Preface – 40 Years of STC between Germany and Canada

Greetings by the two ministers

Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, MdBFederal Minister of Education and Research

Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, MdB
Federal Minister of Education and Research

Germany and Canada are celebrating 40 years of scientific and technological cooperation. We can look back on four decades of successful cooperation in a wide range of different areas of science, research and technology, and we can look ahead to the future with new ideas and initiatives. Our partnership is characterized by a high level of scientific quality and stability. Joint projects are not just carried out between individual universities and researchers; there are also collaborations between German states (Länder) and Canadian provinces and at the institutional level, between research organizations. Canada and Germany also work together closely in multilateral bodies, for example in the G8 Carnegie Group of research ministers.

Germany and Canada have decided to work together to promote economic and technological progress in both countries. The key areas of cooperation have developed in line with national priorities and global challenges. German and Canadian researchers are working together successfully in various areas of technology, including new materials / nanotechnology, photonics and green biotechnology, polar and space research, and medicine and health. Against the background of climate change, cooperation in the areas of energy and environmental research is rising in importance – for example in the field of fuel cell technology. Young researchers play a particularly important role in our collaborative activities. We are making a special effort to network young researchers from our two countries.

The 40-year anniversary of German-Canadian cooperation in science, research and technology will continue to strengthen our partnership and initiate new forward-looking projects. I wish all those involved in German-Canadian research cooperation a successful anniversary year and every success with their future initiatives.


Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Ed Fast,
Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

I am pleased to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Bilateral Science and Technology (S&T) Cooperation Agreement between Canada and Germany. Collaboration in Science and Technology is one of the key pillars on which our economic relationship is built. The S&T Cooperation Agreement, signed in 1971, constitutes an important mechanism for R&D collaboration and commercial relations, offering tremendous value for both countries.

Since the signing of the agreement in 1971, over 500 joint research projects have been completed in priority areas such as the environment, energy, nanotechnology, health and genomics. Our countries have worked together to advance technology and to develop visionary programs for increased knowledge-sharing and cooperation. This collaborative work has allowed us to solve challenging problems, develop innovative solutions and improve the competitiveness of our economies.

Canada and Germany are eager to prepare our countries’ youths for their professional lives by expanding their horizons. The recent program launched between the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the German Research Foundation (DFG) supports cooperation and the international exchange of young researchers. This is a great example of how cooperation can make a difference.

At its core, the 40th anniversary of Canada-Germany S&T cooperation is a celebration of scientific excellence. This event is about acknowledging the demanding work of research checked against the realities of the market. This celebration also acknowledges the ongoing engagement of our universities and research centres with the private sector. This involvement from multiple sectors is vital for achieving the best returns on innovation, research and development, and remains a hallmark of Canada-Germany S&T cooperation.

In closing, I congratulate all those involved in science and technology partnerships between Canada and Germany, and I look forward to future collaborations which will continue to produce mutual benefit in the years to come.


Content


German-Canadian Cooperation in Science and Technology: From the beginnings to the present day

The German-Canadian Intergovernmental Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation was signed in Bonn on 16 April 1971, by Canada’s then Minister for Trade and Industry, Jean-Luc Pépin, and German Foreign Minister, Walter Scheel. The agreement came into effect on 30 June 1971.

The two countries had already developed a close cooperation in the late 1950s and 1960s, initially in the priority areas of energy, geology of mineral deposits and raw materials. At that time, Canada’s abundant mineral reserves and Germany’s growing focus on technology complemented one another perfectly. The “Agreement concerning cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy”, which entered into force on 18 December 1957, is the first formal testimony of Canadian-German cooperation in science, and ultimately formed the basis for further joint activities, particularly in the field of mineral prospecting and exploration.

Increasingly, research institutions and universities became involved in joint activities dealing with exploration processes and other scientific matters. The Intergovernmental Agreement was established in 1971 to provide an international legal basis for these activities. Since then, it has formed the basis for cooperation between the two countries in the fields of science and technology. In addition, a cultural agreement was signed with Canada in 1975, and provided an even broader framework for cooperation at the institutional and departmental levels.

