In the course of Romania's accession to the EU, Germany has become one of its most important partners. German experts and technologies are in high demand, especially when it comes to aligning the Romanian research infrastructure with that of the EU. The traditional strength of Romania's research lies in basic science and engineering.

Romanian Academy of Science

© Ralf Hagedorn / DLR

Funding the cooperation

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research utilises numerous funding announcements to support the cooperation of German institutions with Romanian partners.

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Political framework

German-Romanian research cooperation has a long tradition. Bilateral cooperation in science and technology is based on the 'Agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Government of the Republic of Romania on Scientific Research and Technological Development' signed on 29 June1973.

In 2014, the Romanian government adopted its 'Research, Development and innovation strategy 2014-2020'. Its three central strategic goals are to:

  • promote economic competitiveness through innovation,
  • increase Romanian contribution to knowledge progress and
  • enhance the role of science in society.

The key objective is to increase the share of the GDP for R&D expenditure to 2% by 2020, which should lead to a GDP growth of 12% by 2025. The ambitious individual goals include, for example, tripling the number of publications and decupling the number of patent applications. Against the backdrop of regional intelligent specification (RIS3), Romania's research is especially strong in the fields of bioeconomy, information technologies, energy, as well as environment and ecotechnologies. The most important social challenge - including in relation to research policy priorities - is in the field of health.

Cooperation priorities

In 2013 and 2015, the BMBF published an 'Ideas competition for the development and expansion of innovative R&D networks with partners in Danube riparian states' ('Danube Region Call'). Half of the funded projects were carried out with Romanian partners. The main focus of the cooperation lies in the area of ​​production technologies and health research.

German actors have been very strongly represented in previous Horizon 2020 projects with Romanian participation, at around 70%, which is significantly more than in the 7th Framework Programme for Research. After Italy, Germany is the second most important partner country for Romanian H2020 investments. The thematic focus of the joint projects is on energy research.

Cooperation highlights

An important milestone in recent collaboration was an innovation workshop organised by the BMBF in Bucharest. The event in November 2015 aimed to develop new opportunities for cooperation in the fields of Romanian research strengths – mechanical engineering, information and communication technologies, environmental and key enabling technologies. Six German research institutions and companies presented their research spectrum and were then available for one-on-one discussions as part of a brokerage arrangement. The workshop was joiuntly organised by the DLR-PT and the AHK Romania.

Special institutions

The beacon of cooperation in the humanities and social sciences is the New Europe College Bucharest (NEC), founded in 1994 by Romanian philosophy professor Andrei Pleşu. The name and start-up funding derived from the New Europe Award, which was awarded to Pleşu by an international jury in 1993 following a study visit to the Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin. The founding idea was to set up a centre for top-level humanities and social science research in Romania, thus linking the country to world class internatioal research.

Germany has committed both conceptually and financially to the development of the NEC. The BMBF funded the scientific operation between 2001 and 2016. Other German sponsors such as the Stifterverband der deutschen Wissenschaft, the Thyssen Foundation and the Volkswagen Foundation were, and still are, involved, too. Aan annual average of 30 scholarship recipients have benefitted from the 13 NEC programmes to date, and the Almuni Network today consists of over 500 former graduates. In 2014, NEC fellows received two ERC grants. This was the first time that ERC grants went to Romania.

The development of the Bulgarian-Romanian Inter-University Europe Centre (BRIE) was also significantly supported by the German side. BRIE is a regional cooperation institution based in Ruse (Bulgaria) and Giurgiu (Romania). It was initiated in 2000 by the German Rectors' Conference (HRK) as a project within the framework of the 'Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe' and since 2002 has implemented education and research projects on the basis of regional and transnational cooperation. BRIE - deliberately built in a border region - cooperates with German universities, which are also located in border regions: TU Chemnitz and European University Viadrina Frankfurt / Oder.

A successful individual project of the BRIE is BRAINS (Bulgarian-Romanian Area Identies: Neighborhood Study), which was co-initiated by the German side and implemented with EU structural funding. Based on survey studies of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens and of analyses of German-Polish and German-Czech examples of good practice for European integration, the project concept RO-BUL-NA (Romanian-Bulgarian Neighborhood Area) was derived in order to create a long-term common identity for the inhabitants a region that is often percieved as remote and out of touch.

Cooperation in the EU context

The European project 'Extreme Light Infrastructure' (ELI), a major laser research facility, is currently being built in Czech-Hungarian-Romanian cooperation. It is the first research infrastructure to be built and operated exclusively in the newer accession countries of Central and Southeastern Europe. It will provide a laser output that exceeds the value of today's laser systems by a factor of thousands. Romania will use the Nuclear Physics Facility (ELI-NP) as the technically most intricate pillar of the three-country complex.

The plant is being built in Magurele near Bucharest, near the National Institute for Physics and Nuclear Technology 'Horia Holubel' (IFIN-HH) and the National Institute for Laser, Plasma and Radiation Physics (INFLPR). The Romanian government also expects the European laser system to make an important contribution to reversing the 'brain drain'. The project has already encouraged some top Romanian researchers to return to their home country to help advance the development work there.