Germany has bilateral agreements on cooperation in education and research with more than 50 countries (for an overview of agreements and topics check this <link>). International scientific cooperation is co-ordinated by the International Bureau of the BMBF and supported by a web-based signposting and information service (www.kooperation-international.de/en) as well as an English language Internet portal (www.research-in-germany.de), which provides foreign researchers and scientists with information about research opportunities in Germany. This stronger international perspective is one of the commitments made as part of the Pact for Research and Innovation. Bilateral cooperation is playing an increasing role in the implementation of BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) programmes.
In this regard, cooperation with other European countries is a key issue for Germany, for instance by means of projects which are jointly executed within the framework of specialised national and European programmes. Bilateral cooperation predominantly takes place within a multilateral framework and is geared towards actively shaping the European Research Area (ERA). Intensified cooperation with Central, Eastern and South East European countries aims at further European integration.
In general, the enlargement of the EU had no impact on German research policy itself. Changes occurred only in the quality and the alignment of Germany’s cooperation with the new Member States. However, there was a shift in the focus of activities: Whereas in the past emphasis was on supporting the integration of the accession countries into the EU, the focus is now on cooperation within the European Research Area. Furthermore, Germany seeks to link up participants’ respective capabilities in research and development projects which are of mutual interest. According to the BMBF, the future areas of mainly bilateral cooperation with the new EU members are:
Key areas of cooperation currently involved the stimulation and networking of regional innovation initiatives in Central and Eastern European countries along the lines of the BMBF’s Inno-Regio Programme and its follow-up initiatives, “Innovative regional growth centres”, and “Interregional alliances”, as well as the wide spectrum of funding measures for innovation in small and medium-sized companies. Apart from holding bi- and multi-lateral expert meetings, workshops and conferences, the BMBF also supports targeted preparatory measures in order to establish/improve cooperation between innovative regions in Germany and partner countries/regions (focus: interregional cooperation).
Furthermore, numerous cooperation initiatives with third countries have been launched. The USA is Germany’s most important scientific and technological cooperation partner among all industrialised countries. There are more than 50 bilateral cooperation agreements which illustrate the extensity of the German-American network of research projects. The key areas of collaborations are space flight (through the ISS) and environmental technologies. However, there are collaborations in almost all areas of research. Among the other industrial nations, Canada is an increasingly important cooperation partner for Germany, especially in the fields of education and research. Germany’s cooperation with Canada focuses on biotechnology and nanotechnology. In future, the subject of sustainability is foreseen to be more emphasised.
Another important cooperation partner for Germany is the Russian Federation. In fact, cooperation in research and technology is one of the main pillars of German-Russian relations. Special agreements have been concluded in various priority areas of cooperation which is a distinctive feature of the German-Russian partnership. The key thematic subjects are high-temperature superconductivity; sustainable environmental protection and the efficient use of natural resources; marine and polar research; laser research and laser technology; information and communication technologies; and biological research and biotechnology.
Finally, the BMBF actively supports as well Germany's contacts with the Asia-Pacific region through different measures in education and research policy. For example, currently collaborations in the area of research and technology with Japan and South Korea are intensified (exchange of ideas). Germany also maintains bilateral cooperation in the areas of education and research with Central and Southern America. With regard to the Mediterranean region and Africa, Germany's main bilateral cooperation partners in the fields of science and research are Israel, Jordan, Egypt and South Africa. Cooperation with further countries mainly takes place within the framework of the EU's Mediterranean partnership MoCo (Monitoring Committee for the Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation).