China – a strong partner in education, research and innovation

28 April 2019: This web page will be updated soon. 

China and Germany are important strategic partners in the fields of research and education. The two countries have intensified their cooperation in different areas over the last few decades with the aim of increasing their innovative power. These joint areas include innovation, urbanisation, life sciences, university collaboration and vocational training along with resource and environmental protection.

Skyline of Shanghai with photovoltaic systems

© Jeff_Hu / iStock / Thinkstock

Funding opportunities

No current announcements regarding the cooperation with China.

Political framework

The research partnership between the two countries is based on an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of science and technology that dates from 1978. Since then, the themes and framework conditions for the cooperation have been discussed at regular meetings attended by representatives of the research ministries of both countries, research, funding and intermediary organisations and individual scientists.

Strategic education policy meetings aim to encourage further educational cooperation between the two countries, focusing primarily on university partnerships and student and scientist mobility. The steering group of the German-Chinese Alliance for Vocational Education and Training has also been holding regular meetings since 2011.

Germany and China have been holding government consultations since 2011. These consultations are playing an important part in the process of further intensifying German-Chinese cooperation, e.g. in the areas of education, research and innovation. Four consultations have already taken place. At the last government consultations held in June 2016 in Beijing, four joint declarations of consent were signed by the BMBF and the Chinese partner ministries. This means the total number of bilateral declarations has now risen to 19. 14 of these 19 declarations were signed during government consultations.

The joint action plan "Design innovation together!" agreed at the third round of intergovernmental consultations in October 2014, strengthened  the strategic partnership between the two countries, also in topics that are the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Priorities of the cooperation

At present, the German-Chinese research partnership under the aegis of the BMBF is particularly active in the fields of innovation research, environmental technologies, electromobility, optical and laser technologies, life sciences and marine and polar research.

Cooperation between universities is playing an important role in the field of education. Both the activities organised jointly by German and Chinese universities and the quality of the partnerships have developed consistently over the last few years. The number of joint courses, dual qualifications and institutions, for example, has continued to rise.

In the field of vocational training, the partnership focuses on cooperation between the economies and vocational training institutions in both countries, the development of competence standards, the recognition of qualifications, the set-up of cooperative centres and R&D in the field of vocational training.

German-Chinese Innovation Platform

The German-Chinese Innovation Platform for collaboration in innovation research was initiated in 2011 to foster greater exchange in innovation. Since then, four major innovation conferences have taken place in Beijing and Berlin, attended by researchers, politicians and entrepreneurs from both countries. In addition to scientific innovation research, such as comparing innovative systems, the platform also deals with concrete application topics in research and innovation. The 4th innovation conference, which took place in Berlin in 2016, not only hosted traditional innovation dialogue but also reinforced links with concrete technologies by means of expert discussions on specific topics relating to technological cooperation, e.g. in the areas of urbanisation, digitalisation and electromobility.

Environmental challenges

China is facing great challenges in terms of the environment. For several years now, there has been a close cooperation focusing on environmental technologies, particularly in the field of water resource management. At the 2014 World Gardening Exhibition in Qingdao, the world's first decentralised supply and recycling station SEMIZENTRAL opened with the support of the BMBF and in cooperation with German and Chinese universities and industry partners. In addition, German scientists are the only foreign partner to participate in selected Chinese large-scale water projects, the aim of which is to clean highly polluted lakes and rivers in different regions of China. The International Bureau is supporting the unit responsible for implementation with  its country expertise.

Joint marine and polar research

The cooperation between the BMBF and the Chinese State Oceanic Administration (SOA) in the area of marine and polar research is a further milestone. This partnership is based on a joint declaration signed by both ministries during the second government consultation held in August 2013. In this declaration, it was decided to add physical oceanography, marine mineral deposits and polar research to the research topics already in receipt of funding. In June 2013, a funding announcement for bilateral research projects was issued in order to consolidate the joint declaration. A second funding announcement for the same topics was published in June 2016.

Vocational training

Cooperation between Germany and China in the field of vocational education is expanding steadily. One good example of this is the intensification of the vocational training schemes at the AHK (German Chambers of Commerce Worldwide Network) Shanghai being implemented by businesses and training institutes as part of the VetNet (Vocational Education and Training Network) project; the BMBF has been supporting this since 2013. The project entered the second phase in October 2015, and has established vocational education at the AHK Shanghai in China as a competence centre among both German and Chinese companies. For some years, the AHK has been receiving a large volume of requests for advice and instruction in the area of “dual education following the German model”– particularly from the regions/provinces. Structural measures such as the formation of vocational education and examination committees and advice and assistance with training partnerships between business and vocational colleges are particularly in demand.

Role of the International Bureau

On behalf of the BMBF, the International Bureau aims to extend the international network of German universities, research institutions and businesses in order to enhance the position of German science and industry in terms of expertise and innovation. This means the International Bureau helps realise an international dimension in the BMBF’s programs and also provides project funding on behalf of the BMBF.

China is now one of the world’s most important research countries. The number of joint German-Chinese research projects in the areas of research and education has been growing steadily for years. In order to stay abreast of these developments, the BMBF is committed to improving the framework conditions and to extending the partnership, for example with the publication of the China strategy in October 2015. The BMBF's China strategy is also a good example of the tasks performed by the DLR Project Management Agency, which provided a continuous flow of analyses, text modules and current indicators while it was being developed. The DLR Project Management Agency is an integral part of the measures planned for implementing the China strategy, for example in the areas of innovative alumni funding or promoting China competence at German universities. It is also holding dialogues with the Chinese project management agencies and ministries in order to assist the BMBF in implementing the China strategy. For this purpose, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Chinese project management agency NCSTE (National Center for Science and Technology Evaluation) and DLR on 19 January in Beijing in the presence of Federal Research Minister Wanka and her Chinese counterpart Wan.

In order to foster cooperation with the Asia-Pacific Research Area, the International Bureau also supports the implementation of various projects in Asia, including some in China.