German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Announces Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions in Developing Countries

The International Bureau provides financial support to German universities, research institutes and small and medium-sized enterprises for cooperation in science and research with partners from selected countries and for work in particular scientific and technical fields. This support is intended to help fund exploratory activities and the preparation of projects. Feasibility studies and pilot investigations may be funded as well. Applicants for funding should take note of country-specific thematic orientations and specific funding initiatives.

The German Federal Government is addressing the requirements of globalization with its Strategy for the Internationalization of Science and Research. A central element of this strategy is strengthening cooperation with developing countries, that is, African countries under this pilot measure. With a few exceptions, special funding is required to boost the development dynamics of this region in order to enable these countries to make economic and social progress. In this way, Germany can position itself as a partner for future scientific and economic centers and together with them contribute to regional solutions that are of global importance. The Federal Government is thus acting on its commitment to significantly increase government support for developing countries. Another aspect is that future innovation potential must be developed at an early stage in regions which offer considerable prospects for development.

The funding measure is intended to realize the idea of a partnership for sustainable, knowledge-based solutions in developing countries. This is necessary and important because increasingly complex problems must be addressed to realize millennium development goals such as education for all and the fight against poverty and hunger and to meet current global challenges such as the impact of global change, sustainable energy and water supply and use of resources as well as global health. The focus must be on the joint development of integrating approaches based on the principle of individual responsibility of all partners (North and South) because this is the only way to achieve research results that can be implemented sustainably in developing countries.

The funding measure is to serve mainly as an incentive for German universities and non-university research institutions to develop new cooperative approaches together with partners from developing countries (from Africa under this pilot measure) in accordance with the German partners scientific strengths and problem-solving expertise and in this way to significantly extend and network German development-related research capacities. At the same time, the partnerships are to make a contribution to the development of the African partners scientific capacities. This will be realized by means of training measures for young researchers, by contributions to the further development of research management and, last but not least, by the extension of specific research infrastructures in order to enable qualified (young) African researchers to pursue a research career in their home country. Another goal is to increase the involvement of partners from African developing countries in International consortiums with German participation. A special aim is to encourage networking between German and African researchers and researchers from other countries (e. g. through trilateral collaborations with other industrialized or emerging countries).

On the African side, major orientation is provided by the Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA), which was adopted in 2005 by NEPAD (New Partnership for African Development) and the African Union and identifies the research areas that are relevant for sustainable development processes on the African continent as well as other capacity-building measures. Another relevant concept is the Joint EU-Africa Strategy that was agreed in 2007 between the European Union and the African Union. To implement this strategy, the Commission of the African Union proposed a book of flagship projects in 2008, which identifies priority fields for action from a pan-African perspective.

On the German side, the Federal Governments Strategy for the Internationalization of Science and Research is the main reference base.

New knowledge-based partnerships for education, science and research, particularly with Sub-Saharan Africa, will contribute to the implementation of African development strategies and the German Internationalization Strategy. The topics cover the following areas for example:

  • Environment (environmental technologies including biodiversity, energy, water and desertification)
  • Health, nutrition/agriculture (including biotechnology)
  • Information and communication technologies
  • Socio-economic research (beyond supporting scientific research).

Special consideration will be given to interdisciplinary research approaches. Inclusion of basic research (e. g. in mathematics, physics or chemistry) in the above-mentioned application-oriented areas is appreciated.

The CPA also states that the African side pursues the goal of regionalization of activities, that is, cooperation in regional networks to find regional solutions.

Special account will be taken of collaborations of different players (particularly universities, research institutions, foundations and companies) in order to promote networking of German development-related research activities.

Preparation of major cooperation projects involving several German and African partners is a medium-term goal.

Purpose of Grants

As a rule, the financial support consists of grants for exploratory measures to assess the potential for cooperation, for the establishment and deepening of contacts with organisations abroad as well as for the preparation of cooperative projects including feasibility studies and pilot investigations. Applicants for funding should take note of country-specific thematic orientations and specific funding initiatives.

Selection Criteria for Grants

Applications are evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Contribution to the generation of new projects relevant to the research programs of the BMBF and the European Commission
  • Scientific quality of the work plan and originality of the approach
  • Degree of innovation and potential for commercial exploitation of the anticipated results
  • Prospects of success of the planned project
  • Common interest and utility for the project partners
  • Multilateral networking
  • Support of young scientists and equal opportunity

Potential applicants include German institutions of higher education, non-university research establishments (institutes of the HGF, MPG, WGL and research establishments which receive joint basic funding from the federal government and the Länder only under certain preconditions) as well as small and medium-sized enterprises.

What is eligible for funding?

Within the framework of these preparatory measures, the BMBF supports the exchange of scientists between German and foreign partner institutions. As a rule, grants are meant to cover the cost of accommodations for foreign experts visiting Germany and the travel costs of German experts visiting partners abroad. Partners abroad are responsible for covering the accommodations of German partners visiting their countries as well as for the travel costs of researchers from their own countries who are visiting in Germany. In many cases, foreign ministries provide corresponding funding within the framework of intergovernmental agreements.

In special cases, further costs can be covered as well (e.g. costs of scientific workshops, smaller investments and consumable materials for feasibility studies and pilot investigations, personnel) as long as these are not already covered under the basic public financing of participating organisations.

As a rule, funding for preparatory measures can be provided for a maximum of two years.

Submission of Project Proposals

Applications for funding must be submitted using the official forms provided by the funding organisation and according to the rules of the corresponding national funding agency. The application of German partners must be submitted in duplicate (one original and one copy) to the International Bureau in either English or German. Partners abroad seeking funding need to submit an application to the authorities responsible for such funding in their own countries. Deadlines for the submission of proposals within current calls can be found by clicking on the corresponding country. Proposals not addressing a particular call can be submitted at any time.

Applicants for funding should take note of special country-specific information on current activities and calls.

The deadline for application is July 31st, 2010.