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Research State Secretary Thomas Rachel with Vice Research Minister Igor Fedjukin in Jülich in April 2013, Copyright FZJ

Closer Cooperation with the Russian Federation

Cooperation in education, research and technology is one of the main pillars of German-Russian relations. In April 2005, Germany and Russia issued a "Joint Declaration on a Strategic Partnership in Education, Research and Innovation", which reiterated their political willingness to continue and intensify their successful cooperation in a wide range of research areas. The 1987 Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (STC) was amended on 16 July 2009. A "German-Russian Year of Education, Research and Innovation" was successfully conducted in 2011/12 to further consolidate the partnership.

Further intergovernmental negotiations

“Freedom to practice science and research”: Research State Secretary Thomas Rachel with Vice Research Minister Igor Fedjukin in Jülich in April 2013, Copyright FZJ“Freedom to practice science and research”: Research State Secretary Thomas Rachel with Vice Research Minister Igor Fedjukin in Jülich in April 2013, Copyright FZJUnder the leadership of Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Thomas Rachel, and the Russian Vice Research Minister Igor Fedjukin, the official German-Russian discussions on “scientific and technological cooperation” were held in Jülich in April 2013. Rachel and Fedjukin gave a strategic overview of the developments in research policy in their respective countries. Research State Secretary Thomas Rachel said: “Russia and Germany have been trusting and reliable partners for many decades. For several years, there’s been a strategic partnership between our countries in the fields of research, development and education, which enables more diverse cooperation. We want to strengthen this in the future.” He also spoke “for freedom to practice science and research as well as for active and lively civil societies. Because their creativity and potential are of use to everyone.”

In Jülich, Fedjukin and Rachel agreed on closer cooperation in polar research and oceanography. Topics of exploration include the retreat of sea ice in the Arctic and the reconstruction of climate history over the past 3.6 million years.

Political framework for scientific and technological cooperation

The STC Agreement was signed by Federal Minister Schavan and State Secretary Ammon (Federal Foreign Office) for the German side and by Minister Fursenko for the Russian side on the occasion of the German-Russian intergovernmental consultations at Schloss Schleißheim near Munich on 16 July 2009 in the presence of the German Federal Chancellor and the Russian President. The main aims of Germany’s cooperation with Russia are the development of collaborative relations between universities, non-university research institutions and science organizations, the intensification of bilateral cooperation in the area of innovation-orientated applied research between German and Russian companies, cooperation in the field of vocational education and training, the exchange of young researchers, and the promotion of joint research and innovation structures.

On 11 April 2005, the heads of government of both countries signed the "Joint Declaration on a German-Russian Strategic Partnership in Education, Research and Innovation", which is based on the Presidents' Programme that was agreed in 1998.

This joint initiative is coordinated by the BMBF and pools joint activities together with science, education, industry and public administration.

There is a wide range of cooperative activities within the Strategic Partnership. These include not only the initiatives and direct measures of both governments but also the programmes and projects of education and research institutions. The long-standing sectoral cooperation agreements between Germany and Russia in different fields of research are an important instrument for the implementation of the Strategic Partnership.

Cooperation is focusing on the topics of the Federal Government’s High-Tech Strategy.

The German-Russian Commission for Scientific and Technological Cooperation adopted joint minutes in March 2009 which paved the way for even closer cooperation. Cooperation in the field of research and technology is also part of the Petersburg Dialogue. This dialogue was initiated in 2001 and is conducted under the patronage of the German Federal Chancellor and the Russian President. The annual sessions that take place alternately in Germany and in Russia are expected to give fresh impetus to German-Russian relations. The participants in the dialogue are representatives from the public and private sectors who are acting as multipliers.

The annual intergovernmental consultations are a visible sign of this special German-Russian partnership. The two governments met in Moscow on 16 November 2012 for their 14th consultations. They discussed topics such as the further development of German-Russian cooperation in vocational education and training and international exchanges in higher education and set up working groups to address these issues.

