The prospects for education, research and innovation in Germany

Education and research

Anja Karliczek, Federal Minister of Education and Research in Germany heads up the policy areas of education, research and innovation. This analysis details the work of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Anja Karliczek is the current Federal Minister of Education and Research in Germany and has been a Member of the German Bundestag (Parliament) since 2013. Between 2017 and March 2018, she was Parliamentary Secretary of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group. Born in April 1971 in Ibbenbüren, Germany, Anja Karliczek is today married, with three children. Between 2003 and 2008, Anja Karliczek studied business at the University of Hagen, distance education university where she impressively gained a degree in business administration. This article will look at the role of education, research and innovation in the country, with some specific examples of the areas the Ministry is supporting.

An excellent and recent example of the Minister’s support for encouraging exceptional talent in the education space is when she congratulated Peter Scholze, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Bonn, who was awarded the Fields Medal in August 2018. This is considered as the “Nobel Prize in Maths” and it particularly impressive that he achieved this at the age of only 30.

Congratulating Scholze on behalf of the Federal Government, Federal Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek said: “I would like to congratulate you on behalf of the Federal Government and personally. You and your research are drawing talented academics from across the world to Germany. And for that I would also like to thank you.” Karliczek wished him success in the future with his important academic work in Bonn, Germany. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas added: “What an outstanding achievement, what a great day
for Germany as a place to do research.”

The future of research and innovation in Europe

Today, Germany along with France attaches particular importance to the fields of education, research and innovation. The latter, innovation, is the mainspring of prosperity and quality of life, according to Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In recent news, we find out that both countries are exchanging information that concerns their respective national research and innovation strategies, an approach that enables them to act together.

Added to this, the two countries endeavour to act as drivers for the development of a European Research Area (ERA), which is based on excellence and has an impact on an international scale. By way of background, Franco-German research cooperation forums have been taking place regularly since 2002 and continue to play a crucial role in the countries’ collaboration.

The agreed priority areas of Franco-German cooperation include information and communication technologies (ICT), the humanities and social sciences, as well as energy research. While the 2018 forum develops these measures further, it is worth noting that cooperation by the two countries at European level looks at areas such as climate research and non-energy resources.

Another area both countries work together on concerns civil security research, indeed, developing and investigating new cybersecurity solutions is essential for ensuring that Germany and France remain fit for the future and it is also a field of strategic importance at the European level. We know that during recent years, research funding by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to protect IT infrastructure and systems has helped to make Germany one of the leading nations in the area of IT security. Germany and France intend to safeguard Europe’s sovereignty around key enabling technologies, developing reliable software-intensive systems and running security analyses.

Following on from this, we also learn that technological progress and social innovation both go hand in hand. As such, the humanities, the social sciences and economics play a key part in addressing the grand social challenges by giving sound recommendations to policymakers. Together, Germany and France have initiated specific funding measures targeted at these important disciplines.

Future of the oceans

Browsing through the Ministry’s website, we know that they are giving strong support to research around climate and the environment. Unfortunately, we know that the seas swallow many things that human beings produce, consume and throw away. With the world’s oceans filling up with rubbish, the limits of ecological self-cleaning have long been exceeded, we are told. One concern here is about plastic waste, which accounts for up to 90% of the rubbish in the oceans and on beaches today, and as such, it is a threat to marine flora and fauna. We have all seen the pictures of plastic islands in the sea, marine birds that mistake plastic particles for food or dead sea animals caught up in abandoned fishing nets.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) calls for concerted efforts and the drawing up of international guidelines so that the oceans can continue to be exploited sustainably. We know that BMBF is working on a pilot that is concerned with Microplastics
in Marine Systems together with many other research funding organisations throughout European countries. The basis for these guidelines is provided for by intensified research because we still know too little about the impacts of microplastics on marine ecosystems. It is worth closing by highlighting the challenge around research in this area. Concerning toxicological effects, the ambition here is to develop a standardised measurement methodology to provide the analytical bases for comparable scientific studies, as well as for monitoring.

An additional aim is to learn how particles spread in the marine environment and what toxicological effects they have on marine organisms. As a start, €7 million will be provided on an international basis. The findings from BMBF funded projects will form a key contribution to a joint plan of action of the countries involved in this important research field.

This is just one example of the many research areas the Ministry is supporting. Their website gives us information about the many research areas they are supporting, such as fighting neglected and poverty-related diseases, sustainability research or even the German vocational education and training system. To find out more about these fascinating areas of research, it is well worth taking time to browse through their impressive website.



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