In the years since the institution was founded in 1956, the spectrum of activities at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht has moved to accommodate the shifting focus of social, scientific and economic inquiry in order to arrive at the centre’s present research profile. In accordance with our motto — “Science creates benefits” — the researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht not only produce scientific knowledge but also apply it to a range of concrete uses for the present and future. As a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the largest scientific organization in the country, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht is engaged in long-term activities in the fields of materials and coastal research that are making a major contribution to resolving the large and pressing issues facing society and the scientific and business worlds. Our work in the field of coastal research is devoted to the growing and complex problems facing coastal regions worldwide as a result of the pressures of increasing settlement and industrialization, as well as the threat of natural dangers such as tsunamis and flood tides. The issues of climate change, material fluxes and the coastal habitat require professional management founded on a sound scientific basis. The coastal researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht have made it their business to provide the latter. Activities in the field of materials research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht are focused on development and testing of especially lightweight materials and advanced engineering materials. An overriding goal here is to conserve raw materials and energy resources. The spectrum of activities in materials research ranges from the development of new alloys along with original production and processing methods to the characterization and testing of newly developed materials. In addition to investigating new metallic materials, researchers of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht also study polymers for use as membranes in a range of applications, including gas-phase separation, fuel cell technology and osmotic power plants. Likewise, in the field of regenerative medicine, our newest field of research, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht has already achieved some highly promising developments in the use of biological materials for the regeneration of cells, tissue and organs. Biological materials represent a young area of research with major potential for the development of groundbreaking new treatment methods. In all its varied and complex areas of research, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht relies on a unified strategy involving the establishment of tight-knit networks and alliances with partners from science and industry. The Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht cooperates with working groups from home and abroad and closely monitors the strategies of rival institutions and the needs of its partners. The Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht places a high priority on the creation and utilization of research platforms. Such platforms bring together, in localized or virtual form, the scientific and technical expertise and equipment needed for specific research projects. They thus provide nucleation points for national and international research alliances, force the development of advanced technology and increase Germany’s attractiveness as an international location for science. The Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht makes a lasting contribution to the development of a society and an economy founded on scientific principles. As a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht and its work also stand in the tradition of the celebrated natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894).