Priority areas of collaboration have developed and shifted over the years. In the 1970s, the focus continued to be on aspects of energy research, ranging from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. In addition, there were joint research projects in the fields of basic science, marine research and various areas of environmental protection. Examples of cooperation from this era include collaboration on technologies for the treatment of waste water and measures to protect forests from the effects of acid rain.

Questions of environmental protection and global climate patterns became increasingly important in the 1980s and 1990s. Remediation of contaminated sites, coastal zone management, studying the potential risks of anthropogenic environmental pollution and the reconstruction of past climatic conditions are all examples of joint projects conducted during this period.

In 2001, the German Federal Minister of Education and Research, Edelgard Bulmahn, and the Canadian Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development, Dr. Gilbert Normand, signed a joint declaration on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the German-Canadian Intergovernmental Agreement and established the future priorities for bilateral cooperation. Areas such as new materials, photonics and – in the medium term – “green biotechnology” were selected as potential priorities for intensifying cooperation. The two sides came to an agreement on a number of topics: industrial research cooperation; support for collaboration between Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) and German centres of excellence; a dialogue on research policy; and special support for young researchers under the bilateral cooperation measures. As a result of this agreement the first decade of the new millennium was characterized by close cooperation between the Helmholtz Association and the National Research Council (NRC), with joint projects taking place in the areas of life sciences, materials sciences, energy and environmental research. Particular attention was also paid to increasing the participation of young researchers in these projects, with workshops and seasonal meetings held in both Germany and Canada to generate linkages and interests in future collaborations. To this end, specific focus has been paid to the areas of photonics/optical technologies, with events also organized in the areas of nanotechnology and fuel cell research.

The extent of Canadian-German cooperation is reflected in the widely diverse topics and activities captured under the framework of the 1971 Agreement. Scientists in the field of green biotechnology, for example, have been cooperating closely to breed wheat and rapeseed. Furthermore, a strategic partnership in fuel cell research has developed in recent years. In one example, a German-Canadian project is currently being conducted on the topic of PEM fuel cells.

"Germany and Canada are celebrating 40 years of scientific and technological cooperation on 30 June 2011. We can look back on four decades of successful cooperation in a wide range of different areas of science, research and technology, and we can look ahead to the future with new ideas and initiatives."

Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, MdB

As far as the geosciences are concerned, the major organizations in both countries, the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) and the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), have been cooperating closely for many years. Joint activities are being conducted, particularly in the fields of marine and terrestrial environmental geology, polar geology and mineral deposits research. Similarly, cooperation in the field of aerospace has been just as long and fruitful, with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) currently working closely with both the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing.

Cooperative activities are also taking place between Canadian universities and German research and funding organizations, including the Helmholtz Association, the Fraunhofer Society, the Max Planck Society, and the Leibniz Science Association. The trend in recent years has shifted towards establishing long-term cooperative agreements between Canadian and German partners based on thematic areas of research. For instance, the “Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative” signed on 29 September 2009, between the Helmholtz Association and the University of Alberta focussed specifically on cooperation in the fields of the environment, energy and geosciences. Similarly, the University of Western Ontario and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology agreed in June 2010 to jointly create the International Composite Research Centre in London, Ontario. Most recently, however, the University of British Columbia and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research entered into an agreement to cooperate in the field of quantum materials, and have since established a research centre on the university campus.

The mobility of scientists and students between the two partner countries is another important basis for bilateral cooperation. An area of focus is to improve the availability of information on opportunities and prospects for students in the German and Canadian science systems. With this goal in mind, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) organized a workshop on “Increasing Mobility and Exchange between Canadian and German Students and Scientists/Researchers” in November 2009.

