The United States is Germany's most important scientific and technological cooperation partner among all industrialized countries. A large number of joint initiatives are carried out in all fields of science and research. Every year, several thousand scientists and students from Germany and the USA receive public funding for study visits to the respective partner country. The exchange of information has traditionally been intensive. All in all, an enormous number of science and research projects are carried out jointly or in a way so as to complement each other.
Political framework for bilateral cooperation in research and education
Cooperation between Germany and the USA has a decentralized structure – it is carried out independently by research organizations, research institutes and the researchers themselves. There is no steering body. However, there are more than 50 bilateral cooperation agreements between individual institutions. They form the basis of a tight-knit network of German-American research projects.
The S&T cooperation agreement that was concluded between the USA and the European Union in 1998 underlines the European dimension of the research collaboration, which integrates Central and Eastern European countries and continually creates new opportunities for cooperation.
Key areas of cooperation between Germany and the USA
There are collaborations in all areas of research, science and technology. Areas that deserve special mention are space research (which lies within the responsibility of the Federal Minister of Economics and Technology), basic research in physics, and climate and the environment.
- In the field of space research, the International Space Station (ISS) is at the focus of collaborative activities. Germany is making a significant contribution to its construction. The assembly of the station is at an advanced stage; the first permanent crew was able to start operation in October 2000.
- Numerous German and American project partners cooperate in the area of climate research and environmental technology through international research networks. The subjects under investigation are the complex interactions within the earth's overall system, its climate system (e.g. the El Niño phenomenon) and the ozone layer. One central aspect is the comparison of methods employed for cleanup operations and the management of land in urban areas (brownfields).
- An agreement on cooperation in the area of dense plasma physics was concluded between the BMBF and the USA's Department of Energy (DOE) on 24 July 2001. This is the first accord that is based on the interdepartmental agreement concluded between the two ministries on 20 February 1998. It provides the basis under international law for research cooperation between the Heavy Ion Research Centre (GSI) and three national laboratories in the USA: the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). One of the aims of the collaboration is the creation of the internationally unique laser system PHELIX. In combination with the intensive heavy ion beam available at the GSI, it will enable completely new types of experiments.
- A further example of the close transatlantic collaboration is the construction and joint use of large-scale research facilities in the USA and Europe. This includes the USA's and Canada's involvement in the German Electron Synchroton (DESY), the USA's participation in the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) as well as the USA's contribution in two large-scale experiments. Scientists at the Research Centre Jülich developed an instrument for the world's most powerful spallation neutron source SNS at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is currently under construction. In addition, German and American research institutions are cooperating in the construction of IceCube, the neutrino telescope at the South Pole, as well as the radio telescope ALMA in Chile.
- The German Historical Institute (DHI) in Washington dedicates itself to collaborations between German and American historians.
- The many exchange programs for students and scientists also deserve mention. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH), the German Research Association (DFG), and the Fulbright Foundation are some of the organizations involved in this work.
A highlight of bilateral cooperation
As part of a drive to intensify the support of young scientists, the BMBF started to fund industry internships for American and Canadian students in Germany in 2006. A total of €500,000 will be available over a period of three years, providing support for approximately 250 young North Americans.
The DAAD's program RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) used to be aimed exclusively at students who wanted to pursue internships at German universities and research institutions. Now, the BMBF has added RISE-professional, a new programme area geared towards graduates who want to work as interns in German companies in order to make new contacts. The entire RISE programme is managed by the DAAD.
Support of collaborations with the USA
In 2005, the BMBF mainly supported multilateral projects in the areas of space research, space technology and geosciences. In addition, the BMBF's division responsible for cooperation with the USA funds workshops, scientist exchanges, the support of young scientists, and activities designed to establish initial contact.
Special activities of the BMBF (specialist directorates general) and scientific and intermediary organizations
German research funding and intermediary organizations as well as universities made a joint appearance at the MIT S&T Career Fair in Boston under the heading “Germany – Land of Ideas”. At the same event, there was also a presentation of non-university research institutions in Germany and an information seminar on exchange programmes and on the opportunities available at German universities.