Japan is one of the economically strongest and most technologically advanced countries in the world. Japanese basic research is regularly awarded Nobel Prizes. In addition, companies are extremely generous in financing applied research and development. The basis of the bilateral research cooperation between Japan and Germany is an intergovernmental agreement from 1974. German research and intermediary organisations also actively support the cooperation.

Fuji with factory

© Torsakarin / iStock / Thinkstock

Funding opportunities

For up-to-date information please vist our web page 'Current Announcements'.The German Research and Innovation House Tokyo (DWIH Tokyo) also provides information about current funding opportunities.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about the support services provided by the International Bureau.

2+2 projects (2018-2020)

BMBF funded 3 research projects coordinated by Germany and Japan within the framework of the 'German – Japanese Academia-Industry International Collaboration Programme on Optics and Photonics (2+2)'

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research of the Federal Republic of Germany (BMBF) funded three collaborative research projects in cooperation with the JST on the topic of 'Optics and Photonics'.

Selected projects:

  • 'Efficient Silicon Photonic Devices Using Advanced Electro-Optic Polymers'
    Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Vanguard Automation GmbH, Kyushu University, Nissan Chemical Industries, Ltd.
  • 'Real-Time Fusion of Projection and Sensing by High-Speed Multispectral Units for Dynamic Interaction'
    Fraunhofer Institute, ViALUX GmbH, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo Electron Device LTD.
  • 'Development of Hyper-Resolution X-Ray Phase Imaging'
    Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT), microworks GmbH, Tohoku University, Hamamatsu Photonics K.K.

A total of 35 proposals were submitted in response to the joint call for proposals implemented by BMBF and JST. Based on the results of evaluation conducted by experts, JST and BMBF including the program officer and advisors jointly decided on the three projects for funding. Support to the projects continued for three years (2018-2020).

Political framework

The basis of bilateral cooperation in the field of research between Japan and Germany is an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of science and technology of 8 October 1974 (BGBl. 1974 II 1326). According to this STC agreement, the focal points of bilateral cooperation are as follows:

  • Marine research and technology,
  • Life sciences (biological and medical research and technology),
  • Environment (research and development of new environmental technologies).

The BMBF cooperates with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). Subordinated to the MEXT is the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), a funding organisation, which is in charge of most of the scientific and technological cooperation areas and their practical implementation.

At regular intervals, representatives of both ministries as well as of research, funding and intermediary organisations participate in STC committee meetings. The last session of the German-Japanese Commission took place on 6 February 2019 in Tokyo.

Her first trip to Asia led Minister Karliczek to Tokyo from 14-17 April 2019. The tour focussed on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digitalisation. Members of the Federal Parliament and the presidents of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and non-university research organisations (Fraunhofer, Leibniz, Helmholtz) took part in the delegation. 

On the basis of the STC agreement, not only the ministries of both nations cooperate with each other. German research and intermediary organisations are also very active in the cooperation with Japan.

Since 2001, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has maintained a Fraunhofer Representative Office in Japan to support the establishment of strategic partnerships with excellent research facilities and the promotion of local scholarship.

Since April 2009, the DFG has been represented as an intermediary organisation with an office in Tokyo. It works closely with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) also sees great potential for cooperation with Japanese research institutions and has maintained an office in Tokyo since the end of February 2013.

The Max Planck Society (MPG) currently has three Max Planck Centers in the Tokyo area, the Max Planck-RIKEN Center for Systems Chemical Biology, the Max Planck - The University of Tokyo Center for Integrative Inflammology and the Max Planck-UBC-UTokyo Center for Quantum Materials.

At the multilateral level, since 2004, the Science and Technology in Society Forum has been held in Kyoto annually. The Forum, which brings together leading academics, high level policy makers and industry representatives, provides a framework for open discussion on the progress of science and technology facing global challenges.

Cooperation priorities

Through its international department, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) provides funds for networking activities, structural measures, research projects and 2 + 2 projects. In September 2017, the BMBF, in cooperation with the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), launched a 2 + 2 funding announcement on optics and photonics, which now supports 3 projects (see above). Further focal points of the cooperation are 'autonomous and networked driving' and 'battery technology'.

As a result of the BMBF call 'Establishing joint research presences in partner countries in the Asian-Pacific region' (2016) two projects are funded in both the building and consolidation phase (2017-2022). Fraunhofer IPT cooperates with the Tokyo Women´s Medical University in the 'Conception and building of a research presence in the area of biomedical applications with special focus on Optical Coherence Tomography' (OCTmapp) and the Charité Berlin sets up with the Chiba University joint research infrastructure in the field of 'Environmental factors, course and prognosis of autoimmune diseases of the central nervous system in Germany and Japan' (CCNeuro) (further details under 'success stories').

In the framework of the BMBF funding measure 'Internationalisation of Leading-Edge Clusters, Future Projects and Comparable Networks', three clusters were selected in the first round of  competition in 2015, two clusters / comparable networks in the second round of competition in 2016 and one cluster in the third round of competition in 2017 cooperate. Japan is showing great interest in the internationalisation of clusters. The measure will support the development of internationalisation concepts and their implementation in RDI projects on equal terms with global partners, each with up to four million euros over up to five years. The following selected clusters and comparable networks focus on Japan as a destination for their internationalisation efforts:

  • Cluster Power Electronics in ECPE e.V. Nuremberg (with the regions Tokyo and Osaka)
  • Cluster OptoNet Jena (with the region Hamamatsu)
  • Cluster Organic Electronics Saxony Dresden (with the region Yonezawa / Yamagata)
  • Sports Innovation Network Munich (SINN) (with the Tokyo region)
  • Leading Cluster Munich Biotech Cluster (with the regions Kansai and Osaka)
  • Cluster CFK Valley Stade (with the regions Ishikawa and Fukui)

As part of the Junior Experts Exchange Program, every year since 1998, up to eight young German and Japanese scientists from research institutes and research departments have been invited by companies to take part in a ten-day study tour to Japan or Germany. The programme was launched in Germany in 2011 with funding from the BMBF and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi). Since 2012 funds have been excusively provided by the BMBF. From the Japanese side, the programme is funded by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

The programme aims to establish contacts between researchers from both countries and to support the formation of networks between German and Japanese centers of excellence. Outstanding junior researchers are being offered an opportunity for interdisciplinary exchange in order to intensify the Japanese-German science dialogue.

Initiated by the AHK in 2008, the German Innovation Award has been given annually to young scientists from Japan by twelve technology-oriented German companies and the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Japan (DIHKJ) under the patronage of the German Research Minister. The prize is intended to promote long-term networks and partnerships with Japanese research institutes and universities. German companies expect a more intensive exchange with Japanese science and an intensified cooperation in the field of research and development.

Young scientists and engineers are honored for their outstanding achievements in applied research in the fields of environmental protection, energy, safety, health, automotive, materials and production technologies. In addition to the prize money (2.5 million yen, equivalent to approximately 19,000 euros), the four award winners also receive scholarships from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Research Foundation (DFG) for a research stay in Germany of up to two months.