RWI is founded by Ernst Wagemann, the founder and first president of the Institute for Business Cycle Research in Berlin (today: known as the German Institute for Economic Research). RWI was the "Western Department" of this institute. In 1925, Wagemann had set up the Berlin Institute on the American model, thus laying the foundation for independent institutional economic research in Germany (independent of universities and other government agencies).
The initiative to establish the Essen branch was taken by Walther Däbritz, following suggestions from the Ruhr Economy. He also took over the management of the Essen branch. Its task was to monitor the economic situation in the Rhenish-Westphalian industrial region.
1929 to 1938/39
RWI develops its own statistics for business cycle monitoring in the Rhenish-Westphalian industrial district.
The focus of the work shifts to the industrial structure of the mining district and its main economic sectors, coal mining and the iron and steel industry.
On May 27, RWI is founded as a legally independent institute in Essen in the legal form of a registered association.
After the end of the war, research focuses on overcoming the economic consequences of the war, reconstruction, reintegration into the world economy, and the prerequisites and consequences of European integration. The importance of the Ruhr area's mining industries for the economy as a whole grows, and many issues that had previously been relevant to the regional economy now take on macroeconomic significance.
The demand for economic advice from the public sector increases. In addition to continuing its cyclical and regional research, RWI expands its supraregional research tasks and also examines the structure of the economy as a whole.
RWI becomes a member of the Working Group of German Economic Research Institutes founded in the same year. Within this framework, together with four or five other institutes, it prepares a diagnosis and forecast of the economic development of the German and international economy (joint diagnosis) on behalf of the state in the spring and fall of each year.
At the suggestion of the West German Association of Chambers of Crafts, a Crafts Department is set up at RWI.
RWI begins to set up an econometric business cycle model, which is regularly used in business cycle studies.
As a result of the studies of the structure of the entire national economy, RWI starts the so-called "structural reporting" on behalf of the Federal Minister of Economics in competition with DIW, HWWA, IfW and Ifo.
When Christoph M. Schmidt takes over as president and Prof. Wim Kösters (2003) and Prof. Thomas K. Bauer (2004) are appointed to the RWI Executive Board, RWI's research activities are expanded to include labor market policy, education policy, and migration. At the same time, the institute's organizational structure is fundamentally revised to meet the international demands placed on research, and in particular to accommodate the regular evaluations of the institute's work by the Leibniz Association.
The "Joint Economic Forecast" is freely tendered by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and is no longer published by the Association of German Economic Research Institutes. RWI is part of the new "Joint Economic Forecast Project Group".
On August 17, 2016, RWI receives a new name. It is now called RWI - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research.
RWI celebrates the 75th anniversary of its legal independence. The highlight of the anniversary year is a ceremony on July 4 at the Philharmonie Essen. In his ceremonial address, Federal Minister of Economics Dr. Peter Altmaier calls RWI a "beacon in the German research landscape." In a study, the two economic historians Prof. Dr. Toni Pierenkemper and Prof. Dr. Rainer Fremdling examine the institute's history in the context of empirical economic research in Germany. It is entitled "Economics and Economic Policy in Germany - 75 Years of RWI - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research e.V. 1943-2018" and is available in full in open access. A brief summary is provided in the RWI Impact Note "75 Years of RWI: A Pioneer of the Evidence Revolution."
Previous RWI President:
1926-1947: Ernst Wagemann
1947-1952: Bruno Kuske
1952-1972: Theodor Wessels
ab 1972/73: Direktorium: Bernhard Filusch, Willi Lamberts, Gregor Winkelmeyer
1986: Hans K. Schneider
1989: Paul Klemmer
seit 2002: Christoph M. Schmidt