Research projects on topics including the environment, renewable resources, renewable energies, potable water protection and sewage technologies as well as nutrition, agriculture and biotechnology are key areas of the research cooperation between research institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Tunisia.

Political framework for scientific and technological cooperation

The most important political framework for Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Tunisian government is a “Memorandum of Understanding” on scientific and technological cooperation from 1998. At a European level, an agreement on cooperation in the fields of science and technology between the EU and Tunisia has existed since 2004.

Current key areas of cooperation

Cooperation at a political level between Germany and Tunisia takes place mainly within the expanded Euro-Mediterranean Partnership MoCo (Monitoring Committee for the Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation), and since 2008 increasingly within the “Union for the Mediterranean”. Through its International Bureau, the BMBF has also been participating in the EU-funded INCO-Net MIRA (Mediterranean Innovation and Research Coordination Action) since 2008. In addition to numerous stakeholders from the MENA region, the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Technology is an important partner.

There are currently a wide range of cooperations between German and Tunisian universities, including:
  • Aachen University of Applied Sciences
  • Bielefeld University
  • TU Braunschweig 
  • Furtwangen University
  • Heidelberg University
  • Karlsruhe University
  • Mannheim University 
  • Stuttgart University

In addition, there is a close cooperation between TU Munich and the University of Tunis El Manar in the “Renewable Resources” research area. In the autumn of 2010, the TU Berlin will continue its cooperation with Tunisian partners and organise an international seminar on “Drinking Water Development and Conservation and Wastewater Purification” from 14-18 October 2010 in Sfax and Hammamet, Tunisia, in which students and alumni of the technical University of Berlin will also take part.

The Geesthacht research centre (GKSS) maintains cooperations with the Institut National Agronomique de Tunisie, Tunis-Mahrajène, the Institut National Des Sciences Et Technologies De La Mer, Salammbo, and the Institut Pasteur De Tunis, Tunis.

A key area of the “EnerMENA” project of the German Aerospace Centre is the transfer of expertise on solar thermal power plant technology to research institutions, universities, industrial companies, specialists, engineering companies and energy suppliers in, among other countries, Tunisia. Among its most important aims is to improve networking between all stakeholders involved in constructing solar thermal power plants.

Since the 4th Framework Programme of the EU, Tunisian research institutions have participated in over 280 research projects. Key subject areas of these projects, which were also carried out in collaboration with German institutions, were: environment, nutrition, agriculture, biotechnology and healthcare.

General developments and activities

1. Research policy

Promoting science and research is at the heart of Tunisia’s policy for economic development. At 1.25%, public spending on research is higher relative to GDP than the average of 0.3% in other Arabic countries, and has increased by 300% in the period from 2000 to 2007. Research and development spending by companies is limited overall and concentrated on a small number of large-scale companies in the fields of electronics, chemistry and nutrition. According to UNESCO, education spending relative to GDP is 7.2%, while the gross tertiary enrolment rate is 34% – peak values for the North African and Middle Eastern region.

The main emphasis in the areas of education and research is put on: 

  • Improving higher education and achieving international standards
  • Expanding the vocational Master’s programme in partnership with industry
  • More demand-oriented training
  • Strengthening academic autonomy
  • Creating additional virtual training courses
  • Digitising the inventories of university libraries
  • Increasing the percentage of graduates in the natural sciences and engineering from 11.7% to 18% by 2014

Research (among others):

  • Increasing the percentage of research spending relative to GDP from 1.25% to 1.5% in 2014
  • Setting up three new regional nodes for research and innovation in the north, south and centre of the country
  • Developing sectoral innovation networks
  • Improving the marketability of research
  • Integrating the Tunisian academic “diaspora”

There are two main research funding programmes:

  • The National Research Programme aims to further develop the Tunisian research system with both a broad approach and a subject-specific approach (water management, renewable energies, biotechnology, health, IKT).
  • The National Funding Programme for Research and Innovation, also founded in 2003, aims to expand transfer between science and research, particularly in the manufacturing industry.

In addition to the Presidential Programme, a frame of reference is provided by a national development plan for the period from 2007 to 2016 by the Ministry for Development and International Cooperation: 

  • Further development of the national research system, setting up laboratories
  • Promoting international research topics such as energy, agriculture, health and innovation in the manufacturing industry
  • Improving cooperation between science and industry, creating networks, expanding the technoparks (since 2003, the Tunisian government has been supporting transfer between science and industry through “technoparks“ on topics such as IKT, water, energy, health, biotechnology, microelectronics, textiles and the food industry).

2. Higher education institutions/research centres

In all, approximately 5,625 researchers (full-time) are employed at 33 research centres which comprise approximately 139 laboratories and 643 research departments. These research centres have excellent capacities and are second only to Qatar in the Arabic world (Arab Knowledge Report, 2009). There are 193 higher education and research institutions, of which 24 are Higher Institutes of Technological Studies. The majority of these institutions (163) fall under the remit of the Ministry of Research.

Tunisia has 13 universities with 350,882 students (just under 60% of them female). The most important universities are:

  • Tunis El Manar University with key research areas in the life sciences, biomedicine, physics, chemistry, mathematics and energy 
  • The University of Carthage with key research areas in the nutritional sciences, agriculture and biology
  • The University of Monastir with key research areas in dental medicine and pharmacy
  • The University of Sousse with key research areas in immunobiology, microbiology and medicine
  • The University of Sfax with key research areas in the life sciences, physics, mathematics and computer science

The publication output of Tunisian scientists is remarkable. According to the “Arab Knowledge Report” (2009), they are in third place in the Arabic world after Egypt and Saudi Arabia. French researchers are by far their most important publication partners; only just under 5% of Tunisian international publications are produced in cooperation with German scientists. Bibliometric analyses show strengths in the following publication areas: material sciences, mathematics, microbiology, genetics, neurosciences and clinical medicine.


 Key research areas  Website
 National Institute of Applied Science and Technology
 Biotechnology, chemistry, energy and transport, computer science, communication technologies, engineering sciences  http://www.insat.rnu.tn/
 Institut Supérieur des Etudes Technologiques (ISET)
 IKT  http://www.isetn.rnu.tn/
 Ecole Polytechnique de Tunisie
 Economics, econometrics, IKT, mathematics  http://www.ept.rnu.tn/
 Université du 7 novembre à Carthage  Law, political science, economics and social science, architecture, urban planning, computer science, engineering science, business administration, languages



 École Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et
 Commerciales de Tunis (Université de Tunis – ESSECT)
 International trade, economics  http://www.essect.rnu.tn/
 École Nationale des Ingenieurs de Sfax (Université de
 Sfax – ENIS)
 Natural resources and the environment, material sciences, mechanical engineering  http://www.enis.rnu.tn/
 Université de Sfax
Engineering science, economics, healthcare management, medical engineering, law, natural sciences, biotechnology, administration, art, IKT, musicology
 Université de Sousse  
Medical research, law, economics, political science, art, social sciences


  • Stephan Epe

    • Scientific Officer
    • Heinrich-Konen-Str. 1
    • 53227 Bonn
    • Telephone: +49 228 3821-1904
    • Fax: +49 228 3821-1400
    • Email Address: stephan.epe@dlr.de

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