German-Russian Year of Education, Science and Innovation 2011/12

The governments in both countries are cooperating with stakeholders from education, science and research with the aim of strengthening the potential of the German-Russian partnership on a lasting basis. Industry in both countries is involved in this process. A dialogue between German and Russian players in all relevant spheres of society is of special importance. The German-Russian Year of Science therefore focused on supporting this dialogue.

The events organized under the motto "A Partnership of Ideas" from May 2011 showed the variety and excellence of German-Russian collaborations in the fields of education and research in both countries. Furthermore, important impetus was provided for sustainable joint initiatives. All major stakeholders from education, science, research and industry were involved. These include research organizations and research institutions in both countries as well as numerous universities which entered into cooperation agreements.

Well over 200 events took place in Germany and Russia during the Year of Science. They showed that this initiative met with great interest in both countries and  they initiated new collaborations and projects at the same time. The joint website in German and Russian reached out to more than 170,000 multipliers. The numbers of visits to the website from Germany and Russia were almost equal.

A wide variety of activities, which cannot be described in greater detail here, focused on sustainability.

The projects were not limited to only Moscow and St. Petersburg but covered all regions, including Vladivostok in the Far East.

Attention focused on four pillars:

Pillar 1: Research – Strengthening joint cutting-edge research
The global challenges of the 21st century can only be addressed by joining forces. To advance joint cutting-edge research the German-Russian Year of Science encouraged mutual opening and the establishment of new joint research structures and expanded joint project support by both countries. Visible results were achieved, for example in the research fields of health, energy, environment and information technologies.

Pillar 2: Vocational education and training – Development of bilateral VET partnerships
Vocational education and training is an investment that is vital for our future. In the Year of Science, both countries set out to ensure that training today provides the skills that will be needed tomorrow. Closer cooperation between the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) and the Russian Federal Institute of Education Development (FIRO) was initiated. A joint BMBF/MON working group is responsible for steering this process and ensuring its sustainability. For example, both countries agreed to develop or update 12 job profiles and standards in the automotive industry and to design a staff and skilling strategy for the Russian automobile sector.

Pillar 3: Innovation – Applied research as a driver of modernization
Exchange of knowledge across institutional, disciplinary and technological borders releases energy and triggers innovation – provided that appropriate conditions prevail. During the Year of Science, Germany and Russia set the wheels in motion to accelerate the innovation process and shorten the time to market.

This opened up new prospects for innovation. The scientific advisory board of the Skolkovo Foundation, which includes Russian and prominent international members as well as several Nobel laureates, held its first meeting outside Russia in Berlin in early March 2012. The Skolkovo Foundation and TU Berlin are planning to cooperate and have signed a declaration of intent for that purpose. All this contributes to considerably intensifying bilateral science relations far beyond the German-Russian Year of Science.

Pillar 4: Young researchers – A vital link in an active partnership
Young researchers with practical expertise and who are familiar with international education systems and research projects are in ever greater demand. It is they who ensure the success of any research effort. Numerous special events during the Year of Science focused on young research talent. Joint workshops, exhibitions, competitions and campaigns were organized to bring young researchers in both countries together, establish networks and provide support.

The promotion of scientific careers and cooperation between young German and Russian researchers was a major focus of the German-Russian Year of Science. An important step in this process was the Memorandum of the Young Academy, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Council of Young Scientists of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It set the stage for the implementation of focused bilateral research projects.
A total of 14 projects from all thematic areas were approved for funding as a result of a BMBF ideas competition.

The closing ceremony of the German-Russian Year of Science on 22 May 2012 also served to lay the foundations of broader cooperation in future. Numerous agreements provided the basis for intensifying the excellent German-Russian cutting-edge research, for example in the field of information technology. The initiatives concerning cutting-edge research will be developed further together with the research organizations in special sectoral agreements.

