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Public Funding, Grants And Subsidies in Germany

What is a grant?

Grants are usually funds or special rights that are made available to non-governmental recipients. The state uses these grants to influence important areas of society and developments, e.g. in the fields of education, research, development, business, art, culture or sport. In the absence of such funding, the interests of the state would not be realized or would only be realized to a limited extent.

Almost 60 billion euros distributed annually

On average, these grants amount to about 10% of the annual budget of the German federal and state governments. This amounts to approximately 60 billion euros per year, distributed over several funding pools and several hundred different funding projects.

Who can receive grants and funding?

Almost anyone who promotes the interests of the state can be considered as a recipient of such funds. Subsidies exist for large companies as well as for nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

For the grant recipient, the funding has a supporting or incentive function, depending on their motives. For the state, on the other hand, it is economical and expedient, since the state does not have to act itself, but can use the competences of the grant recipient.

The type and design of the grants are varied

Depending on the project, grants can be structured in different ways in Germany, for example as

  • Grants,
  • Warranties,
  • Favorable loans,
  • Sureties,
  • Guarantees,
  • Investments or other benefits.

When the state or the federal states or the municipalities conceive such a grant, it is usually associated with questions of state aid law, since this can lead to an impairment of the internal market of the European Union – no matter how small the impairment.

From the point of view of the recipient of the grant, the law on state aid is important as well. If the grant violates state aid law, the administration is forced to reclaim the grant from the recipient.

Repayment of grants

However, there may also be other reasons for the reimbursement of grants.

This often happens because incorrect information was provided when the grant was applied for. This initially seemingly succinct violation usually not only leads to the recovery of the grant, but also has criminal law consequences.

It also leads to a reclaim if, for example, conditions are not fulfilled or not fulfilled within a set period of time.

First apply for a grant – then get started

For almost all grants, applications must be submitted for the relevant projects before they are started. In some cases, the project may even be started only after the grant has been approved.

In many cases, projects that receive grants must be made publicly available. This may have to be done at the time of application by means of an appropriately planned presentation or corresponding project descriptions and business plans.

Our consulting services in the field of German public funding

We advise the public sector and the funding agencies on all issues that arise during the funding process. This includes

  • The legally compliant design of the grant concept,
  • The design of the tender and its implementation,
  • Questions of doubt in the context of the processing of the application,
  • The design and implementation of performance reviews and
  • Revocation and recovery procedures.

We advise grant recipients on all legal issues that arise during the grant process. These include

  • The determination of the application requirements,
  • The filing of the application,
  • Communication with the sponsor,
  • The handling of the funding, e.g. within the scope of accounting up to the control of success,
  • The defense against any recovery claims,
  • Action against unlawful payments to competitors,
  • The conduct of any necessary opposition proceedings and representation in court, and
  • The mediation to our partners of the subsidy consultancy.

Your attorney for public funding, grants and subsidies

Do you have questions about grants and subsidies in Germany? Your contact persons for all questions regarding German public funding are Attorney Christian Kempges and Attorney Alexander Vielwerth. You can easily reach us by e-mail ( or by telephone (+49 (0)69 76 75 77 80). Please feel free to contact us should you have any questions.


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We congratulate our colleagues, Olga and Philipp, on the newly awarded specialist titles of specialization.


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WINHELLER is represented by three lawyers in the 2021 Best Lawyers Ranking.





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