Helmholtz Association
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The Structure of the Helmholtz Association

The Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft is a registered association. Its members are 18 Research Centres, which are legally independent bodies. The activities of the Helmholtz Association are governed by its statutes. A full-time President heads the Helmholtz Association. The President is responsible for implementing the programme-oriented funding system. The President works with the Helmholtz Centres to develop the association's general strategy and represents the association internally and externally.

The central decision-making bodies at the Helmholtz Association are the Assembly of Members, made up of internal members of the association, and the Senate, made up of external members. The members of the Assembly of Members are the directors of the Helmholtz Centres, the members of the Senate are representatives of Federal and Länder government, as well as representatives of science and research, business and industry, and other research organisations. The Senate commissions the evaluation of research programmes by independent, internationally-acknowledged experts and receives their review reports. These evaluations serve as a basis for the funding recommendations which the Senate makes to the association's financial sponsors i.e. Federal and Länder government on how much support funding the individual research programmes and core topic areas will receive. A Senate Commission prepares all Senate resolutions on the subject of "Evaluation and Programme-oriented Funding".

Staff at the Helmholtz Offices in Berlin and Bonn support the President in the duties he performs for the members of the association. The Brussels Office ensures that Helmholtz is represented in the European Union's decision-making centre and, together with the offices in Moscow and Beijing, supports the Helmholtz Centres in their endeavours to contribute more strongly to European and international research projects by introducing their great potential.

The Governance of the Helmholtz Association


The Committee of Financing Partners – federal government and host states – defines the research policy requirements, including the research fields, for a term of several years and appoints the members of the Senate.


Besides the Assembly of Members, the externally appointed Senate is the central decision-making body of the Helmholtz Association. The members are "ex officio" representatives of federal and state authorities, parliament and science organisations, as well as public figures from science and industry who are elected for three years. The Senate consults on all major decisions, and elects the president and vice-presidents.


The Senate established a Senate Commission which prepares its deliberations on the funding of the programmes, basing its decisions on the results of the programme evaluations, and its decision on investment prioritization, The Senate Commission is made up of permanent members – "ex officio" representatives of federal and state authorities – as well as experts covering the spectrum of the six research fields, and also alternating members depending on the research field under discussion.



A full-time president heads the Helmholtz Association and represents it externally. He takes on a leading role in the dialogue between science, industry and politics. He is responsible for preparing and implementing the senate’s recommendations on programme-oriented funding. He coordinates the development of programmes for the research fields, the cross-centre controlling system, and the development of the association’s general strategy.


Eight vice-presidents support, advise and represent the president in the fulfilment of his duties. The six scientific vice-presidents are also the coordinators of the six research fields. A further two vice-presidents come from the centres’ administrative bodies.


The managing director of the Helmholtz Association represents, advises and supports the president in fulfilling his or her duties and runs the association’s head office. As a special officer for administrative matters, the managing director represents the Helmholtz Association both internally and externally.

The Presidential Committee of the Helmholtz Association consists of the president, eight vice-presidents and the managing director.


Together with the international offices in Brussels, Moscow and Beijing, the head office assists the president, the vice-presidents and the managing director in fulfilling their duties.




  • Energy
  • Earth and Environment
  • Health
  • Aeronautics, Space and Transport
  • Matter
  • Key Technologies

Helmholtz scientists work in six, centre-overlapping research fields financed within the framework of programme-oriented funding. Their cross-centre research is performed with external partners in interdisciplinary and international collaborations.



The Helmholtz Association is a registered association. Besides the Senate, the Assembly of Members is the central decision-making body of the association. The members are the scientific-technical and administrative directors of the member centres. The Assembly of Members is responsible for all of the association’s tasks. It defines the framework for the cross-centre development of strategies and programmes, and has the right of proposal for the election of the president and members of the senate.

  • Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
  • Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY
  • Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt
  • Deutsches Zentrum für neurodegenerative Erkrankungen DZNE
  • Forschungszentrum Jülich
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • GEOMAR | Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
  • German Cancer Research Center
  • GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research
  • Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
  • Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research
  • Helmholtz-Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research
  • Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health
  • Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch
  • Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (Associate Member)