Research marketing – Russia country campaign

This two-year campaign was initiated by the BMBF and launched in March 2012 in order to present Germany in Russia under the "Research in Germany - Land of Ideas" brand as part of a central campaign to promote Germany as a key location of innovation.

The aim of this specific country campaign is to show Germany's attractiveness as a partner in education, research and innovation and to increase the visibility of German top-quality research and cutting-edge technology in Russia. Thematic priority areas are nanotechnology, environmental technology and energy efficiency, health, and optical technologies. The medium-term objectives include initiating collaborations between German and Russian research institutions and innovative companies, establishing cooperation in training qualified staff and providing the impetus to intensify the exchange of knowledge – and economic cooperation – between the two countries. The campaign is also expected to initiate and/or intensify cooperation with partners outside the Moscow and St. Petersburg conurbations.

In order to achieve these goals, the BMBF is providing systematic support to German research institutions and small and medium-sized companies which are working to increase their presence and visibility in Russia. They will act as a German research and innovation showcase in Russia and enter into an intensive dialogue with Russian partners.

For further information about the country campaign please visit

Key areas of cooperation

The national research priorities funded by the BMBF, which derive from the High-Tech Strategy 2020 for Germany, are reflected in the Ministry's specialist programmes. On the Russian side, the national research priorities are defined in the Federal Target Programmes for 2007-2012. A new research funding programme of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science is currently being prepared. A comparison of the research priorities outlined in the programmes of the two countries reveals considerable overlap of interests and thus potential to establish bilateral cooperation activities. These common interests of German and Russian research are expressed in special sectoral agreements which have been concluded since 1992 in key focus areas of cooperation.

Basic research at large facilities

Cooperation between Germany and Russia in the area of basic physics research at large facilities is traditionally very close and fruitful. It is based on the STC agreement of 22 July 1986 as well as the cooperation agreement on the development and application of accelerator-based photon sources signed on 15 October 2007. The agreed priorities of cooperation are the joint development of synchrotron radiation sources and free-electron lasers, the development of theoretical and practical foundations in accelerator technology, and photon research. The cooperation is deriving new impetus from the German-Russian commitment to the international large-scale scientific research facilities that are currently being set up in Hamburg and Darmstadt: The European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility (XFEL) and the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR). A current research project of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (Centre for Materials and Coastal Research) and the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute (PNPI) will strengthen cooperation in the area of neutron scattering through the joint use of equipment. Neutron instruments no longer needed at Geesthacht are transferred to PNPI, where a new research platform is being established which will be jointly used by German and Russian scientists.  

Optical technologies

Germany and Russia are very successful in the field of optical technologies: Russia has produced several Nobel laureates in this area, and Germany is home to global market leaders in laser materials processing. A number of German-Russian testing and consulting centres for laser technology have been set up in Russia in the last few years to concentrate these strengths.
The purpose of the facilities for the industrial use of laser technology in Russia, headed by the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Bavarian Laser Centre (BLZ), is to modernize Russian production with the help of laser technology and know-how from Germany.
In return, German enterprises will have easier access to the market in promising Russian regions. The network, which currently comprises five laser centres, is equipped with modern laser technology from German market leaders such as Trumpf, LIMO Lissotschenko, Rofin Sinar, Jenoptik, and Maschinenfabrik Arnold Ravensburg. Depending on their equipment, the centres are specialized in either the cutting or welding of metals, plastics and other non-metal materials, or in surface treatment.

Information and communication technologies

The many different contacts and partnerships in the area of information and communication technologies were strengthened by the sectoral agreement on cooperation in information and communication technologies signed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Russian Ministry of Education and Science (MON) in February 2005. A Joint Declaration of Intent to intensify cooperation in the area of managing large volumes of data in supercomputers was signed at the 13th intergovernmental consultations in Germany on 19 July 2011.
Russia and Germany are pursuing a systematic policy of innovation in information and communication technologies, which involves all of the stakeholders in the innovation chain. This includes improving access to technological know-how for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). Initial project cooperation has already resulted, for example in the areas of embedded systems, human-technology interaction, logistics and services as well as microsystems. 

