New Zealand Embassy Berlin, Germany

5th New Zealand Science Circle: Bonn, Germany

The 5th New Zealand Germany Science Circle took place in Bonn, Germany, on 19 November. The Science Circle is an annual event that alternates between Bonn and Berlin and brings together members of the German science and academic community.

The overall purpose of the Science Circle series is to build on the number of visits of outstanding scientists from one country to the other by hosting a presentation by one of the compatriot visitors, to promote the home research system and capability and to develop the bilateral science relationship.

This year’s event was hosted by the International Bureau of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). We had two presentations in front of 30 guests from various academic, research and science institutions across Germany. The first was by Rick Petersen, Senior Advisor – International, of the Science Skills and Innovation Group  within the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Rick explained the changes to the research and science sector in New Zealand and reaffirmed the importance of science and innovation within the new Ministry structure. He also set out the new developments in the science sector more broadly including changes to CRI funding and the establishment of the Advanced Technology Institute.

Dr David (Dave) Lowe gave the keynote address as the newly appointed Science and Innovation Coordinator for the New Zealand – Germany Science and Innovation Relationship. Dave provided the audience with his views on past successes in the New Zealand German science relationship, in particular INTERCOAST, a collaboration between Bremen and Waikato Universities that provides multidisciplinary courses to students in the fields of marine geoscience, marine biology, social sciences and law at a campus in Tauranga, New Zealand. Medical mechatronics (robotics) was highlighted by Dave as an area for future collaboration; combining “soft” robotic actuation technology developed at the Fraunhofer IPA institute in Stuttgart with neurological rehabilitation devices made at University of Auckland. Dave also identified some of the key elements in a successful international partnership to be: starting small but think big; universities play a key role in funding the top people; and the importance of excellence – world class working with world class.

Both presentations underscored the importance of Germany as a leading science partner for New Zealand. Both presentations are available and attached below.

A short question and answer session followed the presentations. The discussion included New Zealand’s broader science and technology engagement with the European Union, principally through the Framework Programme 7 (FP7).  New Zealand is currently engaged in 77 projects under the auspices of FP7. A work programme is also being developed under the 2009 Science and Technology Agreement between New Zealand and the EU, with Horizon 2020 (FP8) in mind. Broad synergies between both EU and New Zealand research efforts have been identified.

There was also a question on the success of the mobility schemes between New Zealand and Germany and how the travel grants can be assessed in terms of their outcomes. In response it was noted that a review would be undertaken into the success of the mobility schemes; however, they provide a pathway to success as partnerships have formed as a result of the mobility grants that have developed into bigger projects attracting further funding from different sources – “start small think big”. 

The establishment of ten National Science Challenges by the New Zealand Government with access to NZD 60 million in funding was identified as providing further opportunities for international cooperation and co-investment on research areas of mutual interest.

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