Brussels, 18 May 2005
German research is flourishing and the country's businesses are among the most innovative in Europe, says German Research Minister Edelgard Bulmahn.
Speaking in front of the German parliament on the state of German Research on 13 May, Ms Bulmahn outlined the government's plans for Germany's research system and explained that the country is a leader on the world stage in cutting edge technologies such as biotechnology and nanotechnology.
'Production in research-intensive industries is experiencing faster growth than in other sectors,' Ms Bulmahn told the parliament. Germany exports 15.6 per cent of the world's research-intensive goods, second only to the US, and files more patents than the US, UK or France, added Ms Bulmahn.
In the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), Germany has increased its participation by some 21 per cent compared to the previous programme, and has been heavily involved in the design of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), said the Research Minister. 'The European Commission took on many of our suggestions,' she stated.
Ms Bulmahn said that the percentage of Germany's GDP allocated to research and development (R&D) rose from 2. per cent to 2.51 per cent between 1998 and 2003, and is on track to meet the three per cent Barcelona target. In 2005, the German government is investing a total of ten billion euro in R&D, an increase of 2.7 billion euro or nearly 38 per cent on 1998.
The government's research policy is divided into three strands. The first encompasses promoting innovation, particularly among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as a means of fostering employment and economic growth. Some 1.7 billion euro will be provided by the government to support the incorporation of SMEs into top-class research clusters. In the former East Germany, over 100 regional initiatives will be supported through the Entrepreneurial Regions programme with a total budget of some 500 million euro until 2007.
The second major strand of the strategy is the promotion of health and quality of life. 'Fear of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's should soon belong to the past because diagnostic possibilities for early recognition and treatments are developed and generally accessible,' said Ms Bulmahn. Funding for medical research has already risen by 37 per cent over the past seven years to 405.4 million euro.
Sustainable development forms the third major area of the strategy. 'Germany makes an important contribution for the preservation of habitats,' said Ms Bulmahn. Research from Germany helps to save human lives. It helps to foresee earthquakes and volcanic eruptions [...] and contributes to the lasting and careful handling of natural resources to protect our environment,' she added. Sustainable development is therefore in line for 800 million euro of funding over the next five years.
Funding increases can only be successful if implemented as part of a wide-ranging framework for research support, believes Ms Bulmahn. She emphasised the benefits of the new junior professor scheme aimed at stemming brain drain and encouraging Germany's best young scientists to pursue careers at home.
'The young people we train today play a pivotal role for the innovative capacity of our economy,' said Ms Bulmahn, highlighting the need to prevent unemployment among young scientists.
Under the 'partners for innovation' initiative, businesses, researchers and politicians will work together for a new innovation policy in Germany, added the minister.
'With the 'pact for research and innovation' we guarantee an annual increase of at least three per cent for research organisations until 2010,' said Ms Bulmahn, explaining that this will bring increased security for research institutes with some 150 million euro more a year. The institutions will, on their part, commit to increasing the quality of their research, boosting competition and cross-linkages, offering additional opportunities to young researchers and allowing for more unorthodox, risky research.
'The spirit of invention, creativity and the readiness to experiment is what we need today more than ever for a competitive and high performance Germany. Economic growth, secure jobs and social security depend on the productivity and innovative power of German research,' Ms Bulmahn concluded.
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