Funding also plays a key role in questions of mobility and exchanges for researchers in both countries. Examples of existing efforts to address this issue include the German Academic Exchange Service’s (DAAD) close network with Canadian partner organizations, as well as the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s (AvH) cultivation of global networks and on-going focus on alumni connections within the framework of its’ funding measures. Intensive cooperation is supported through the German Research Association (DFG) and the three granting councils in Canada: Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Against the background of today’s global challenges, multilateral projects are also playing an increasingly important role in areas such as environmental and marine research, aerospace and basic scientific research. In the field of particle physics, for example, German and Canadian scientists are partners in the ATLAS experiment currently being conducted at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Canada is also an important partner in research activities within the framework of the European Research Area. This cooperation is based on the 1996 Agreement on Scientific and Technical Cooperation. Germany and Canada cooperated on more than 50 projects under the Sixth Research Framework Programme and on considerably more under the Seventh Research Framework Programme.

Cooperation between German Länder and Canadian provinces is a further element of bilateral cooperation, with some of these partnerships formalized more than 25 years ago. Examples of such partnerships include:

Baden-Württemberg and Ontario – An initial agreement strengthening cooperation in the private sector through bilateral trade and cooperation projects was signed in 1987. As a result of this initial partnership, The Ontario/Baden-Wü̈rttemberg Student Exchange Programme was introduced more than 15 years ago and remains an integral part of the partnership between German Länder and Canadian provinces.

Bavaria and Quebec – An agreement was signed in 1989 to facilitate the creation of exchange programmes for science, technology, trade and culture.

Saxony and Alberta – Launched in February 2010, this Saxony-Alberta relationship is the most recent example of Länder–Province cooperation. At present, fifteen universities in Saxony and nine universities in Alberta are already involved in this exchange programme.

Germany and Canada are two very different but mutually complementary partners in science and technology, with this joint cooperation helping to shape the technological and economic development of both countries. This partnership and the goals behind it are still as valid today as they were when this partnership was first forged over 40 years ago. Entering into the fifth decade of this close and fruitful relationship, the prospects for developing and intensifying this cooperation remain outstanding.

"Collaboration in Science and Technology is one of the key pillars on which our economic relationship is built."

Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Highlights of Cooperation

Since the signing of the S&T agreement, numerous and wide-ranging cooperative activities have been implemented through initiatives launched by at the federal, state/provincial, and the institutional levels. Within the framework of these different structures, a diverse number of German-Canadian projects have been highlighted as success stories that exemplify the value and importance of this bilateral relationship.

40 Years of German-Canadian Cooperation in Space

Inauguration of the DLR satellite dish on the Canadian satellite receiving station Inuvik in August 2010.

© German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Inauguration of the DLR satellite dish on the Canadian satellite receiving station Inuvik in August 2010.

Canada and Germany have been working together closely for several decades in the broad area of aerospace research. In the field of aeronautics, both countries are collaborating in active rotorcraft research, field measurements, and obstacle detection by airborne weather radar. In space research, the diversity of cooperation is even broader, with both countries collaborating in ultralight inflatable space structures, planetary research, space robotics, satellite operations and earth observation.

It is in this latter area, earth observation, that Canadian – German cooperation is the most established. This cooperation dates back to the 1970s, during which time Canada and Germany collaborated on airborne radar systems and joint research in the areas of processors and data utilization that was crucial for the evolution of the technological capabilities of both countries. This cooperation extends to the present-day, as Canada and Germany continue to share data and engage in a variety of joint research projects, including the installation of a German-made DLR satellite dish at Canada’s Inuvik Satellite Station in August 2010.

Canadian-German PEM fuel cell cooperation PEM-Ca-D

Diminishing fossil fuel resources, increasing energy demands, and the rising awareness of the environmental impact of the traditional energy sources have driven worldwide efforts in the area of energy research. In this realm, polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are being aggressively developed as promising alternative power sources for portable, vehicular, and stationary devices because of their high thermodynamic efficiencies and energy densities.

