HRK Senate calls for programme for applied research

13. March 2019

Germany needs broader funding of applied research for universities of all types. The Senate of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) has affirmed this position in a statement adopted yesterday and is calling for an appropriate funding programme. The objective is to give researchers better options for advancing their own ideas about how to apply their work, independently of external targets. The Senate noted that, to date, funding of applied research projects has either been primarily driven by an interest in discovery or strongly oriented towards demand from industry and society. The risk here, the Senate pointed out, is that science will not have adequate capacity to work in a timely manner on new and innovative fields of investigation which it has itself identified.

The resolution by the HRK Senate identifies a series of key elements for the new programme. Funded projects should be relevant to society and industry as well as science. For this reason, the Senate’s resolution recommends that experts from academia and practice be involved in the review process. To make it possible to stimulate substantial innovations, the programme, based in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, needs to run for an extended period and must be adequately resourced. To achieve this, an appropriate funding line needs to have an initial term of at least five, and up to ten years, and be provided with at least 500 million euros annually.

“Our proposal aims to help prepare the ground for innovations that will benefit industry and society across the whole spectrum of their responsibilities and issues,” HRK President Professor Dr Peter-André Alt said after the meeting of the Senate. “Smaller and medium-sized businesses, for example, should be able to benefit from research results, as should social service organisations or local authorities. The universities have great potential to facilitate this. However, at present researchers have too few opportunities to advance their own ideas about how to apply their work in its early stages independently of external targets. That is why we need a programme that does not restrict funding at the outset to a small range of subject areas, or impose the targets of external partners in relation to timing and research concepts. Instead, calls for application should not prescribe topics and disciplines, to allow scope for researchers’ own interests relating to the applications of their work.”

View text of the resolution