The USA is Germany’s most important partner for scientific and technological collaboration. A great variety of joint and supportive research projects exist in nearly all areas. The two countries traditionally maintain an intense exchange of information. Several thousand scientific and study trips to the other country are funded each year.

Washington D.C.

© Johanna Füllmann / DLR

Funding opportunities

In principle, subsidies can be granted on application as part of the bilateral cooperation in research and education between Germany and the USA.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funds projects on a wide variety of topics in which researchers from Germany and the USA work together. In addition, the division responsible for cooperation with the USA provides resources for workshops and scientific exchange programmes to support young researchers and prepare projects. Measures to promote Germany as a location for study and research are becoming increasingly important


EU related opportunities:

Measures for the exploration of subject areas of particular interest to the BMBF

In coordination with the International Bureau, in individual cases, bilateral workshops and other events can also be financed if they deal topics are of strategic interest to the BMBF. These must be geared towards bringing together partners in research areas relating to specialist programmes of the BMBF and of the European Framework Programme for Research (see Priorities of the cooperation). Normally, support is provided in the form of a grant for travel costs of German project participants to the USA. In exceptional cases, material expenses are paid (incurred as part of preparing for and holding a workshop).

The conception and preparation of such workshops will take place in coordination with the BMBF. Hence, before applying, please contact the specialist at the International Bureau (IB), Dr. Barbara Hellebrandt.

Political context

Cooperation between Germany and the USA is organised in a decentralised way, and is carried out independently by the research organisations, research institutions or researchers. The intergovernmental agreement on science and technological cooperation (STC) signed in February 2010 provides a general framework for the cooperation. Based on this framework agreement, regular joint committee meetings at a ministerial level are scheduled. The first meeting took place in Berlin on 19 and 20 September 2011. Furthermore, over 50 bilateral cooperation agreements were finalised between individual institutions, which form the basis for a tight-knit network of US-German research projects.

The STC agreement that was concluded between the USA and the European Union in 1998 underlines the European dimension of collaborative research and creates further opportunities for cooperation.

Priorities of the cooperation

SOFIA - Parabel-Flugzeug

© NASA / C. Thomas. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy SOFIA during its first test flight with fully open telescope door on 18 December 2009 on the California's Mojave Desert.

The focal points for the collaboration are spread across the entire range of research areas. Another sign of the close transatlantic cooperation is the fact that large scientific facilities are used jointly by the USA and Europe. Examples of this include the involvement of the USA in the German Electron Synchotron (DESY) and the US participation in the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), including the two largest LHC experiments.

The priorities of the cooperation between Germany and the USA are currently primarily focused on the following scientific areas:

Highlights of the bilateral cooperation

A highlight of the collaboration with the USA is the completion of joint projects in health research.

A German-American funding initiative for the collaboration in computational neurosciences commenced in 2009. The BMBF and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are already in the fourth round of the funding of bilateral projects. In the area of regenerative medicine, the BMBF supports the collaborative projects on stem cell research with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). The first joint projects were started in 2010. There are plans to develop and expand the collaboration.

In October 2010, an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed by the BMBF for the establishment of the MIT-Germany Seed Fund. With these new mobility funds, the BMBF is funding the collaboration of MIT scientists with German partners via the International Bureau. The first projects are to be funded from 2012; the second round of projects will commence in 2013.

In April 2013, the BMBF announced a collaboration with the USA focusing on nanotechnology. Six projects are being funded; the first started in early 2014. The priorities of the call for funding applications are: security challenges, materials and battery research.

Background information relating to the research landscape in the USA

The responsibilities regarding research, science and education are split between the federal government and the federal states. The education system as a whole, including the universities, is managed by the federal states. Some federal states also have set up a network of their own research institutions and own research programmes. Education is represented by the U.S. Department of Education founded on a federal level in 1980, which however only has a very limited sphere of responsibility.

At federal level, science policy and public funding for research and development are handled by a large number of authorities, specialised ministries, agencies and committees. In contrast to Germany, the USA have neither a science / research ministry nor a joint research budget. The varied activities of the different specialised ministries and other state institutions are formally coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) at the White House.

In the USA, research and development receive public funding from a broad range of departments and federal agencies, and are monitored by 13 different Congress committees. The biggest sponsors regarding the budget are:

  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Health
  • NASA
  • Department of Energy

The following federal authorities play a prominent role in the context of R&D funding:

  • National Science Foundation – NSF
  • Department of Energy – DoE
  • Laboratories of the National Instititute of Standards and Technology – NIST
  • National Institutes of Health – NIH
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA
  • Department of Homeland Security – DHS
  • Department of Defense – DoD
  • Environmental Protection Agency – EPA
  • Department of the Interior - DOI
  • United States Geological Survey – USGS
  • Department of Agriculture – USDA
  • Department of Education – ED
  • Department of Transportation – DOT

The Department of State (DOS) does not have a significant R&D budget of its own and also no direct access to the (research) activities of other departments and scientific institutions. However, it plays a role in international cooperation on the level of scientific foreign policy, such as via treaties in the area of scientific and technological cooperation (STC).

Cooperation in the context of the EU

The US government and the European Commission discuss the context of the cooperation between the USA and the EU at regular meetings of the Joint Science and Technology Cooperation Committee (JSTCC). The priorities of this collaboration are on the research areas marine and polar research, transport, health and nanotechnology as well as advanced materials and new production technologies (NMP).

The BILAT USA 4.0 project is a bilateral partnership project between the EU and the USA. The objective is to promote cooperation with the USA through country analyses, by organising thematic events for European and US scientists and by improving the administrative and financial framework conditions of the cooperation. The project, which started in February 2016, combines 16 US and European institutions. The coordination of this project was entrusted to the European and International Cooperation Department of the DLR Project Management Agency.

The ENRICH in the USA initiative started in April 2017. ENRICH is the European Network of Research and Innovation Centres and Hubs. Promoted by the European Commission through Horizon 2020, the ENRICH Network currently offers services to connect European research, technology and business organisations with three global frontrunner innovation markets: Brazil, China and the USA. ENRICH in the USA is powered by NearUS, the H2020 initiative to establish a Network of European Research and Innovation Centres throughout the United States of America. ENRICH USA acts as a central contact point for European research and innovation actors seeking to grow and reinforce collaboration across the Atlantic.

Check out current EU related funding opportunities.

The role of the International Bureau

The bilateral cooperation between the governments and the research and development institutions in Germany are supported by the International Bureau (IB). The International Bureau is involved in preparing funding announcements and supports ongoing research projects scientifically and administratively. In addition, the IB assists its principals with holding scientific workshops, information events and talks in an international context.

In terms of the cooperation with the USA, the IB manages the current projects of the call for funding applications in the context of funding the scientific and technological cooperation (STC) of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with the USA in the fields of nanotechnology, the MIT Germany Seed Fund and other ongoing individual and joint projects of German research institutions with the USA.