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UK and German governments sign up to greater R&D collaboration

Declaration aims to build on joint R&D efforts, as well as support artificial intelligence, quantum computing and clean tech

The UK government has signed a science and research agreement with Germany to collaborate on joint opportunities in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum and clean tech.

UK science and technology secretary Michelle Donelan and German federal minister of education and research Bettina Stark-Watzinger have signed a Joint Declaration of Intent committing both countries to broadening and deepening their science and research links.

The agreement aims to boost science and research ties between the two countries, and builds on efforts already underway to expand UK researchers’ opportunities to collaborate with colleagues in Germany and beyond through Horizon Europe.

UK and German researchers have previously worked together via Horizon’s predecessor on EAVI2020, an international effort that brought HIV-AIDS vaccines to the clinical trial stage. Collaboration with Germany is also an important part of work at Imperial, which recently renewed a flagship partnership with Germany’s Technical University of Munich. The two academic institutes are working together on a number of research areas including AI, health and sustainability.

Along with the declaration, science and research communities from both countries, including the Max-Planck Society, the Royal Society, Universities UK and the Helmholtz Association, announced they are working on opportunities for R&D teamwork. The UK and German governments plan to establish a Strategic Working Group to support the joint R&D efforts.

The UK government is also looking at using resources available through the £377m International Science Partnerships Fund to enable UK researchers and innovators to collaborate with German partners on key projects.

Along with the funding, two global innovation fellowships have been introduced. These are being delivered by the British Academy and the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) said these one-year fellowships, to be hosted at DGAP’s headquarters in Berlin, will support collaborative work on the changing dynamics of global order. A second call for a further round of Global Innovation Fellowships between the Academy and DGAP will open later this year.

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Together with Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the British Academy is also announcing that – building on this June’s UK-Germany Knowledge Frontiers Symposium – they will host three further symposia in the next three years that will bring together early career researchers from each country, boosting opportunities for joint work across the humanities and social sciences.

“By supporting our brightest minds and leading institutions to work together, we will maximise the opportunities for them to create new jobs, build new businesses and ultimately deliver a better quality of life for us all,” said Donelan.

Stark-Watzinger added: “The UK’s association to Horizon Europe is a major step in this direction. But we must also deepen bilateral cooperation. Today’s exchange of views, together with the science communities in Germany and the UK, is only the beginning. Our joint declaration of intent provides the basis for good and close cooperation to strengthen science and research.”

This agreement is one of several the UK government has signed with other countries over recent months. In February 2024, it signed a similar deal with Canada, which will see the two countries working together on AI, semiconductors and quantum, and in November 2023, it signed another deal with the Republic of Korea. It also has partnerships with France, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Ukraine, among others.

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