The Leibniz Association currently comprises 86 institutions of scientific research, providers of scientific infrastructure and museums with an affiliated research department. Accredited members of the Leibniz Association address scientific issues of importance to society as a whole. They conduct research ranging from natural science, engineering, and environmental science via economics, social science and infrastructure research to the humanities. The fields of research at Leibniz institutes connect knowledge-oriented basic research with applied research.
Deriving from the focus on research issues that concern society as a whole one of the Leibniz institutes' common characteristics is their supraregional character.
Leibniz institutes provide infrastructure for science and research and perform research-based services – consultation, advice and transfer of knowledge – for the public, policy makers, academia and business.
The typical Leibniz institute is a compact, flexible unit of excellence. Each institute works in a thematically defined, groundbreaking research field. Thus Leibniz research projects usually have got a long-term research perspective making them less suitable for University research. Nevertheless an interdisciplinary approach and academic freedom characterizes the work of the Leibniz Association: Leibniz institutes are closely connected with German universities, they cooperate with institutions belonging to other research organisations and commercial enterprise at the national and international level.
Leibniz institutes complement university research. Within the framework of the excellence initiative Leibniz institutes became involved in many measures of University cooperation. As a result of their interdisciplinary approach to research, Leibniz institutes already play a central role in research networks and centers, regional clusters and research training groups. Currently the Leibniz institutes number almost 16.500 staff members, about 7.700 of them working in the field of scientific research. The Leibniz Association's total budget is about € 1,4 billion.
The Leibniz Association coordinates the collective interests of its member institutes and represents them in public. Its primary function is to strengthen cooperation in the fields of science and research and to support young academics. The Leibniz Association does not operate as a responsible umbrella organisation.