The success of the "Germany in Japan" year in 2005/2006 was an illustration of the two countries' long-standing collaboration in the area of science and technology. Germany and Japan can look back on over 30 years of Scientific and Technological Cooperation (STC). The BMBF cooperates with Japan on the basis of an STC agreement of 1974. The key areas of cooperation set out in the agreement are marine research and technology, the life sciences, and the environment. STC commission meetings are held on a regular basis.
The BMBF's initiative of establishing an international research dialogue as part of the High-Tech Strategy is being met with great interest by the Japanese government, which is currently setting up a globally-oriented innovation strategy. The Japanese "Innovation 25" Strategy, which covers the next 20 years, will be accompanied by a new foreign policy geared towards science and technology. Because of this, Japan has already shown great interest in the BMBF's High-Tech Strategy and would like to collaborate closely with Germany, as the two countries' aims complement each other to a certain extent. From the Federal Government's point of view, closer bilateral cooperation would also be very beneficial for Germany.
It is not just the ministries of the two nations that cooperate on the basis of the STC agreement; German research and intermediary organizations also work together with Japan very actively. In cooperation with their Japanese partners, particularly the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Japan Science and Technology Agency, they provide funding for exchanges with Japan.
In October 2006, Federal Minister Dr Annette Schavan went to Japan as part of her first official visit to Asia. She was accompanied by a high-ranking delegation of individuals active in science, industry, and politics. The main aims of the visit to Japan were political talks with the Japanese minister of education, science, and technology and the Japanese finance minister as well as a visit to the University of Tôkyô, where the minister signed an agreement establishing the "Centre for German and European Studies" and gave a keynote speech. The trip also included meetings with the presidents of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), the opening of a German-Japanese Nano-Electronics Workshop, a reception to mark the end of the "Germany in Japan" Year and the exchange of ideas with representatives of science and industry who work in Japan.
Linking German competence networks and Japanese clusters
As part of the "Germany in Japan" Year, the BMBF has started linking German competence networks to Japanese clusters. The aim of this is to network German universities, research institutions, and companies with Japan in order to boost the level of expertise and give German science and industry a head start in innovation.
Junior Experts Exchange Program
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been supporting an exchange programme for junior experts since 2003.
The aim of this programme is to establish contacts between German and Japanese researchers and to support the development of networks between German and Japanese centres of excellence. It gives outstanding young scientists from Germany and Japan the opportunity to exchange ideas at an interdisciplinary level in order to intensify the dialogue between Germany and Japan in the area of science. The purpose of this is to create lasting contacts between young scientists from both countries, encourage the exchange of specialized knowledge between German and Japanese participants, and give young scientists the chance to establish long-term German-Japanese collaborations.
In 2007, a call for proposals was explicitly addressed towards "junior experts" working in the areas of nanotechnology and materials sciences at German centres of excellence.
"Germany in Japan" Year 2005/2006
During the "Germany in Japan" Year 2005/2006, Germany presented itself in the areas of science, economics, and culture throughout Japan. In the science category alone, which was managed by the BMBF, there were approximately 300 events with interesting contributions showcasing German science, research, technology, and education.
The "Germany in Japan" Year, with its wide range of interdisciplinary presentations, helped spread knowledge about modern Germany. It was presented to Japan as a dynamic hub of high technology, an efficient key location of research, and a potential partner for collaborations in research and development.
The presentations of science in Germany focused on environmental, traffic, and health research as well as on selected areas of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information and communication technology.
The special importance of scientific cooperation was underlined by the participation of a wide range of German scientific institutions. In addition to universities, the Helmholtz Association, the Max Planck Society, the Leibniz Association, the Fraunhofer Society, and the German Research Association took part in the "Germany in Japan" Year. The German Academic Exchange Service also organized events, some of them in cooperation with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Apart from the scientific and business community, the events in the science category were also targeted towards the general public, particularly young people. After all, raising awareness of Germany as an attractive location of science and business also has the aim of stimulating interest among young people in pursuing academic studies or vocational training in Germany. Some of the reasons for pursuing a German qualification are the fact that Germany has the highest density of innovative companies in Europe, the emergence of the European silicon valley in and around Dresden, and Germany's world leadership in the areas of optical technologies and nanotechnological research, among others.