Biological research and biotechnology

The 21st century is the life sciences century. The life sciences provide essential insights into living organisms and ecosystems. This will help us to explain and understand diseases and devise new treatments. Germany and Russia recognized the scientific potential of this field back in 1994 and started to work on joint projects (sectoral agreement). The established cooperation projects in the areas of genome research and proteomics, bioinformatics, molecular medicine, systems biology and nutrition research will continue.

The fundamental new findings in the life sciences, the progress made with related technologies and their broad application in health, environmental and nutrition research will have a far-reaching impact on health care, the control of environmental hazards and the life of our society as a whole. Biotechnology applications are already reflected in many domains of life today, whether in the development of new drugs or the production of energy-efficient detergents.

Russia and Germany will expand their cooperation through a multitude of research projects. The two countries see cooperation in biotechnology as an important instrument for speeding up innovative developments in industry and agriculture. It involves not only networking premier scientific expertise in cutting-edge fields of biotechnological research, but also ensuring the speedy transfer to market of research results through transnational technology transfer processes.

Cooperation between Russia and Germany is supported by the biotechnology cooperation alliance. The main objective of the alliance is to initiate cooperation between enterprises and scientific institutions in both countries and establish a systematic and sustainable basis for this cooperation. The alliance takes up classic research fields such as molecular biology or biochemistry as well as newer fields such as environmental and resource management.


Nanotechnological applications are already key in a wide variety of products and processes. The technology exploits the new functional properties of objects and material structures whose dimensions are on a nanometre scale, usually under 100 nm (1 nm = 10-9 m). This leads to new electronic, magnetic and optical properties of materials: Melting points are shifted and the catalytic activity, solubility and transportability of materials undergo complete change.

Nanoscale findings have an immediate impact on a wide range of scientific fields: whether in the natural sciences, in medicine or materials science, nanotechnology offers new knowledge and approaches for many researchers. Nanotechnology is considered an innovative key technology because of its interdisciplinary relevance and enormous exploitation potential.

Germany and Russia want to further intensify cooperation in the field of nanotechnology. An outstanding example of fruitful cooperation has been the establishment of the Russian-German Research Centre "Multifunctional nanostructured materials and formulations for life science" in Hamburg and Moscow. New technologies are being developed for the production of customized, multifunctional nanostructured materials.

Another example is the German-Russian institutional partnership "Energy-relevant nanomaterials" between the University of Ulm and the Lomonosov University in Moscow. This institutional partnership is hosted by the Ulm Helmholtz Institute for Electrochemical Energy Storage (HIU) founded in January 2011. In cooperation with Professor Alexei Khoklov, an eminent researcher and Vice-President of Lomonosov University in Moscow, support is being provided for the establishment of the new German-Russian centre of excellence in a pilot phase of up to three years. The planned research on energy-relevant nanomaterials is clear proof of German-Russian cooperation in world-class research.

Environmental technologies and sustainability

Climate variations are nothing new in the history of the Earth. But modern industrial societies are growing enormously, putting great pressure on the fragile balance between humans and nature.

The development of innovative environmental technologies and the implementation of strategies to increase energy efficiency are milestones on our way towards a sustainable economy. For example, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced where clean technologies are used in industrial production processes. Energy consumption can be lowered considerably by introducing binding regulations for the energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings. Recycling contributes to the efficient use of resources and materials and helps us protect our environment and climate.

Germany's High-Tech Strategy 2020 places a clear focus on forward-looking projects in the areas of climate protection and energy efficiency. Russia on the other hand is developing strategies for the sustainable use of resources. Both countries intensified their existing cooperation in the area of water research and environmental technologies by signing a sectoral agreement on "Innovation strategies and technologies for sustainable environmental protection and the efficient management of natural resources" in 2006.