Water is the lifeblood of such cells; it is the primary chemical product of the reaction of hydrogen with oxygen and it is the operating fluid that electrolyte and electrode layers need in order to conduct protons and facilitate electrochemical reactions. Poor water management can reduce the power density by 30-50%, cause cell failure and compromise the lifetime of PEMFC.

Water management is therefore a fundamental challenge that is consistent across all PEMFC processes, materials and scales. The PEM-Ca-D research network on micro water management in PEMFCs, founded in 2008, is a comprehensive effort to address this challenge. It combines the strengths of scientists from 10 leading German and Canadian research institutes and universities in the areas of advanced materials fabrication and characterization, modern imaging and visualization, electrochemical diagnostics, and engineering. The objectives are to improve the design of materials and cells, and to optimize the engineering control of fuel cell operation. Collaboration between partner institutions is enhanced by the exchange of students and scientists.

"Our countries have worked together to advance technology and to develop visionary programs for increased knowledge-sharing and cooperation."

Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Project partners:

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Technical and Industrial Mathematics ITWM
  • University Freiburg, Institute of Microsystem Technology IMTEK
  • Zentrum fü̈r Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung ZSW
  • German Aerospace Center, Institute of Technical Thermodynamics DLR
  • University of Victoria, Institute for Integrated Energy Systems
  • Simon Fraser University, Department of Chemistry
  • University of British Columbia UBC, Clean Energy Research Centre
  • Queen’s University, Queen’s-RMC Fuel Cell Research Centre
  • National Research Council Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation

Geological Cooperation north of the polar circle

The Arctic – with a frozen ocean twice as big as Australia, and surrounding the land masses of America, Asia and Europe – is still a huge “under-explored” part of our planet. In spite of the internet and the other advanced technologies that dominate the modern world, expeditions to the Arctic remain a significant challenge given the region‘s remote location and its distance from essential infrastructure. Because of the high costs and logistical challenges, polar research is increasingly difficult for single nations to undertake, and thus necessitates bilateral or multinational cooperation. An example of such collaboration is evident in the work being carried out by Canadian and German geoscientists in the remote reaches of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

Since 1998 the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) have been conducting joint research on the geological history of the arctic region. This collaborative effort involves mapping the Arctic islands, investigating the complex geological history of the region, and assessing the potential economic value of the natural resources contained in this area. This joint work has included seven land and ship-based expeditions to Nares Strait, Ellesmere Island and Ellef Ringnes Island, where Canadian and German Scientists established field camps in some of the most remote parts of Canada. From here researchers were able to study rock exposures and collect samples for more detailed laboratory analysis. Through subsequent research meetings, the exchange of scientists, and the joint publication of research and geological mapping, both Canada and Germany have made major advances in understanding of the geological history of the Arctic. This successful cooperation is expected to continue with future expeditions planned to both Svalbard and Ellesmere Island.

Contacts:
Stephen Grasby, Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), Canada
Karsten Piepjohn, Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Germany

"Young researchers play a particularly important role in our collaborative activities. We are making a special effort to network young researchers from our two countries."

Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, MdB

Designing Oilseeds for Tomorrow’s Markets

Canola (known in Europe as oilseed rape) contributes billions of dollars to the agroeconomies of Germany and Canada, two of the world’s leading producers of this important crop. Canola provides an optimal-quality vegetable oil for both human nutrition and biofuel, and the meal remaining after oil extraction is a valuable animal feed. This being said, use of the canola is limited in certain segments of the livestock feeding industry due to the meal’s excessive levels of certain undesired compounds. In 2005, researchers and commercial breeders in Canada and Germany joined forces in a bi-national collaboration project, “Designing Oilseeds for Tomorrow’s Markets” (DOTM), with the goal of developing methods and resources to generate yellow seed, low sinapine (“YelLowSin”) canola. Whereas the German industry is interested predominantly in winter-type oilseed rape varieties, Canada exclusively grows springsown canola. Cooperating therefore gave both countries the opportunity to share their complementary expertise, genomics platforms and plant materials without either side sacrificing their competitive advantage. Through this synergy, considerable progress was made towards development of tools and methods for the generation and selection of high-yielding YelLowSin breeding lines. The project has also acted as a catalyst to strengthen ties between the Canadian and German canola research communities, and a number of new joint research collaborations have since been established.

