Occasion of the New Year’s reception of the Scientific Counsellors at the foreign Embassies

Speech by Dr Georg Schütte, Secretary of State at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

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Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Esteemed colleagues,

Welcome to our annual New Year’s reception! I would like to extend a special welcome to those who are here for the first time. I am delighted to see that so many of you have taken up our invitation. It is evidence of your great interest in Germany as a location for science. Before I begin, let me start out by wishing you all the best for 2017 on behalf of Minister Wanka.

We have just entered a new year. 2016 was certainly a historical year in hindsight. Europe and Germany in particular received an unprecedented number of people seeking refuge from war, prosecution and poverty; the UK voted to leave the European Union; Donald Trump was elected the new President of the United States; populism gained strength also in Germany – all these developments have marked significant changes and will continue to be on our agendas in 2017. At the same time, the new year will probably be just as eventful and turbulent as 2016. Important decisions will be made at the upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany.

The effects of these developments will also be felt in education and research as well as in our international cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to take you on a journey through Germany and the world:

  • At our first stop, I will briefly introduce the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, our investment in education and research and the challenges we are faced with in our innovation policy;
  • At our second port of call, I will give you an overview of the most significant current developments in Germany’s science policies;
  • And at the third stop, I will present a few examples to illustrate our international cooperation activities.

I already welcomed you on behalf of Federal Minister Johanna Wanka. I would also like to introduce her Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, or BMBF for short. [Kurz die Namen der St nennen]

Numerous colleagues from the BMBF’s Directorate-General for international affairs are here today. You are invited to address them later as they are the people who are paving the way for our successful international cooperation in education and research in 2017.

  1. Investment in R&D

The BMBF’s budget continues to be on the rise. This is evidence of the priority being given to education and research. The BMBF’s 2017 budget has been increased by just shy of 1.2 billion euros compared to the previous year 2016, totalling about 17.6 billion euros. This marks a plus of 7.6 percent to strengthen education and research further.

The first time we achieved the objective of spending 3 percent of our GDP on R&D was in 2015, when German industry invested 62.4 billion euros in R&D, having increased their investments by 9.5 percent compared to the previous year. This was a major success for the public and private sector. Another new record was set in terms of research staff: 416,000 people are now working in the research departments of Germany’s businesses. This is an increase of 11.9 percent year-on-year. I am particularly delighted that small and medium-sized businesses are again investing in research and development after years of stagnation.

R&D has become a key factor in the labour market: Over 110,000 jobs for the highly qualified have been created in Germany’s private sector since 2005. Research lays the groundwork for Germany’s position as a strong centre for technology. We need to set ourselves new goals and increase R&D spending further if we are to maintain and expand this leadership position at the international level. The Federal Government is doing its bit to achieve this: It has stepped up R&D expenditure by more than 60 percent since 2005 and aims to add a further 5 percent in the next year.

Germany is in a strong position in European comparison as well: We have been ranked the 4th most innovative country in the European Union.

The EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard provides data on the R&D investments of businesses. The 2015 data shows that Germany is one of the most innovative countries in Europe: Six of Europe’s top corporate R&D investors are based in Germany. German companies invested 10.5 percent more in R&D than in the previous year. Germany’s industry accounts for 37 percent of the entire R&D investment volume of European businesses.

Germany is an innovation leader also in global comparison. Our new top rating for the excellence of scientific publications is evidence of this: One in six scientific publications from Germany is among the world’s most quoted publications.

  1. Challenges in science and innovation

We are scoring top results, but Germany’s science and innovation system is nevertheless also faced with a number of challenges.

We have to have a broader basis for innovation activities in the future. We need more enterprises, for example in the field of biotechnology or life sciences, to become active innovators – in addition to their core business. Much research has been initiated; we are still waiting for the results. Innovation activities are limited to an ever smaller number of companies. The percentage of companies actively involved in innovation decreased for the third year in a row in 2015, falling to 43.6 percent. The percentage of companies which have realized product or process innovations in the previous two years also continued to drop: from 47 percent in 2008 to 35.2 percent in 2015.

As digital change impacts upon all spheres of life, Germany’s innovation and science system faces major challenges. The number of connected devices in OECD countries is estimated to increase from 1 billion in 2016 to 14 billion in 2022. Technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and neurotechnology are changing our industry and everyday life.

The digital transformation is offering Germany windows of opportunity that we want to exploit and also shape in many instances. That is why we have taken significant measures in this area, including a new research framework programme on cybersecurity, our “Industrial Data Space” initiative, funding for medical informatics and the establishment of the German Internet Institute. However, there is still room for improvement compared to France in particular and the OECD average in general, particularly with regard to digital infrastructures such as broadband internet coverage and e-government.

