The Max Planck Society - in 75 Seconds

Knowledge is everything. And basic research is the most important process to understand our world and broaden our horizon. Among all the basic research institutions worldwide, the Max Planck Society provides one of the best environments for top scientists. But how exactly do we make this possible? Here it is -- Explained in 75 sconds. 

About Us

Max Planck Society

Many people believe there is only one Max Planck Institute, but in fact there are 83. They are spread out all over Germany and some are even in other countries. They are all part of the Max Planck Society, but conduct independent research.

The Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, MPG) is an independent, non-profit research organization. It was founded on February 26, 1948, and is the successor organization to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which was established in 1911.

The currently 83 Max Planck Institutes conduct basic research in the service of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Max Planck Institutes focus on research fields that are particularly innovative, or that are especially demanding in terms of funding or time requirements. And their research spectrum is continually evolving: new institutes are established to find answers to seminal, forward-looking scientific questions, while others are closed when, for example, their research field has been widely established at universities. This continuous renewal preserves the scope the Max Planck Society needs to react quickly to pioneering scientific developments.


The financing of the Max Planck Society is made up of 80% basic financing from the public sector: Including the MPI for Plasma Physics the MPG is financed to approximately 1,7 billion euros in 2015. In addition, third-party funding contributed to basic financing.

The German federal government together with the state governments each assume half of the funding for the budget of the Max Planck Society (budget A). The calculation of the financial contributions provided by the states is based on a distribution formula that is re-calculated each year as well as on the "home state quota", which has been steady at 50 percent since 2000. In addition, all partners may agree to provide extra funding in addition to the specified quotas.

The exception to this is the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, which is funded by the German government and the states of Bavaria and Mecklenburg Western Pommerania in a ratio of 90:10 (budget B) in accordance with regulations for major research institutions. In addition, this institute receives subsidies from EURATOM for a joint research program within the scope of association agreements.

In addition to the grants provided by the German federal government and its states for institutional support, the Max Planck Society and its institutes receive project funding from the German government and state ministries, from the European Union, grants from private individuals, in the form of membership fees, donations and remuneration for services rendered.


On January 1, 2015 the Max Planck Society employed a total of 17,284 staff (previous year: 16,988), of whom 5,654 were scientists (previous year: 5,516). This represents 32.7 % of the total number of employees and an increase of 1.7%.

Additionally, as of January 1, 2015 there were 4,718 junior and visiting scientists working in the 83 institutes of the Max Planck Society. A total of 22,002 people (17,284 staff and 4,718 junior and visiting scientists) worked at the Max Planck Society (previous year: 21,640), representing an increase of 1.7% as compared with the previous year.

In the course of 2014, a total of 14,859 Bachelor students, fellows of the International Max Planck Research Schools, PhD students, postdoctoral students, research fellows, and visiting scientists worked at the Max Planck Society, compared to 13,178 in the previous year.

As of January 1, 2015, the proportion of female employees was 44.6%; of these, around 29.4% were scientific employees and 55.4 % were non-scientific staff members. 20.5% of all of the employees were foreign nationals.

On January 1, 2015, 39.6% of scientists were foreign nationals. During the course of 2014, 55,5 % of the junior scientists and guest scientists came from abroad.

Knowledge Transfer

The Max Planck Society is a non-profit research organization which is why scientists at its institutes are obliged to make the results of their work accessible to the general public. This knowledge transfer occurs in a number of ways:

  • Each year scientists and researchers at the Max Planck Society publish more than 12,000 scientific articles in renowned national and international scientific journals, databases, specialized textbooks, and reference books, etc.
  • More than 9,000 junior scientists and researchers work at the institutes of the Max Planck Society. After completing their studies, they go on to assume responsible positions in business, politics, and society.
  • New technical breakthroughs developed at Max Planck Institutes find application in the economy and in society as a result of cooperative efforts with industry, the granting of patents and licenses, and as a result of spin-off companies.

Since 1970, the Max Planck Society has maintained its own company to promote the transfer of technology. Max Planck Innovation (until the end of 2006 under the name of Garching Innovation) advises institutes on matters pertaining to the legal protection of industrial property. Max Planck Innovation does the necessary patent research, arranges legal counsel, and advises the researchers on patent registration procedures in Germany and abroad. In special cases, Max Planck Innovation approaches companies with inventions stemming from the institutes.

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