"The 40-year anniversary of German-Canadian cooperation in science, research and technology will continue to strengthen our partnership and initiate new forward-looking projects."

Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, MdB

Contacts:
Rod Snowdon, Wolfgang Friedt, University of Giessen, Germany
Gopalan Selvaraj, NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Randall Weselake, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada

Scientific cooperation between Bavaria and Quebec: From bilateral to global

A FP7 project involving Bavaria-Quebec collaboration

Over the last 22 years the Bavarian State and the Province of Québec have established strong cooperation in research, science and technology. Currently, Bavaria-Québec collaboration includes more than 15 joint projects in a variety of scientific disciplines ranging from neurobiology to mineralogy. Of these, the areas of climatology, neurosciences, aeronautics and laser/photonics are currently covered by specific cooperation agreements that have led to large-scale multilateral research projects in the FP7 over the last three years.

Other topics of common interest, like personalized medicine, medical engineering, forestry, energy, and new materials, are discussed on a bilateral basis at regular intervals. A joint institutional commission meets every two years and considers new proposals, and industry partners are welcome whenever possible. The two governments support this cooperation both in financial and organizational terms.

In response to success of the Bavaria-Québec relationship, effort has been made since 2007 to broaden this scientific dialogue to include Alberta, specifically in the projects regarding energy, informatics and neurosciences. A recent trilateral activity involving Bavaria, Québec and Alberta during the IFAT 2010 conference proved highly successful, and ultimately set the stage for possibility of further multilateral cooperation.

The Cooperation of Baden-Württemberg with Ontario

In 2010, the Province of Ontario and the State of Baden-Württemberg celebrated the 20th anniversary of their highly successful academic partnership. Co-operation in student exchange, faculty exchange and joint research between Ontario and Baden-Württemberg is exemplified by the 59 bilateral agreements signed between their universities. Every year, this partnership enables up to 100 students from both Ontario and Baden-Württemberg to study abroad in the partner jurisdiction.

At the 20th anniversary celebration events in Stuttgart and Constance, Deputy Minister Deborah Newman of the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and former Minister Dr Peter Frankenberg of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts, agreed to expand the student program to include resources for faculty and researcher exchanges. To support this new program, both partners announced the availability of funding for academics totalling €35,000 ($45,000) per year. As part of this exchange, faculty members from each jurisdiction will spend a research stay of 1-6 months at a partner university, during which time they will be supported by a grant from their respective government. It is expected that these exchanges will promote new partnerships, while also strengthening existing collaborations between Ontario and Baden-Württemberg.

"At its core, the 40th anniversary of Canada-Germany S&T cooperation is a celebration of scientific excellence."

Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Dr. Framheim and Dr. Webber, the initiators on Universities side both Baden-Württemberg and Ontario.

© University of Konstanz

Dr. Framheim and Dr. Webber, the initiators on Universities side both Baden-Württemberg and Ontario.

Attosecond Technology – Observing Electrons Move

We perceive the world around us to move slowly — sometimes even coming to a halt. However, hidden from our eyes are atoms, molecules and electrons, moving blindingly fast. Due to their small mass, electrons — the glue that binds atoms to molecules and molecules into larger aggregates — move the fastest. It only takes a few hundred attoseconds (10-18 of a second) for an electron to transit a molecule. A major focus of a German-Canadian collaboration has been to develop methods that are precise enough to resolve and control the dynamics of electrons in atoms and molecules.