Currently, the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) and the Academy Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry in Novosibirsk are studying the impact of climate change on water and soil in subarctic regions. One particular aim is to test new measuring methods for the reliable assessment of the impact of climate change on water quality and soil functions. Furthermore, the BMBF is currently supporting two German-Russian research projects for the development of fuel cells together with its Russian counterpart.

Activities of the science and intermediary organizations

The DFG considers science in Russia to be especially important and has been running a liaison office in Russia since 2003. It acts as a local contact for German and Russian researchers, offers advice for the establishment of new partnerships, and provides support to existing collaborations. The systematic development of institutional collaboration with Russian partner organizations enables the joint support of cooperative projects in all areas of basic research. Framework agreements on the co-financing of research projects and mobility for researchers as well as institutional collaborations are in place with the following partners:

The DFG supports cooperation with Russian partners with a number of instruments. In addition to initiating German-Russian cooperation projects (about 154 applications in 2012), the DFG is funding 62 bilateral projects, increasingly through its Coordinated Programmes, as is shown by two international research schools to foster young research talent. In addition, two priority programmes were funded with Russian participation in 2012. The DFG GEPRIS online database provides more extensive information about further research projects that are currently being funded, including information about research areas and participating individuals and institutions.

The 18 research centres in the Helmholtz Association (HGF) have been operating numerous collaborations with Russian partner institutes for many years, and in some cases even decades, in all of the HGF's six research areas (energy; earth and environment; health; aeronautics, space and transport; key technologies; structure of matter) and they are particularly engaged in basic research activities. The Helmholtz Association also cooperates closely with Russian research institutions through numerous international large-scale projects and in the development and operation of joint research infrastructures. Two outstanding examples of this cooperation are the European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility (XFEL) at DESY in Hamburg and the international Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR) at GSI in Darmstadt.

The GSI Helmholtz Centre and its Russian partner institute, the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP) in Moscow, founded a FAIR-Russia Research Centre (FRRC) to facilitate the coordination of Russian contributions to FAIR. Since 2008, the FAIR-Russia Research Centre has been jointly supported with money from the Initiative and Networking Fund of the President of the Helmholtz Association and from the ROSATOM State Nuclear Energy Corporation. A total of fifteen countries will make joint use of the facility. This was confirmed by a government regulation of 27 February 2010.

The Helmholtz Association has had an Office in Moscow since 2005 which provides organizational support and strategic advice to the Helmholtz Centres involved in cooperation with Russia. It encourages exchanges of information between the Helmholtz Centres and Russia's research elite and maintains contact with Russian and international partners in Russia in the area of research and research policy.

Formal agreements exist between the Helmholtz Association and the following strategic partners:

  • Russian Academy of Sciences (agreement signed in 2005)
  • ROSATOM State Nuclear Energy Corporation (memorandum on cooperation in nuclear science and technology signed in 2010)
  • Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFFI) (cooperation agreement signed in 2006)

The Helmholtz Association launched the "Helmholtz-Russia Joint Research Groups" funding programme together with the Russian Foundation for Basic Research: Under this programme, the HGF not only supports international cutting-edge research but also makes a contribution to boost the careers of excellent young Russian researchers in Russia. The cooperation between the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig and the Moscow Central Institute for Tuberculosis Research is one example of efforts in this regard: Research is carried out on the genetic factors which contribute to the onset of tuberculosis.

The Helmholtz Association is engaged in an intensive dialogue with RFFI and its other Russian and German partners about the opportunities and means to continue fostering and developing bilateral cooperation in research between Germany and Russia. Funding has been and is being provided for a total of 32 joint groups under this programme. The Helmholtz Association provided more than €12 million for that purpose.

