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German Minister Declares Innovation and Education Vital for Prosperity
Germany's prosperity will be driven by innovation, spurred by collaboration between researchers and industry and a strong investment in education, German Minister for Education and Research Annette Schavan said in a speech before the Washington, D.C., science policy community organized by AAAS and the German Embassy.
By fostering an ambitious and creative next generation of scientists, Germany will have the human talent necessary to fuel its economy and address the most pressing issues of the 21st century including climate change and medical technology, she said.
"We must create a passion for science and education research and a social climate that needs innovation and development," Schavan said. "Germany cannot rest on its laurels of past successes, but rather it must take risks into the new century."
Schavan delivered her remarks in German before a standing-room-only audience at the 7 June event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Germany Embassy later issued an English summary of her remarks.
During her short trip to the United States, she also met with officials from the White House, Department of Education, and the National Institutes of Health; she used the visit to promote and answer questions about her nation's scientific and research initiatives, including the government's new High-Tech Strategy.
"While Germany is among the United States' most formidable economic competitors," noted Al Teich, director of the AAAS Science and Policy Programs, it is also one of our most consistently valuable partners and collaborators in science and technology. The interest in Minister Schavan's address among U.S. science policy officials is an indication of the importance Americans accord to our S&T relationships with Germany."
Approved by the German cabinet in August 2006, the High-Tech Strategy contains a series of initiatives that will invest $20 billion into research and education to increase Germany's global leadership in technology. Of the funding, $16 billion will be used to directly develop 17 cutting-edge fields in Germany including health research, security technologies, energy, and nanotechnologies.
With the new funding outlined in the High-Tech Strategy, which runs through 2009, Germany hopes to dedicate 3 percent of its gross domestic product to research and development by 2010—consistent with a development plan set out March 2000 in Lisbon, Portugal, by the European Commission, the governing body of the European Union.
In addition, Germany is participating in the European Union's 7th Research Framework Programme, a plan to strengthen basic research, increase employment, and encourage continental collaboration in the sciences and humanities.
"The future of Germany, and the rest of Europe, will depend on its willingness to take risks and encourage industry to interact with research communities," Schavan said. "Only when we understand research policy as the basis for innovation policy will we maximize our intellectual and economic potential."
The European Commission, with Germany holding the presidency, has been discussing the establishment of a European Institute of Technology. The goal is to forge strategic alliances among nations to find solutions to emerging issues like climate change and alternative energies.
Citing the Max Planck Research Institutes, an independent German non-profit research organization funded by the German federal and state governments, Schavan stressed that Europe must apply its strong university tradition to other sectors including non-profit, governmental, and industrial research sectors.
Germany is also a signatory to several other European agreements like the June 1999 Bologna Declaration. The program features a series of reforms to make European higher education more compatible, competitive, and attractive for Europeans and for students and scholars from other continents. A second agreement, the Copenhagen Process, signed by Germany in November 2002, aims to increase the quality of vocational education and training.
These goals and agreements, which Schavan agrees are ambitious, are part of the country's effort to become the most research-friendly nation in the world by 2020.
"Mobility is the precondition for being able to use the opportunities provided by the European and international labor market as well as by science," Schavan said.
Beyond European collaborations, Schavan said Germany has enjoyed a long history of scientific and education collaboration, signifying that the United States "is a friend and a long-standing partner."
While she admits that there is an international competition among nations to attract the brightest young scientists to work and study within their research institutions, Schavan said that there are opportunities for the United States and Germany to work together.
When Germany and the United States break international barriers by exchanging scientific knowledge, laboratory best practices, and talented scientists through internships and fellowships, both nations benefit because "partnerships and friendships frequently mean learning," she said.
In addition to strengthening alliances between nations, Schavan believes that international collaboration allows nations to find solutions to problems that require more resources that any one country can provide.
"Politicians need to be stimulated by the public to use research-based solutions to solve issues like resource management and climate change," she said. "Informed policies obtained through collaboration are the only way to solve issues that affect the whole world."
Schavan, a member of the Christian Democratic Union party, has been the German minister for education and research since November 2005. She holds a graduate degree in theology and has many years of experience in both education and politics.
20 June 2007