In the 1990’s, Dr. Paul Corkum from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) suggested that infrared laser light could be used to seize control over electrons and force them to emit attosecond light pulses. Meanwhile in Frankfurt, Germany, Prof. Reinhard Dörner and collaborators were developing the reaction microscope, the best detector for imaging electrons and ions in the world.

In 2000, Prof. Dörner and Dr. Corkum met for the first time by telephone. This meeting initiated an exceptionally prolific collaboration between the University of Frankfurt and the NRC that has not only resulted in a significant exchange of technology and knowledge, but also a number of students and researchers. This collaborative project began through the direct observation of how the electric field of an infrared laser pulse produces and controls attosecond electron bunches. Then, in a measurement performed by a young student from Frankfurt, the team discovered that the laser generated electrons can be used to simultaneously image the electronic structure and the positions of the nuclei within a molecule. A decade later, this German-Canadian collaboration continues to push the frontiers of science. Dr. André Staudte, currently an NRC staff scientist, was the first Frankfurt graduate student to do experiments in Ottawa. He uses NRC lasers and the Frankfurt reaction microscope to resolve attosecond electron dynamics.

Doctoral students from Germany and Canada discuss their research at a poster session.

© Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich

Doctoral students from Germany and Canada discuss their research at a poster session.

The NINT-CeNS Winter School on Nanotechnology Convergence

In 2007, a group of PhD students and Professors of the Center for NanoScience (CeNS) at Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich were invited to the National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) in Edmonton, Alberta for a joint Winter School on Nanotechnology. During the one-week program, the German researchers were guests at the newly constructed NINT building and had the chance to explore and discuss the impact and potential of the convergence of disciplines in nanotechnology. Together with doctoral students from the University of Alberta, the German visitors followed the scientific program which comprised lectures of renowned speakers and hands-on experiments supervised by NINT researchers. To foster scientific discussions between the participants, a poster session as well as excursions and sight-seeing in the Edmonton area were organized by the hosts. In addition, the final “wrap-up” session allowed the students to present the results of the experimental work they had performed during the lab sessions. This joint Winter School gave the German and Canadian participants opportunities to interact with each other, to discuss their research projects and to exchange ideas about their respective home countries. The Winter School was financially supported by the BMBF and NINT.

Max Planck Society – University of British Columbia Centre for Quantum Materials

Quantum materials research has important potential applications in lossless power lines, computing and wireless communications, solar and fuel cells, and new medical devices for diagnosis and treatment.

In 2010, the University of British Columbia (UBC) partnered with Germany’s Max Planck Society to establish the Max Planck-UBC Centre for Quantum Materials. Located at UBC and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, the Centre provides a platform for interdisciplinary exchange and cooperation between physicists, chemists, and materials scientists at Germany’s foremost basic research institution and Canada’s leading university in quantum materials research. The Centre’s scientific focus is quantum phenomena such as magnetism and superconductivity in solid materials, which are central research topics pursued at UBC and at several Max Planck Institutes (MPIs) including the MPI for Solid State Research.

The partnership commits both institutions to joint research projects, increased scholarly exchanges and joint summer and winter schools for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. A key component of the scientific program is to plan annual workshops, discuss and showcase collaborative projects to the international community. The Centre also funds research by selected undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The Centre’s scientific steering committee is headed by Professors George Sawatzky (UBC) and Bernhard Keimer (MPI for Solid State Research).

Left to right: UBC President Prof. Stephen Toope, MPI Director Prof. Bernhard Keimer, UBC Professor Prof. George Sawatzky, MPG President Prof. Peter Gruss, UBC Vice President Prof. John Hepburn.

© Max Planck Society

Signature of the Memorandum of Understanding for the Max Planck-UBC Centre for Quantum Materials on October 4, 2010, in Munich. Left to right: UBC President Prof. Stephen Toope, MPI Director Prof. Bernhard Keimer, UBC Professor Prof. George Sawatzky, MPG President Prof. Peter Gruss, UBC Vice President Prof. John Hepburn.

