Brazil: Research Partner for Sustainability and Innovation

Germany and Brazil conduct joint research on the innovative and sustainable use of resources and on environmental protection. Brazil is Germany’s key partner in Latin America in the areas of education and research.

Atmospheric Tall Tower Observatory
German-Brazilian cooperation in the Amazon basin: The world’s tallest climate data measurement tower, the ‘Amazonian Tall Tower Observatory’ (ATTO), helps us enhance our understanding of climate change and protect our planet’s green lungs. © Kesselmeier/MPI Chemie

Brazil is the world's ninth largest economy. The country has recognized just what a key role innovativeness plays in the development of its economy and has adjusted its research policy accordingly.

Germany has traditionally been an important partner for Brazil in this field. More than 1,400 German companies have established themselves in Brazil. Together they represent a share of around 10% of Brazil’s industrial GDP. Some 250,000 people work for German companies in the state of São Paulo alone.

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft provided support to Brazil in building up a network of more than 40 innovation centres. Experts at Fraunhofer also supported the establishment of 25 new institutes across Brazil which conduct joint research with industry.

The product cycle – from the extraction of raw materials, to development, production and use of products and through to their recycling – needs to be environmentally friendly and cost-effective. That is why production procedures and processes must be updated continuously. More than 30 research institutions based in Germany and Brazil cooperated in this area under the Brazilian German Collaborative Research Initiative in Manufacturing Technology (BRAGECRIM) between 2009 and 2019. The programme was funded on the German side by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

Shared Research Objectives

The Federal Government is systematically expanding cooperation with Brazil. Scientific and technological relations have been a central element of cooperation for 50 years. This is being highlighted by the German-Brazilian Strategic Partnership Action Plan.

There are regular government representative meetings for the purpose of agreeing the objectives of future cooperation. These meetings are the occasion for the BMBF and its Brazilian partner ministries of science and education to engage in dialogue and identify the thematic priorities of their cooperation. The first high-level German-Brazilian intergovernmental consultations took place in 2015. Raw materials of economically strategic importance, bioeconomy, marine research, urbanization and exchanges in higher education were agreed as key areas of cooperation.

The Germany Year was celebrated in Brazil from May 2013 until May 2014 under the motto ‘Where ideas connect’. During Germany Year the BMBF provided more than one million euros in funding for a large number of scientific and scholarly events.

Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources

Germany and Brazil are conducting joint research on novel approaches to protecting natural resources and the Earth’s atmosphere. The BMBF has provided 5.3 million euros for the construction of the Amazonian Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) for atmospheric measurements in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon basin. The tower is 325 metres high and was built under difficult conditions in the heart of the rain forest – a large investment which will pay off in the long run. German and Brazilian researchers are using highly sensitive instruments to examine links between the climate, atmospheric chemistry and the rain forest. ATTO’s measurements will enable them to enhance scientific projections of future climate development.

Large quantities of renewable resources like sugar cane, soybeans or wood are being grown and used in Brazil. These resources have been used to produce the biofuel ethanol for many years now. Brazil’s experience in this field is valuable for Germany. That is why the BMBF is currently supporting eight projects in Brazil under the funding programme ‘Bioeconomy International’. The research teams are exploring among others methods to extract oils from a native palm. Sunflower seeds are to be used completely to produce bioenergy and food. Research is being done on the recycling of nutrients produced in the sugar cane industry in an effort to establish sustainable agriculture. Because the oceans can also produce biogenic raw materials, one project is focussing on growing and processing algae for use as food and animal feed. Both countries aim to expand cooperation in the area of bioeconomy.

Raw Materials for the Technologies of Tomorrow

Metals and minerals are finite resources. Resources such as the rare earths are essential in many technologies, for example electric mobility and wind power generation. Brazil is a major producer of metals. This is why Brazil and Germany have agreed to step up cooperation in research on raw materials of strategic economic importance.

The BMBF is supporting several bilateral joint projects which promote the responsible use of natural resources under the umbrella of its ‘Research for Sustainable Development’ funding programme. In one case a research alliance is investigating how to recycle valuable metals in the steel industry.
Funding for German-Brazilian collaborative projects in the area of raw materials and rare earths in particular is available until May 2019 under the “CLIENT II – International Partnerships for Sustainable Innovations” funding programme.

Towards Greater Social Equity

Societies characterized by gaping inequities and cultural, religious and ethnic differences face major challenges. One German-Brazilian research team is looking for solutions to this problem. Since April 2017 they have received funding from the BMBF to establish a centre for studies in humanities and social sciences in São Paulo. Freie Universität Berlin, the University of São Paulo and other partners from Germany and Latin America are doing research on how to close the social divide in a heterogeneous society. Established world class researchers and young research talent are working together under the umbrella of the Maria Sibylla Merian Centre for Advanced Studies (Mecila).