Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Forschungszentrum Jülich Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin
Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren e.V.
Helmholtz Association's Logo.svg
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Großforschungseinrichtungen (AGF)
HeadquartersBonn and Berlin
Employees39,255 (2017)[1]
Annual budget4.56 billion (2017)[1]
Agency executive

The Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres (German: Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren) is the largest scientific organisation in Germany. It is a union of 18 scientific-technical and biological-medical research centers. The official mission of the Association is "solving the grand challenges of science, society and industry". Scientists at Helmholtz therefore focus research on complex systems which affect human life and the environment. The namesake of the association is the German physiologist and physicist Hermann von Helmholtz.[2]

The annual budget of the Helmholtz Association amounts to €4.56 billion, of which about 72% is raised from public funds. The remaining 28% of the budget is acquired by the 19 individual Helmholtz Centres in the form of contract funding. The public funds are provided by the federal government (90%) and the rest by the States of Germany (10%).[2][1]

The Helmholtz Association was ranked #8 in 2015 and #7 in 2017 by the Nature Index, which measures the largest contributors to papers published in 82 leading journals.[3][4][5]


Map of 19 member centers of the Helmholtz association

Members of the Helmholtz Association are:

Helmholtz Institutes are partnerships between a Helmholtz Center and a university (the institutes are not members of the Helmholtz Association themselves). Examples of Helmholtz Institutes include:

Programme structure

The works of the centers are categorised into programmes, which are divided into six research groups.[8] The Helmholtz centers are grouped according to which research group they belong to:

The Helmholtz Climate Initiative

Logo of the Regional Climate Change initiative

Eight of the above-mentioned Helmholtz centers are part of the Helmholtz Climate Initiative Regional Climate (in German: Regionale Klimainitiative) REKLIM in order to tackle the interactions between atmosphere, sea ice, ocean and land surfaces. These interactions determine the climate of the Earth. Detailed observations and process studies are combined within the initiative. For the funding period 2009-2013 the REKLIM-initiative has a budget of 32.2 million Euro.[9] In this funding period, the program is divided into seven topics, each of the topics is organized in various work-packages.

  1. Coupled modelling of regional earth systems. Model regions are the Arctic and Europe. Highly resolved regional model are used to simulate atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, ice sheets, land surface, soil, vegetation, aerosol chemistry and other components on a regional scale.
  2. Sea-level changes and coastal protection. The effects of glacier and ice-stream dynamics, the response of the ocean on heating and melt water run-off are studied in particularly for Greenland.
  3. Regional climate changes in the Arctic Forcing and long-term effects at the land-ocean interface
  4. The land surface in the climate system
  5. Chemistry-climate interactions on global to regional scales
  6. Extreme weather events Storms, heavy precipitation, floods and droughts
  7. Socio-economics and management Climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies

In the second funding period (2011-2015), three additional topics have been added.

Open access

The Helmholtz Association was one of the initial signatories of the 2003 Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. This commitment towards open access publishing of scientific research was then formally approved by its Assembly of Members, an assembly of the directors of the Helmholtz Centers. In a September 2004 Resolution the Assembly adopted the following commitment: ”Publications from the Helmholtz Association shall in future, without exception, be available free of charge, as far as no conflicting agreement with publishers or others exists.” While the Helmholtz Association has no strict open access mandate. The Helmholtz Association encourages gold open access, while green open access is promoted through institutional repositories of the individual Helmholtz Centers.[10] To further the idea of open science, the Helmholtz Association maintains the Helmholtz Open Science Coordination Office.[11]


Note: Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe is often abbreviated as FZK, although this violates the rights of Feuerverzinkerei FZK Karlsruhe.

  1. ^ a b c Helmholtz Annual Report 2018
  2. ^ a b Helmholtz Association - About Us retrieved 24-May-2012.
  3. ^ "Ten institutions that dominated science in 2015". Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  4. ^ "10 institutions that dominated science in 2017". Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  5. ^ "Introduction to the Nature Index". Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  6. ^ "Pressemitteilung vom 22. Juni 2009: Per Unterschrift besiegelt – das FZD wechselt zur Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren (german)". FZD. 2009-05-22. Archived from the original on 2009-03-07. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
  7. ^ Press release "Helmholtz-Institut kommt nach Würzburg" (German)
  8. ^ Helmholtz Association - Research retrieved 29-Sept-2015
  9. ^ "Helmholtz-Verbund Regionale Klimaänderungen (REKLIM)". Süddeutsches Klimabüro. Retrieved 2013-11-04.
  10. ^ "Germany - Global Open Access Portal". UNESCO. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  11. ^ Helmholtz Open Science Coordination Office, Helmholtz Association