Cross-sectional issue European and international cooperation

Climate change, scarcity of resources, loss of species, marine litter, and economic, food and health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic are interlinked global challenges that no country can tackle alone. If we want to protect our planet and enable future generations to live a decent life, we must work with partners worldwide. It is only through international knowledge transfer and cross-border cooperation that synergies can be created which we can mutually exploit to develop the greatest possible leverage.

This includes both the public and private sectors. We are committed to science-driven technology development in order to reconcile economic progress, ecological compatibility and social justice. ‘GreenTech made in Germany’ is already defining new standards today and enjoys a high reputation on the international playing field. We want to promote the associated economic potential in global climate and environmental protection by expanding international science–industry cooperation.

FONA has been internationally aligned from its very inception and builds on a number of successful cooperations and partnerships. In the past five years, we have invested over 400 million euros in projects with non-European partners. This corresponds to about half of all international activities of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Of the FONA-funded projects, around 27 per cent have an international dimension; around 13 percent are projects with at least one European partner. For the next few years, we have set ourselves three objectives with even greater focus: 1) effective coordination in Europe and worldwide, 2) close involvement of actors on the ground, and 3) needs-based cooperation that adds value for the local population.

Boosting cooperation in Europe

In the EU, the European Research Area has been created specifically for research cooperation across member states, joint programming and the use of large infrastructures. It is committed to free access to knowledge and its exchange – and to cooperating to tackle common problems. The main instrument for setting common objectives and priorities and coordinating the national research policies of individual states is the EU’s long-running Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

European Green Deal: Towards a climate-friendly and resource-efficient economy through innovative sustainability research

In December 2019, the EU Commission presented its ‘European Green Deal’, a roadmap for climate-friendly and resource-efficient economic activity in Europe. This includes no more net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and decoupling economic growth from resource use. The Green Deal also includes the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy. Both represent a new, harmonious synergy between agriculture, biodiversity and sustainability. Without Innovation, the ambitious goals of the Green Deal cannot be achieved. At European level, ‘Horizon Europe’ is the most important research policy instrument for implementing the Green Deal. FONA also has strong links to the Green Deal’s areas of action. In particular, we will contribute to the implementation of the Green Deal through our actions on green hydrogen, the bioeconomy, the circular economy, biodiversity conservation, climate adaptation and sustainable financing.

‘Horizon Europe’ – EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation

FONA is inconceivable without Europe. This is because all FONA research can be continued and expanded at European level. More importantly, the vision of a European Research Area that focuses more on societal concerns and develops solutions for the benefit of the people of Europe is in line with what drives us. The ninth iteration of the EU Research Framework Programme ‘Horizon Europe’ (2021–2027), following on from its predecessor ‘Horizon 2020’, is dedicated to solving major and pressing social and economic issues in a separate pillar (‘Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness’) and is allocated just over half of the total budget of ‘Horizon Europe’. Through FONA, we are taking up three of a total of six thematic clusters in this pillar: ‘Digital, Industry and Space’ (cluster 4), ‘Climate, Energy and Mobility’ (cluster 5) and ‘Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment’ (cluster 6). As members of the expert Programme Committees, we are directly involved in the design and topic setting for the Work Programmes of clusters 5 and 6.

‘Horizon Europe’ follows a mission-based approach. It is designed to address research issues in a cross-cutting manner so that the people of Europe benefit directly from scientific knowledge. Four of the five mission areas address sustainability and provision for the future, and thus also the topics of FONA. These are adaptation to climate change, climate-neutral and smart cities, healthy oceans, seas, and coastal and inland waters, and soil health and food. Together with European partners from research and in the field, we discuss the goals and contents of the missions – and contribute to their implementation with our national funding activities.

Strategic cooperations play an important role in the implementation of the missions – for example initiatives in which EU member states have joined forces for joint research programme planning. In recent years, these ‘Joint Programming Initiatives’ (JPIs) have proved to be a particularly flexible instrument for FONA to coordinate and cooperate with experts at EU level. Under ‘Horizon Europe’ we will use the ongoing development of this European partnership landscape towards greater coherence to network more closely with actors from politics, business and civil society. In this way, we intend to develop joint funding activities, mobilise public and private sector actors for EU collaborative research, and strengthen the transfer of knowledge into practice.

Internationally networked and globally committed to the SDGs

The goals of the 2030 Agenda form the basis of a new international partnership in which industrialised, emerging and developing countries share responsibility for a sustainable future. Implementing the SDGs means recognising path dependencies, exploiting synergies and resolving conflicts of objectives. We are therefore dependent on development strategies and cooperation that span countries, sectors and institutions in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on time.

Sustainable development requires global cooperation

The implementation of the 2030 Agenda goes beyond national borders and is not negotiable at national level alone. To achieve this, we must continue to actively support global governance structures. Germany is one of the strongest countries in the world in terms of research and innovation. We will continue to provide system and action knowledge for politics, business and society and make it available for the urgently needed progress in international sustainability and climate processes. To this end, we are cooperating with intergovernmental bodies that provide scientific policy advice to the United Nations, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, as well as the High-level Political Forum on Sustain- able Development (HLPF), which has replaced the UN Commission on Sustainable Development since 2013. Other relevant forums for cross-border coordination and cooperation are the G-7 and G-20 countries and the OECD.

We choose our cooperation priorities so that they are demand-driven and of mutual interest. As a result, know-how flows in both directions, and value creation and local employment are strengthened. The African continent plays a key role for us in this context, but at the same time it is an example of the challenges facing many governments in emerging and developing countries. We are also involved in South East Asia (particularly in climate research), in Latin and South America (bioeconomy, atmospheric science research, sustainable urbanisation) and in the Near and Middle East (hydro-technology cooperation).

International partnerships open up global market potential

The know-how of German GreenTech companies in the fields of climate protection, resource conservation and energy efficiency is enormous – as is the potential to open up new foreign markets and set global standards by expanding and disseminating environmental technologies and services that are ‘Made in Germany’. For more than ten years now, we have been supporting the cooperation of German research institutions and companies with selected emerging countries through the funding measure ‘CLIENT – International Partnerships for Sustainable Innovations’. The research and testing of sustainable solutions for the climate, environment, resources and energy sectors are just as much the focus of attention as proximity to market and to practical application. We are already funding more than 200 German institutions from science and industry that cooperate with partners in 27 countries worldwide (as at September 2020). We intend to pursue this successful model in the future.

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