Digitalization as it relates to “open science” is of major importance to the science community. The BMBF has launched a national Open Access Strategy that introduces a number of measures to facilitate access to scientific publications. This provides a sound basis for enhancing knowledge transfer in Europe in combination with the envisaged European Science Cloud which is to support the long-term storage, findability and usability of research data. With our national research data infrastructure, Germany will make a major contribution to realizing the European Science Cloud.

Digital change also presents us with opportunities to overcome other great challenges to our global community.

Energy supply in the future, nature conservation, protecting our health, the impact of demographic trends on our societies and globalization present us with questions the answers to which will also need to be provided by science and technology. Let me give you a few brief examples:

  • Firstly, from the area of climate protection: Global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by 40 to 70 percent in order to comply with the 2 degree target – this opens up ample opportunities for research and development.
  • Secondly, concerning health protection and demographic development: Ageing societies require state-of-the-art care technologies as do challenges in the area of health promotion and well-being.
  • And finally, as for globalization: International competition is becoming increasingly fierce. In Japan, the number of transnational patents per one million inhabitants rose by 52 percent in the past ten years and is now slightly higher than Germany’s. In Germany, where the number was already at a high level, we saw an increase of 9 percent over a comparable time period.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us journey forward to our next port of call, that is: major developments in Germany’s science policy.

No journey can be successful without the appropriate framework conditions. Statistics show that we have provided the right impetus to strengthen the science system with the High-Tech Strategy as a strategic umbrella measure and the four grand pacts for science: the Higher Education Pact, the Quality Pact for Teaching, the Excellence Strategy, and the Pact for Research and Innovation.

In early September 2014, the Federal Government launched its new High-Tech Strategy (HTS). It takes a systematic look at the entire innovation chain from the creative idea to its commercialization into new products and services – to promote Germany as an innovation hub.

With the Higher Education Pact, the Federal Government and the Länder are responding to the consistently high number of university entrants and are aiming to ensure the continued openness of Germany’s higher education institutions to interested students from Germany and abroad, including migrants and refugees. Under the Pact, the Federal Government and the Länder will create another 760,000 places for new entrants by 2020 compared to the base year 2005 and are providing 26,000 euros for each additional entrant. The Federal Government and the Länder are making available 20.2 billion and 18.3 billion euros, respectively, over the duration of the Higher Education Pact from 2007 to 2020. With this joint investment in the future, they are building the training capacities required at the universities, for example for taking on more staff.

The rising number of students also presents us with challenges which go beyond finance and are being addressed under the Quality Pact for Teaching. The Federal Government is providing an additional 2 billion euros in funding between 2010 and 2020 to enable Germany’s universities to use innovative teaching methods to prepare students for the specific challenges of tomorrow. We are supporting 156 universities in the second funding period which has just been started.

The Excellence Strategy serves to strengthen excellent research at our universities. It encompasses two funding lines: “Clusters of Excellence” and “Universities of Excellence.” The Federal Government and the Länder have jointly launched the Excellence Strategy for an indefinite period of time. Higher education institutions will receive 533 million euros in annual funding as of this year. The Federal Government provides 75 percent of the funding; the remaining 25 percent is covered by the university’s host Land. We have developed the Excellence Strategy to expand Germany’s position as a key player in cutting-edge international research.

Structural change takes time and requires clear goals, also where the science system is concerned. The Federal Government and the Länder concluded the Pact for Research and Innovation with Germany’s major science organizations ten years ago. Their aim was to strengthen German top-level research and at the same time enhance, for example, equal opportunities, support for young researchers, and international networking. Their staying power has paid off: Over the past ten years, the Pact for Research and Innovation has shaped the German science system, providing a combination of research policy objectives and financial planning security based on annual budget increases of currently 3 percent.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The implementation of the High-Tech Strategy and the 3 great pacts is in full swing. I want to give two apt examples to illustrate our progress:

  • Firstly, the Plattform Industrie 4.0:

The Plattform Industrie 4.0 was set up in 2015 to drive the fourth industrial revolution in Germany. Now, what is so special about it? – All relevant stakeholders involved in bringing together manufacturing and state-of-the-art information and communication technologies (ICTs) are working hand in hand to create standardized and reliable framework conditions. This includes the Federal Ministries for Economic Affairs and for Research, businesses, trade unions, associations, and the science community. The Federal Research Ministry provides targeted funding to support this development. We have made available over 120 million euros in funding for research in this field so far.

