Hungary is viewed as a strong location for science and research in Central Eastern Europe. Highly renowned universities, such as the Semmelweis and the Eötvös-Loránd Universities, are situated in the capital Budapest. Alongside other excellent universities in cities such as Debrecen, Szeged or Pécs make Hungary an attractive research landscape for cooperations.

Academy in Budapest

Academy Budapest © Tamás Gyöngyösi / iStock / Thinkstock

Funding the cooperation

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports the cooperation of German institutions with Hungarian partners with various funding announcements.

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Political framework

Research cooperation between Germany and Hungary has a long tradition. Bilateral cooperation in science and technology is based on an agreement on scientific and technological cooperation that was concluded between the governments of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Hungary on 7 October 1987 (in force since 7 October 1987). In addition, a bilateral agreement on cultural cooperation with Hungary was concluded on 1 March 1994. Increased cooperation in the field of research and technology and sustainable research cooperation was agreed in the joint declaration made by the research ministries of the two countries in Budapest on 15 September 2004.

The national strategy 2014-2020 for research, development and innovation (R&D&I), “Investing in the Future”, is the main strategic document for the years up to 2020. It is aimed at strengthening the knowledge-based economy and is based on three main processes of the knowledge-driven economy: generation of knowledge, application of knowledge, and transfer of know-how. Six parallel goals have been identified alongside these, including “smart specialisation” in the regions, tools for sustainability and equality and a stable financial framework. Hungary intends to further increase its proportion of GDP invested in R&D significantly by 2020, making it 1.8 percent by the end of the decade according to the requirement of the national R&D&I strategy.

The structural funding available nationally until 2020 – approx. EUR 21.5 billion – are provided by the leading programme “Szechényi 2020”. At close to EUR 8 billion, the largest proportion of EU funds is used for the operational programme “Economic development and innovation”. The main priority axes are:

  • Research and innovation
  • Information and communication technologies
  • SME competitiveness

Priorities of the cooperation

The Innovation Union Progress Report (IUP) 2013 lists the main competences based on publication and patent activities. According to this, the strengths of the Hungarian research are in the fields of health, vehicle manufacture and environment. In addition to ICT, Hungary can also boast strengths in the field of security. Among key technologies, biotechnology deserves a particular mention.

In the context of the BMBF announcements since Hungary joined the EU, projects were funded primarily in the following areas:

  • Environmental research,
  • Health research,
  • Production technologies, and
  • Information and communication technologies.

German institutions continue to be very successful in their involvement in the scientific and innovation communities of the European Institute for Innovation (EIT) in Budapest. For instance, Germany provides the headquarters for the two latest Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) launched in 2014 on “Raw Materials“ and “Health” in Berlin and Munich, as well as the innovation hub at KIC Health in Heidelberg.

The EU Commission awarded the EIT to the Hungarian capital in 2007. The objective of the EIT is to accelerate innovation processes and technology transfer by establishing networks between excellent education, science, research and innovation institutions in Europe. The triangle of research, education and innovation is to be reflected in the knowledge and innovation communities, and the development of business ideas and start-ups is to be supported using innovation hubs (or “co-location centre”, CLCs).

Even the first KICs on climate, innovation energy and digital, which were awarded in 2009, included German CLCs and KIC offices in Berlin, Karlsruhe and Stuttgart.

Highlights of the bilateral cooperation

BMBF announcement for the Danube Region

As part of the first announcement by the BMBF on the Danube Region in 2013, Hungary emerged as the most popular partner country from the Danube region. 39 of the 67 project proposals submitted included partner organisations from Hungary, and of the 31 approved projects, Hungary was involved in 19 - the highest proportion of all countries in the Danube region. Around three quarters of the completed projects are entering a second phase of preparing for subsequent applications, primarily at EU level.

In the context of the second BMBF announcement for the Danube region in 2015, Hungary was one of three countries to become actively involved in funding project cooperations via a co-financing declaration.

Joint funding

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Hungarian authorities work together closely to fund research cooperations. In 2013, the BMBF and the Hungarian Innovation Office (NIH) published a joint announcement to strengthen science and technology collaboration in joint competence areas, including the life sciences, agricultural sciences, environment and technical sciences. Thanks to its varied offer for funding programmes, this bilateral announcement is frequently viewed as exemplary for research collaboration in Central and Eastern Europe. German and Hungarian scientists are cooperating in 14 projects until the end of 2016. Health research plays a key role with eight projects.

Special institutions

Andrássy Gyula German-speaking University Budapest

The Andrássy University Budapest (AUB) was founded in 2001 as a multinational joint project of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Austria, the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg and the free state of Bavaria. The objective of the university is to educate highly talented university graduates for management tasks in politics, the diplomatic service, administration, the law, science, finance, culture and the media in the field of European institutions. It strives to teach and strengthen joint European values and promotes European integration. Its study offers e.g. include European and International Administration, International Economy and Business, and International Relations, and are supplemented by a postgraduate Master’s degree called “Danube Region studies” as well as by four different PhD programmes in history, political sciences, legal sciences and economic sciences.

The university is strongly focused on combining science with a market focus. As such, events focused on economic applications, such as the business model workshop “AAL2Business” and a conference called “Legal organisation of cross-border company groups in Central Eastern and South-Eastern Europe”, took place in June 2015.

Cooperation in the EU context

Hungary is involved in three of the 31 successful EU teaming projects, all of which also include German partners. Two of these projects – “smartpolis” in the social/economic sciences, and HU-HOLMEDEX in the field of medicine/life sciences – are designed as bilateral projects; an Austrian partner also participates in EPIC in the information/communication technologies. The German partners include two Fraunhofer Association institutes as well as the Urban Software Institute and the European Molecular Biology Lab.