Welcome Address by State Secretary Dr Georg Schütte, Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Bonn
Check against delivery.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and an honour for me to welcome you all to the 22nd German-Japanese meeting on Scientific and Technological Cooperation here in Bonn, Germany’s former capital city. As a country which shares similar values to Germany, Japan has remained an ideal partner in the three years since our last meeting in Tokyo and an anchor for stability in Asia. I would even go so far as to say that Japan remains a unique partner for us in Asia and has lost none of its attractiveness.
The starting points for our cooperation were highlighted once again in our strategy talks with Professor Harayama in February this year and this STC meeting will continue from these talks. We intend to discuss concrete objectives and principles for cooperation. We will focus in particular on how to open our respective national funding and research programmes to the partner country and make them more compatible. Our aim is to design a strategic course of action. Minister Wanka was able to build on the results of the February talks during her trip to Japan in May, when she attended the G7 meeting of Research Ministers. In other words, our exchange in February has paved the way for more intensive cooperation and has provided considerable momentum for today’s meeting. I would like to once again thank you, Professor Harayama, for your visit in February.
Germany and Japan share many past and present experiences and challenges. Although we live on opposite sides of the globe, we are interested in one another and have mutual respect for one another due to our common traditional virtues and characteristics. Both our countries are strongly export-oriented, have scant natural resources and an ageing population.
Japan has always found its own answers to historical and current challenges: It is currently distinguishing itself as a high technology nation with a rapid innovation rate. Innovation today plays a major role in tackling societal challenges and constant changes both wisely and with an eye to the future. Japan adopted its 5th Basic Plan for Science and Technology in April this year, thereby highlighting the country’s focus on innovation.
The German Government has also introduced a policy paper on innovation: the new High-Tech Strategy. This focuses on the entire innovation process – from the initial creative idea to its final realization in new products and services. Priority is given to research topics that are particularly relevant for society as well as for growth and prosperity.
The internationalization of our research and education systems is one of our strategy’s major priorities in this context. The BMBF has invested a total of over 4 billion euros in international activities in the years since the Federal Government introduced its Strategy for the Internationalization of Science and Research in 2008. The number of grants for European and international activities, including contributions to international research organizations and programmes, has risen by an annual average of 18 percent since 2009, the annual volume of funding by 7 percent per year.
The number of internationally networked projects funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research more than doubled between 2009 and 2014 – from around 1,500 projects to around 3,400.
A glance at the social structure of our two societies soon shows how serious future upheavals will be. The demographic development will subject our societies to radical changes with consequences which we are only just beginning to consider. Germany and Japan can perhaps learn from one another and exchange experiences in this context.
The so-called 2+2 projects are a further topic which we would like to address today. Professor Harayama and the German research and intermediary organizations already discussed the issue in February. Both sides will encourage cooperation between scientific establishments and commercial companies with a view to increasing potential synergies in this area. Small and medium-sized enterprises are major pillars of innovation in both Germany and Japan. We should consider the possibilities for cooperation arising from industry-related initiatives in our countries.
Finally, we should also view our joint efforts in the global context. Globalization and growing international interlacing are forcing us to expand our successful strategies in the internationalization of science and research. We must devise concrete measures and initiatives for future international cooperation. It is only appropriate therefore that we also intensify our cooperation at global and multilateral level, where we are dealing with topics such as climate change, energy and battery research, electromobility as well as the health situation in developing countries. Our work in these fields to date has been varied and provides a stable foundation for further expansion.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Albert Einstein once said that progress thrives on the exchange of knowledge. These words are still true today: Exchange is the key to future success. Exchange generates the changes which we need to tackle global challenges.
I wish us all lively discussions over the next two days of the meeting, fruitful exchanges and tangible results. Let us show our appreciation for the successful cooperation between two countries which are so far apart geographically yet seem so close.
I would now like to hand over to Ambassador Nakane. Mr Nakane has spent many years of his life in Germany, first of all as a student and later as Vice-Consul, First Secretary and finally Consul General. I am delighted to entrust the chair of this meeting to someone like him who knows – and perhaps even loves – Germany and is therefore eminently able to bring together the interests of both our countries.