The international cooperation in education and research between Germany and Bulgaria has been shaped by the integration of Bulgaria into the European Research Area. This approach is supported by the funding instruments of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to promote interregional research cooperation in and with South-Eastern Europe.

University of Sofia

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Funding the cooperation

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports the cooperation of German institutions with Bulgarian partners through a variety of funding announcements.

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Political framework

German-Bulgarian research cooperation has a long tradition. Bilateral cooperation in science and technology is based on the "Agreement on cooperation in the field of scientific research and technological development between the Federal Republic of Germany and the People's Republic of Bulgaria" in effect since 25 February 1988.

In 2017, the Bulgarian government adopted the national R & D strategy titled "Better science for a better Bulgaria" for the period up to 2030. The main objective is the comprehensive, rapid and sustainable development and modernisation of scientific research in the Republic of Bulgaria. In particular, this will serve to attract and retain leading young scientists and enable sustainable economic growth.

The following topics in the field of basic research are prioritised for funding:

  • New energy sources and energy efficiency technologies,
  • Mechatronics and environmentally sound technologies,
  • Health and quality of life,
  • Environmental protection and disposal technologies, use of raw materials and bio-resources,
  • Materials research, nano- and quantum technologies,
  • Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

Priorities of the cooperation

With about 70%, German players are very strongly represented in current Horizon 2020 projects with Bulgarian participation. Germany is the the most important partner country for Bulgarian H2020 investments ahead of Italy and Spain. Energy research is the most dominant thematic focus of joint projects.

In 2013 and 2015, the BMBF published an "Ideas Competition for the Development and Expansion of Innovative R & D Networks with Partners in Countries of the Danube River Basin" ("Danube Region Funding Announcement"). About a third of the funded projects were and are being carried out with Bulgarian partners. The special focus of the cooperation lies in the area of ​​climate / environment / sustainability.

Highlights of the bilateral cooperation

The establishment of the Bulgarian-Romanian Interuniversity Europe Centre (BRIE) – a regional cooperation institution based in Ruse (Bulgaria) and Giurgiu (Romania) – received significant support with German assistance. BRIE was initiated in 2000 by the German Rectors' Conference (HRK) as a project within the framework of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. Since 2002, it has been implementing educational and research projects on the basis of regional and transnational cooperation. BRIE, which was deliberately established in a border region, cooperates with German universities that are also located in border regions: TU Chemnitz and European University Viadrina Frankfurt / Oder.

A successful individual project of BRIE is BRAINS (Bulgarian-Romanian Area Identies: Neighborhood Study), which was co-initiated by the German side and implemented with EU structural funding. Based of surveys of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens and analyses of German-Polish and German-Czech best-practice examples of European integration, the project concept RO-BUL-NA (Romanian-Bulgarian Neighborhood Area) was developed. In the long term, it aims to create a common identity of the inhabitants in a region that has long been perceived as as separate and remote.

Specialised institutions

The Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS) in Sofia was also set up with German funding. The CAS was founded in 2000 as a multidisciplinary research centre of the humanities and social sciences in Sofia. It supports outstanding junior researchers from the international knowledge community, especially from South-Eastern Europe, and it promotes the exchange of scientists. Three fellowship programmes are currently running. German sponsors of the CAS Sofia are the Federal Cultural Foundation, the Federal Foreign Office, the Volkswagen Foundation, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft.

Cooperation within the EU

Bulgaria is represented in the second phase of the EU Teaming Programme with the project "Centre of Excellence in Plant Systems Biology and Biotechnology (PlantaSYST)". The project of the University of Plovdiv, together with the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and the University of Potsdam aims to establish a centre for plant systems biology and biotechnology in Plovdiv. By integrating disciplines such as molecular biology, functional genomics and bioinformatics, this unique research centre for Eastern Europe will contribute to industrial applications of modern plant sciences.