Foundations of Learning and Data)
  • DFKI - German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence
  • MCML - Munich Center for Machine Learning
  • ML2R - Competence Center Machine Learning Rhine-Ruhr
  • ScaDS - Competence Center for Scalable Data Services and Solutions Dresden/Leipzig
  • Tübingen AI Center - Competence Center for Machine Learning

Other cooperating research institutes in the field of AI include the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (IAIS), the Max Planck Society and the Helmholz Association with its subordinate Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

In 2017, the BMBF launched the "Lernende Systeme" (Learning Systems) platform, whose 200 members are dedicated to the task of shaping learning systems fairly and responsibly as drivers of digitization in business and society. The platform pools expertise from science, business, and society and is intended to be a place for exchange and cooperation

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Studying artificial intelligence in Germany

There are currently 203 degree programs in Germany that focus on AI or have several modules dealing with it. 93 of these are at universities, 110 at universities of applied sciences. Her thematic focus areas include machine learning, robotics and interaction, as well as language processing and text understanding.

167 degree programs, 63 of them at universities and 104 at universities of applied sciences, have a data science focus. In addition, there are 43 other degree programs with AI or data science content.

Together with the German Research Foundation (DFG), the BMBF also supports a total of 56 junior research groups and research projects at universities and other research institutes throughout Germany, where young scientists conduct research on innovative AI topics.

Since 2019, 100 additional AI professorships have also been established as part of the German government's AI strategy, including up to 30 new Alexander von Humboldt Professorships for Artificial Intelligence. DAAD-funded Konrad Zuse Schools of Excellence in AI have also been established at the Technical Universities of Darmstadt, Dresden, and Munich.

New AI labs at universities, research institutions, state-run companies, and also the German armed forces are designed to help employees learn about AI as a technology of the future and prepare for its use.

Three further so-called International Future Labs for AI aim to strengthen cross-border cooperation, particularly in the areas of earth observation using satellite data, diagnostics and drug development, as well as in the production of raw materials in the laboratory sector.

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Sarah is a mathematician, programmer, and part-time philosopher. Her focus is on the ethical and societal future issues of Artificial Intelligence.
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