The MBI, initially called Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy, was founded in 1992, based on a recommendation of the German Science Council following the evaluation of the Institutes of the former east German Academy of Sciences. The founding committee, chaired by Prof. Dr. H. Welling (Hannover) initiated the basic programme planning and structuring the finances. By the end of 1991 it selected the majority of MBI staff members and made recommendations for the calls on the three director positions in early 1992. With their appointment the decisive phase of developing the institute began. The official opening took place on the 22nd October 1993.
The naming of the "Max Born Institute" honors one of the pioneers of modern physics. More about Max Born
MBI is a scientifically and organisationally independent non-university research institute. Its three directors and three leading scientists are, however, jointly appointed professors at the Berlin universities (Thomas Elsässer, Mikhail Ivanov, and Günter Steinmeyer at the HU Berlin, Stefan Eisebitt and Olga Smirnova at the TU Berlin, and Mark Vrakking at the FU Berlin). Legally, MBI is part of the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB) which is comprised of eight Leibniz institutes in Berlin and has been founded in 1992 as well.
MBI is a member of the Leibniz Association to whose foundation in 1995 and subsequent development it contributed significantly. The Leibniz Association is one of Germany's four major non-university research organizations which are jointly funded by the federal republic of Germany and the German states (Länder).
The scientific achievements and the research programme of MBI are evaluated externally on a regular basis. So far, this was done by the German Science Council in the year 1998 and by the Senate of the Leibniz Association in the years 2005, 2012 and 2019.