Research and Innovation in the Mechanical Engineering Industry


German machinery manufacturing takes place in highly innovative companies.Its above average commitment to research and innovation is represented in the respective statistical figures.

Research and Development (R&D)

Along with the automotive, electrical engineering, and chemical industries the mechanical engineering industry is one of the most research-intensive industries in Germany. It accounts for nine percent of the business sector's expenditure on research and development (R&D) and for almost 11 % of its R&D personnel.
Counted as full time equivalents the number of R&D personnel in machinery manufacturing companies amounted to round about 44.5 thousand in the year 2016. Half of the R&D staff is made up of scientists and engineers. After a drawback in 2009 R&D employment is on the rise again. It has been substantially increased in the last ten years.
In 2016 intramural expenditure on research and development of the German mechanical engineering industry rose by 3.5 percent to a total of 5.7 billion euros. Extramural R&D grew by 19 percent to 655 million euros.


The sole figures on R&D do not give but an inadequate picture of the innovative capacities of German mechanical engineering. Innovation activities comprise research and development as well as investments in a production facility and other preparations for the introduction of a new product. They are defined according to the OECD's Oslo Manual.
More than half of the German machinery manufacturing companies have carried out technological innovations during the years 2013 to 2015, meaning that they have introduced new products and/or processes and/or significant technological changes of products and processes. In 2015 they realised a good fifth of total turnover with new or significantly improved products.
The industry's expenditure on innovation activities amounted to 14.6 billion Euro in 2015. They exceeded the value for 2014 by more than 7 percent. Innovation intensity (innovation expenditure in percent of total turnover) rose to 5.9 percent (2014: 5.7 %).


Another indicator of innovative success are patent counts. Of all patent applications to the European Patent Office by companies of the mechanical engineering sector the highest number is held by German companies. In some fields of technology they are also world leader in patenting activity according to OECD data. Since innovation activities with respect to environment and energy play an increasingly important role in the industry, this is reflected in a growth of patent filings in energy and environment-related technologies.

Data on research and development in the German private economy are regularly collected and reported by the Wissenschaftsstatistik of the Stifterverband. Data on innovation originate from the Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung (ZEW), which, in cooperation with infas (Institut für angewandte Sozialwissenschaft) and the Fraunhofer-Institut ISI, has conducted the survey on behalf of the Ministry of Research since 1993. VDMA supports both of these surveys explicitly and appeals to its members to fill in the respective questionnaires.