Helmholtz-Alberta-Initiative

In April 2011, the Helmholtz Alliance of German Research Centres and the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, signed an agreement that paves the way for future collaboration in the fields of energy and environmental research. The focus of their joint research includes energy-efficient upgrading of bitumen, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), utilization of deep geothermal energy, soil and water remediation and the sustainable renaturation of postmining landscapes. The results of this research are to be harnessed to develop more efficient and environmentally friendly methods of using oil sands and lignite. The collaboration was established with the aim of putting this knowledge transfer into practice and using the diverse possibilities it presents to promote talented young researchers.

This initiative is the Helmholtz Alliance’s most extensive international cooperation to date, with a total of four Helmholtz Centres – the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam: German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and Forschungszentrum Jü̈lich (FZJ) – currently involved in the initiative. From a long-term perspective, the Helmholtz Association aims to expand its collaboration with the University of Alberta to one day include health research.

"Germany and Canada have decided to work together to promote economic and technological progress in both countries."

Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, MdB

Prospects for Cooperation

Cooperation between Canada and Germany, two different but very complementary partners, offers a great deal of potential for dynamic development.

At present, both Canada and Germany are focusing their attention on the following key areas:

  • Continuously evaluating and refocusing the areas of cooperation;
  • Strengthening and supporting institutional cooperation;
  • Expanding the exchange of scientists and qualified skilled staff;
  • Continuing efforts to involve industrial research partners;
  • Improving the coordination of funding for joint research projects and;
  • Providing ancillary funding for Canadian-German cooperation within the framework of EU measures.

Past and present collaboration between Canada and Germany has encompassed both basic and applied research, the latter of which includes work in the fields of energy, environment, geoscience, remote sensing and Artic science. Areas with great potential for bilateral cooperation in the future include laser research, photonics, and nanotechnology.

Increasingly, certain areas of health research have come under the framework of cooperation between German Länder, Canadian provinces and industrial partners. Examples of this collaboration include research into allergies and the genome, regenerative medicine, and infectious and neurodegenerative diseases.

New opportunities for cooperation in the field of the marine sciences are emerging on the basis of recent developments in institutional cooperation between the GEOMAR research centre and Dalhousie University. These opportunities are closely connected to environmental and Arctic research.

Canada’s significant investments in its university research infrastructure have contributed to important new agreements between Canadian universities and Germany’s renowned science and research organizations:

The “Helmholtz-Alberta-Initiative” on cooperation in the fields of the environment, energy and the geosciences;

The University of Western Ontario and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology joint International Composite Research Centre at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in London, Ontario; and The University of British Columbia and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research joint Centre for Quantum Materials.

In almost every case, research projects under the Bilateral Agreement include researcher exchanges which allow scientists the opportunity to live and work in the respective partner country for the purpose of conducting research. Young researchers play a vital role in the fostering and continued development of German-Canadian research relations and cooperation. For this reason, a considerable number of successful Young Scientist Workshops, as well as summer and winter school projects have been held specifically to attract younger researchers. Additional measures, such as the Youth Mobility Programme, also make it easier for young professionals to spend periods of work in the respective partner country, either in the context of bilateral projects or independently. Exchanges are to be encouraged and expanded within the framework of support for young well-qualified staff and scientists.

Both sides continue to seek progress in coordinating funding for research projects under the agreement, and endeavour to find ways to better involve industrial partners in suitable projects moving forward. Canadian-German cooperation has developed positively within the framework of the ERA CAN II and Access2Canada programmes. ERA CAN II helps coordinate scientific cooperation between Canada and the European Research Area, whereas Access2Canada supports EU access to Canadian research and innovation programmes. Both sides will increasingly consider and make use of such framework programmes as bilateral cooperation continues into the future.

"I look forward to future collaborations which will continue to produce mutual benefit in the years to come."

Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway