Knowledge Transfer as Part of the Helmholtz Mission

The purpose of the Helmholtz Association is to help solve the burning issues and problems of our times by carrying out top-class research. It is therefore vital that the scientific knowledge acquired at the Helmholtz Centers reaches the right social target groups and enables them to make scientifically sound decisions. This process entails close dialog between a wide variety of stakeholders in the fields of politics, management, business, civil society, education and the media.

These activities are collectively described as 'knowledge transfer' and are an important part of the Helmholtz mission. They enhance related fields such as public relations and technology transfer as well as classic scientific publications.The knowledge transfer activities performed by the Helmholtz Association are extremely diverse, ranging from public advisory services and school laboratories to platforms for dialog at the interface between politics, environmental protection and civil security. Citizens are also integrated more deeply into research planning, research structuring and knowledge transfer in certain cases ("Citizen Science").

The broad spectrum of activities can be divided into three categories:

  • Information and advice: unidirectional, for specific topics and defined target groups
  • Exchange: bidirectional cooperation with stakeholders in society, frequently during social discussions of research topics
  • Education: unidirectional provision of learning platforms/software or teaching materials with the goal of "capacity development" outside the scientific arena.


The following three examples may help to illustrate these categories:

Cancer information service at the German Cancer Research Centre

The cancer information service at the German Cancer Research Centre provides comprehensible, scientifically verified information on all aspects of oncology. This service is directed at anyone who has questions about cancer: patients, their families and friends, and people who want to find out about cancer prevention and early recognition. The cancer information service also provides individually researched facts and sources for professionals.

Office of Technology Assessment at the German Parliament (Bundestag), managed by ITAS at KIT

The Office of Technology Assessment at the German Parliament (TAB) is an independent scientific facility that advises the German parliament (the Bundestag) and its committees on questions relating to scientific and technological change. Since 1990, the TAB has been operated by the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) on the basis of a contract with the Bundestag. In 2013, the KIT began operating the IZT (Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment) and VDI/VDE Innovation + Technology GmbH in cooperation with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ).

International training course "Seismology, Data Analysis and Seismic Hazard Assessment" at the GFZ

The Helmholtz Centre Potsdam - GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences has been facilitating a seismology training course every year since 1992, alternately at the Centre itself in Potsdam and at a venue abroad. The course is largely funded by UNESCO and the German Foreign Office; further means are provided by the GFZ. The four to six-week course aims to provide basic theoretical knowledge and practical training in applied seismology, and primarily targets geoscientists and engineers from developing and emerging countries that are prone to earthquakes. The participants are sent by universities or government organizations in their respective countries that focus on earthquake safety or monitoring. The course facilitators are experts in various geoscientific fields from the GFZ, the International Seismological Centre in Thatcham (Britain), ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and the University of Bergen (Norway).


Further reading:

"Wissenstransfer in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft: Konzept zur strategischen Weiterentwicklung und Stärkung" [Knowledge Transfer at the Helmholtz Association: Concept for Strategic Development and Enhancement] (results document, December 2016)

Print Version


  • Photo of Uli Rockenbauch
    • Dr. Uli Rockenbauch
    • Executive Assistant to the Managing Director
      Helmholtz Association