  • And secondly, the funding measure “Clusters-Networks-International”:

Strengthening international networking activities by Germany’s science community and industry is a central goal of the Federal Government’s new High-Tech Strategy. The “Internationalization of Leading-Edge Clusters, Forward-Looking Projects, and Comparable Networks” funding initiative supports the development and realization of internationalization strategies in projects with international partners on equal terms by providing the German side with up to four million euros per project for a maximum of five years. Eleven projects with target countries across the globe are currently on-going. In the second round, the independent selection committee has recommended another eleven projects to be funded. These projects are going to be launched at the beginning of this year. Proposals for the third round of funding must be submitted by 15 March 2017. I invite you to encourage German clusters and networks which you are in contact with and are of interest to your country to submit their proposals.

Travelling widens our horizons and we perceive the diversity of our surroundings in greater depth. The same applies to what German society is currently facing. The unprecedented number of newly arrived migrants presents new challenges to Germany, also in the field of education, since education and training are key to integration. That is why we are going to continue to increase our investments in education. The voices of science and research need to be heard in the debate about refugees, migration and integration. We urgently need more expertise on these complex issues which is why the BMBF supports research in this field.

At the same time, we are supporting the integration of the newly arrived with two packages of funding measures:

  • The first package of measures aims to facilitate access to education and training. Funding is provided, for example, for career orientation programmes, German language courses, and supporting refugees who want to embark on a vocational training path.
  • The second set of measures aims at smoothing the refugees’ path into university programmes. We are, for example, funding preparatory college courses and speeding up admission procedures.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us continue our journey by going beyond Germany’s national borders.

With its 2008 Strategy for the Internationalization of Science and Research, the Federal Government provided the operational framework for international cooperation. With its 2014 International Cooperation Action Plan, the BMBF adopted a holistic perspective on the internationalization of education, together with science and research, for the first time. We also highlighted the key role of cooperation at the European level.

The Federal Government’s current Strategy for the Internationalization of Science and Research, which will be adopted shortly, takes this inclusive approach to the federal level. The Internationalization Strategy takes up time-tested instruments from the 2008 Internationalization Strategy, develops them further, and considers new developments and challenges that have emerged and gained importance since then. The motto of the new strategy reads: “International cooperation: networked and innovative.” International cooperation is being focused on achieving strategic goals in an effective, efficient and purposeful manner. Synergies between the different activities of stakeholders from science, industry and politics are being leveraged to maximize their impact. What this means in specific terms is that we will expand networks between players and measures in Germany and abroad and build new innovation partnerships based on international cooperation.

Another central point of orientation in our international cooperation is collaboration within Europe. We opened the debate on the future of Europe’s science cooperation and hence the follow-up programme to Horizon 2020 with a large stock-taking conference in October 2016.

The European Research Area, or ERA for short, was set forth as a key goal in the Lisbon Treaty back in 2009 in order to facilitate scientific exchange, cooperation and joint research. It has been realized in many parts. At the same time, however, the ERA is faced with new challenges we have to acknowledge and find solutions to. The digitalization of science comes to mind as well as global migration, political unrest and fiercer global competition.

We need a Europe that stands together as one, now more than ever before. In no other policy field is cooperation in Europe as close as it is in research. Europe’s achievements in research and innovation are mostly the fruit of collaborative projects and the exchange of knowledge and expertise. This is how new findings are made and how we can achieve scientific progress to understand and manage the great changes that are taking place in all spheres of our lives.

The G7 and G20 are central platforms for our international cooperation. Germany assumed the Presidency of the G20 on 1 December 2016. The G20 Summit Meeting will take place in Hamburg in July later this year. We will work to include the perspective of science in the preparation of the Summit Meeting as well as the preceding Ministerial Meetings of the Ministers of Agriculture, Labour, Health and Digital Policy.

I am particularly delighted that the conclusions of the G7 Science Ministers’ Meeting Germany hosted in 2015 have been followed up by long-term processes. We are advancing closer coordination with the G7 partners on three topics – “marine litter”, “poverty-related neglected diseases”, and “open science” – in order to find solutions to common global challenges. Japan picked up on these issues at the G7 Science Ministerial which it hosted in 2016. I would very much appreciate it if Italy continued to discuss the implementation of these topics at their G7 Science Ministers’ Meeting.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have almost come to the end of our journey. For the new year 2017, I wish us all every success in our endeavours and many exciting encounters and discussions in international cooperation. 2017 will likely hold many surprises and challenges and as the Greek philosopher Aristotle once said: “We cannot direct the wind. But we can adjust the sails”.

Thank you very much for your attention. I am looking forward to taking your questions.