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Article - Aerospace Policy

Aerospace Policy


Germany’s aerospace sector is a driver of technological innovation and economic growth. It brings together almost all the high technologies of this age of information: electronics, robotics, measuring, control and materials technology. At 10%, the proportion of the sector’s turnover which is spent on research and development is very high.

The resulting innovations have greatly benefited computer design. They have also given rise to the emergence of many other branches of industry. These include: mobile phone systems, navigation systems for cars, live transmissions of sporting and political events, video conferences with people in far-flung countries, and global environmental and climate research, none of which would have been possible without the pioneering work done by this sector. Aerospace not only links continents: it was also the first transport sector to subscribe to sustainability and define specific climate change mitigation targets at the beginning of this century (ACARE 2020). Aerospace helps us better understand Earth and space, opens up new technical applications, provides the basis for new types of services, fosters international cooperation, and facilitates disarmament and peace policy in Europe and beyond. Whilst aerospace may be a comparatively small sector of industry in Germany, it is of enormous strategic importance. This is true of all the segments of this forward-looking sector:


The aviation sector is following the trend seen in many sectors of industry towards an increasing international division of labour, shorter and shorter cycles of innovation, and rising demands in terms of economic viability and environmental friendliness. Against the background of this situation, and in order to give a permanent boost to the technological competitiveness of the aviation industry in Germany, the Economic Affairs Ministry supports the sector via an aviation research programme (in German) and the Aircraft Equipment Programme (in German).

Civil aviation

Airbus continues to be a key driving force in Germany’s and Europe’s aviation industry. As a result of close cooperation between industry and government, and working together with the European partners, the European aircraft manufacturer has become a permanent rival to Boeing. In recent years, Airbus has acquired orders which fill its order books for the next 7-8 years.

Strengthening the equipment and component supply industry in Germany is a stated aim of the Federal Government, with a view to contributing towards international success and an environmentally friendly, safe, efficient and passenger-friendly aviation system.


Unlike in the aviation sector, where the commercial market is well-developed, international space activities are largely driven by public-sector space strategies and the available budget funding. This means that the Federal Government’s space policy and its contribution to European structures are of central importance for Germany’s space industry. In its High-Tech Strategy 2020, the German government has awarded special importance to space flight, designating space a key enabling technology. This is because space technologies are key instruments for the modern information and industrial society.

Further information can be found here (in German).


billion euros
was the turnover of the German aerospace industry in 2017

Symbolicon für Satellit

percent share
of turnover is spent on research and development

Symbolicon für Menschen

thousand people
are employed in the sector in Germany

Symbolicon für Summe in Euro

per cent
is the proportion of turnover of the aerospace sector generated by exports

The role of the Economic Affairs Ministry

How does the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy support the aerospace sector?

The Economic Affairs Ministry is the lead ministry for the field of aerospace within the Federal Government and works to promote a coherent aerospace policy at interministerial level.

Promoting research: the Federal Government’s aviation research programme

Since 1995, the Federal Government has promoted the research and technology development in the "LuFo" aviation research programme. The main focus of the current, fifth, edition of the programme includes strengthening the sector as a lead market for Industrie 4.0, and developing new digital products.

Facilitating financing: the Aircraft Equipment Programme

In order to strengthen the equipment and component supplier industry in the aviation sector and to safeguard its technological edge, the Economic Affairs Ministry provides loans to help fund development projects. This limits the development risks and delivers greater financial security. Learn more (in German).

Strengthening international cooperation and networking

Innovation is not a one-way street. Aerospace technologies find their way into other sectors – and vice versa. With programmes like “Future Lab: Aviation Technology Transfer” and the Aerospace StartUp Night, the Economic Affairs Ministry promotes cross-sectoral technological networking. The aim is to highlight and leverage potential for innovation and synergies.

The Economic Affairs Ministry is actively involved in shaping the international environment for research, development and exports in the aerospace sector, working on this in national, European and international bodies. Also, the Economic Affairs Ministry backs the interests of Germany’s aviation industry in European research framework programmes like Clean Sky, SESAR, Horizon 2020.

Promoting the German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Institutional funding of more than €200 million goes towards the research work of the DLR each year.

Supporting German space flight projects

Via Germany's membership of ESA (the European Space Agency) and the National Programme for Space and Innovation, the Economic Affairs Ministry provides around a billion euros of funding each year.

Focus on the sector

The development of aerospace in Germany

In 2017, the aerospace sector developed very well in Germany. All of the key economic indicators improved.

In overall terms, Germany’s aerospace sector grew by 6% in 2017, with turnover reaching €40 billion (2016: €37.5 billion). This represents a continuation of the positive trend. Total employment registered a slight rise to 109,500 people working directly in the aerospace sector (2016: 108,000).

Civil aviation continues to be the largest part of the sector. A global rise in order and delivery figures resulted in sales rising by approx. 8% to €29.2 billion in 2017. 76,500 people work in this segment.

The German component supplier industry is playing its part in the ramp-up of the civil aviation programmes. The sector, which is dominated by SMEs, is continuing to win contracts to take part in programmes of aircraft manufacturers both inside and outside Europe.

In 2017, the military aviation industry registered sales of €7.8 billion. It employed some 24,000 people.

In the field of space flight, sales in 2016 stood at €2.9 billion, and the workforce amounted to 9,000 employees.

Spending on research and development by the sector remains at a very high level. In 2017, it amounted to €4 billion – 11% of the sector’s turnover that year.

The outlook for growth and jobs in the sector remains healthy, particularly in the medium and long term; reliable government assistance instruments provide the sector with a sound basis for its planning. Global market forecasts which predict a doubling of global aircraft demand by 2030, with average annual growth of around 5%, offer the major civil aircraft manufacturers and their suppliers the prospect of well-filled order books.

In 2017, exports accounted for 74% of the total turnover in the sector.

Pipette and test tubes on innovation policy; Source: Getty Images/Andrew Brookes

© Getty Images/Andrew Brookes

Innovation Policy

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German Aerospace Center (DLR)

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is Germany's aerospace research centre. It conducts research and development activities in the fields of aerospace (and also energy, transport and security) in close cooperation with national and international partners.

Employing more than 8,000 people, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) researches the Earth and the solar system, and provides expertise to help preserve the environment. Its portfolio ranges from basic research to the development of tomorrow’s products. It runs large-scale research facilities, both for its own projects and as a service provider for business partners. It also trains up young scientists, provides advice to policy makers, and is a driving force in the regions surrounding its 20 branches currently located around Germany.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the DLR presented the Strategy 2030 (in German) on 24 July 2017. It aims to enhance the DLR’s core skills and to make even more targeted use of internal potential for synergies in order to build further on its leading position in research to the benefit of society and commerce. The strategic goals in research, ten new horizontal projects and the new horizontal field of digitisation reflect these ambitions.

The coming years will see seven more DLR institutes in six of Germany’s Länder. The Federal Government is providing €42 million towards this each year. Thematic priorities include the digitisation of aviation research, connected energy systems, protection for critical maritime infrastructure, and big data and smart data in space flight.

The DLR plays a two-fold role in implementing Germany’s space policy: Firstly, it is responsible for the planning and implementation of German space activities at national and European level. Secondly, its work as a research facility and a member of the Helmholtz Association ranges from basic research through to the development of innovative applications and tomorrow’s products – including in aerospace.

Rotor blades; Source: DLR, CC-BY 3.0