Health-focused research funder the Wellcome Trust is to open an office in Berlin, in another sign that UK-based research institutions are drawing closer to Germany in advance of Brexit.
The London-headquartered charitable foundation, which in 2015-16 awarded research grants worth £822 million, said that it would open the outpost later this year “so that we can work more closely with our international partners on shared priorities”.
“Berlin is a leading international centre for global health, research, innovation and culture,” it said in a statement. “As a global foundation, Wellcome wants to be part of this exciting hub and we want to explore new ideas and opportunities.”
Nearly four-fifths of Wellcome’s funding goes to UK-based institutions. But before the UK’s general election last year it warned that the country must remain part of European Union research framework programmes after Brexit if it was to continue to invest “confidently” in the country in the future.
Although the Wellcome announcement did not link the decision to Brexit, the University of Oxford, King’s College London plus another yet to be announced research-intensive university have already sought to establish links with Germany – currently enjoying healthy annual increases in its research budget – through joint campuses or research centres.
The universities aim to keep hold of existing partnerships after the UK leaves the EU, and potentially tap into national German sources of funding.
Explaining the new office, Wellcome said that Germany was “increasingly playing a leading role in global health” and had in “recent years” doubled its spending on international health.
The country had used its presidency of the G7 and G20 to to drive “significant progress on issues such as WHO [World Health Organization] reform, epidemic preparedness and tackling drug-resistant infections”.
The foundation said that it already had several partnerships in Germany, including a collaboration with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which speedily develops vaccines for epidemic diseases.