The wide range of research and the potential of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG) are ideal for Russian partners to tie in their activities. Many of the Fraunhofer institutes maintain strong cooperative relations with businesses and scientific institutions in Russia. In particular, the fields of microelectronics and automotive technology, mechanical engineering, power plants, and transport and logistics are key focus areas for many Fraunhofer institutes in their collaboration with partners in Russia.

The Max Planck Society (MPG) concluded an agreement with the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2003 which focuses on the construction of a measurement tower in Siberia but also covers scientific cooperation in general.

Through its partner groups, the MPG also supports excellent young Russians who spend a research period at one of the Max Planck institutes and then return to Russia to head a working group adequately equipped by their home institution. This instrument has been applied successfully: Two partner groups are currently active in Moscow.

A total of 87 research institutes and scientific institutions belong to the Leibniz Association (WGL). They all study strategic issues that affect the whole of society, providing jobs for more than 16,000 people. The Leibniz institutes cover the entire range from the natural sciences, engineering and environmental sciences to economics, the social and spatial sciences and the humanities. Numerous institutions within the Leibniz Association have close contacts to Russian researchers, for example under projects in the areas of agricultural economics, materials research, evolutionary biology, palaeontology, and soil zoology.

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) also has an office in Moscow. It has information centres in St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk. Some 40 lecturers are teaching at institutions of higher education in Russia under a DAAD programme. The DAAD provides funding for mobility between Russia and Germany to nearly 5,500 Russian and 1,300 German academics every year and supports about 130 collaborations between Russian and German institutions of higher education.This makes Russia the partner country with the highest number of exchanges not only in Eastern Europe but throughout the world. New research fellowship programmes financed jointly with the Russian side such as the existing Michail Lomonosov and Immanuel Kant programmes and the supplementary Dmitri Mendeleev and Wernadski programmes have gained special importance. The German Centre for Research and Innovation (DWIH), which is currently being established in Moscow, is meant to further strengthen ties.

The activities of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) in Russia focus on four priority areas: 

  • Providing support to young researchers
  • Training of management and executive staff for administration and industry
  • Development of a network for strategic cooperation 
  • Operation of a network of researchers in leadership positions at central and specialized scientific organizations, associations and academies to enable long-term cooperation between institutions of higher education, scientific institutions, researchers and scientists.

The research fellowships and research prizes awarded by the Foundation enable researchers from the Russian Federation to come to Germany and carry out their own research projects with a hosting institution and cooperation partner.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation promotes scientific cooperation between world-class international and German researchers. More than 700 research fellowships and prizes are awarded for this purpose every year. The Foundation fosters a worldwide network of more than 25,000 Humboldt fellows from all disciplines in over 130 countries, 49 of whom are Nobel laureates.

Over the past three years, the German Rectors' Conference (HRK) intensified its relations with the Russian Rectors Union with the aim of improving cooperation within the European Higher Education Area. The HRK received funding from the BMBF for the coordination of the 2012 Russia Weeks in German higher education and implemented a total of 18 measures at 16 German universities. Furthermore, the HRK cooperated with the BMBF in the organization of the German-Russian Rectors Forum that was held in Berlin on 21 May 2012 as part of the German-Russian Year of Education, Science and Innovation 2011/2012.

The Russia Weeks at German universities are a good example of established relations between German and Russian institutions of higher education. The HRK Higher Education Compass (Hochschulkompass) reports 723 cooperation agreements between 243 Russian and 177 German universities. In addition, roughly 49 collaborations were established with Russian research institutions.

The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) is the centre of excellence for vocational research and for the progressive development of vocational education and training in Germany. The Institute works to stimulate innovation in vocational education and training systems and develops recommendations for improvements in initial and continuing vocational training. Representatives from the BIBB signed a cooperation agreement with the Institute for the Development of Vocational Education and Training in Russia back in 1993. More than 20 joint projects to modernize Russia's vocational education and training system were coordinated jointly in the 1990s alone. The BIBB's iMOVE initiative supports German providers of continuing education and training in designing programmes to meet Russian needs.

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