Support for the German science system comes from both the state and private sectors. Private enterprise accounts for two-thirds of expenditure on research and development in Germany; the remaining third is mainly provided by the state universities, which not only offer an academic curriculum but also carry out a wide range of research activities. In addition, several other research organizations provide specific contributions to the science system. In terms of the overall structure of German science and research, based on its science-led procedures, the Max Planck Society stands for the opening up of new fields in basic research, building strongly on the individual creativity of its scientists.
» Knowledge must precede application
This stipulation, formulated by Max Planck, continues to determine the role and self-perception of the Max Planck Society. Because the Society carries out basic research in the natural sciences and the humanities as an autonomous scientific institution, it must compete at international levels for the brightest minds and the best ideas.
Whoever wishes to acquire knowledge must explore new paths. Genuine innovation is usually achieved in small, flexible groups that foster close bonds and daring approaches. These groups must also have a long-term perspective to allow the constant exploration of new methods and options until a breakthrough is made.
Interdisciplinary cooperation is an important prerequisite for the identification of these new paths. By allowing specialists, who produce outstanding work in their own fields, to cooperate in a spirit of understanding and openness towards other disciplines without having to compete for resources, it is possible to generate new, dynamic scientific ideas with enormous potential. This is the kind of interdisciplinary cooperation that takes place in the Max Planck institutes.
A science system requires wide coverage as well as excellence. A country like Germany, which depends heavily on technological innovation and endeavours to gear its social system towards the well-being of its citizens by adopting modern approaches, requires a broad base of specialists with a scientific background. However, to genuinely take the lead in international competition for knowledge and innovation, Germany also requires a sufficient number of outstanding researchers from the select group of global pioneers in the different fields of scientific knowledge.