Spain is an important partner for Germany in international cooperation, both for bilateral cooperation and for joint activities within the European Research Area. The main areas of cooperation with Spain are information and communication technologies, climate, environment and sustainability, health research und -economy, vocational education and training and higher education.

University Salamanca

University of Salamanca © jjmillan – Fotolia

Funding the cooperation

In the context of the European Research Area (ERA), cooperation between Germany and Spain takes place mainly through direct exchanges between different research institutions or individual researchers. Specific bilateral government support measures are not currently used.

Political framework

The following Spanish ministries are responsible for education and research: The Ministry of Science (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación), the Ministry of Universities (Ministerio de Universidades) and the Ministry of Vocational Education and Training (Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional).

In September 2020, the Spanish Council of Ministers published the 'Estrategia Española de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación 2021-2027', a new strategy for science, technology and innovation. In the first two years of the strategy, there is a special focus on health research due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other priorities are:

  • Strengthening public-private cooperation,
  • Promoting knowledge transfer,
  • Improving working conditions for researchers and institutions,
  • Increasing the attractiveness of Spain as a research location for outstanding Spanish emigrants and foreign researchers, and
  • Achieve full gender equality.

The strategy, together with the 'Plan Estatal de Investigación Científica, Técnica y de Innovación 2021-2027' (PEICTI) (State Plan for Scientific and Technological Research and Innovation), forms the political framework. The state plan regulates and prioritises the tasks of the state administration in the areas of science, technology and innovation and determines the distribution of state R&D funds. The PEICTI 2021-2027 is divided into two state plans, of which the PEICTI 2021-2023 is currently in force. It focuses on the four themes of the environment, knowledge and technology transfer, talent development and business leadership in relation to innovation.

Cooperation priorities

During the last German-Spanish government consultations in October 2022 in the Spanish City of A Coruña, both countries set new priorities for intensive cooperation. These include cooperation in the field of green hydrogen, supercomputing, ocean research, health research, higher education, as well as closer cooperation between research intuitions and the maintenance of academic networks.

There is a long-standing research cooperation with Spain in the fields of solar research and astronomy. Since 1980, the Plataforma Solar de Almería, a solar technology test centre, has been operated jointly by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Centro de Investigaciones Energetícas, Medoambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT).

Other key topics of the German-Spanish cooperation in recent years have been the research infrastructures XFEL, CTAO-ERIC, EU-SOLARIS, FAIR and European resarch policy (JPI, Innovationsunion, COST).

In the field of higher education, Spain is one of Germany's most popular cooperation countries. With a total of 2,399 (as of February 2023) higher education collaborations, Spain is in second place only slightly behind France. On the other hand, Spain is the most popular country for German students in the Erasmus programme.

Highlights of bilateral cooperation

The German-Spanish Forums, which have been taking place since 2002 under the patronage of the King of Spain and the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, play an important role in the further development of bilateral cooperation. The aim of the Forum is to provide an opportunity for high-level German and Spanish decision-makers from politics, business, culture, science, the media and society to exchange views.

In addition to the thematic priorities agreed in the government consultations for 2022, German Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (BMBF) and Spanish Minister Joan Subirats (Ministry of Universities) signed a joint declaration of intent to strengthen cooperation between the two ministries.