Updated on: 2020-09-14
|Q1A. What arrangements, if any, do you have in place to ensure scientific advice informs national policy and decision making in relation to Covid-19?||Based on the German Federal Government’s pandemic preparedness plan, a crisis task force jointly led by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) and German Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) gathers all ministry-specific competences for combating the national threat posed by coronavirus (Covid-19). As well as the BMI and BMG, the task force includes representatives of the German Federal Foreign Office, the German Federal Ministry of Defense, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the German Federal Ministry of Finance, the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the German Press and Information Office of the Federal Government and the German Federal Chancellery. The federal states are involved in the crisis task force through liaison officers or other advisers.
The Robert Koch Institute, as the leading public health institute in Germany, is continuously monitoring the situation, evaluating all available information, estimating the risk for the population in Germany and providing politicians with recommendations on a daily basis. Information on the novel Coronavirus and hygiene for the general public is available on the website of the German Federal Centre for Health Education. Additionally, lots of authorities and health insurances have set up hotlines.
|Q1B. In what ways, if any, are you coordinating on Covid-19 STI responses at international level?||Germany is convinced that the Covid-19 pandemic can only be overcome by working together and joining forces internationally in all areas, including research and development. To this end, the Federal Government strongly promotes collaborative approaches and is actively participating in efforts to coordinate STI responses to Covid-19 on the EU level and beyond.
EU Member States are closely working together and joining forces at EU level. The European Commission (DG RTD) has collected input from all member states on their R&D activities and is coordinating political responses at the level of the European Commission. President Ursula von der Leyen has established a Coronavirus response team to this end. These channels are also used to share objective information and data on the pandemic.
Corona-Related R&D policy in the context WHO, GloPID-R, and CEPI
Germany strongly supports and actively promotes international cooperation in the area of research and development for new vaccines, therapies and diagnostics. To this end, it has stepped up financial support of international organizations and networks that are dedicated to these aims. Germany is providing the World Health Organization (WHO) with additional financial support of 50 Mio. € for Covid-19. It also advises citizens and other states to follow the recommendations of the WHO. During the World Health Assembly on May 18, 2020, the Federal Ministry of Health also called for a reform of the WHO to strengthen its ability to coordinate responses and collect information and data faster in future health crises.
Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting the international Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) with an additional 140 Mio. € to promote R&D on new vaccines against Covid-19. These come as an addition to the 90 Mio. € that Germany has already been contributing to CEPI between 2017 and 2021. At the European Commission’s Donor Conference on May 4, 2020, Germany has furthermore committed to further increase contributions to CEPI by 90 Mio. € in 2021. Germany also invites G20 countries to support the international Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in their effort to develop a vaccine against SARS-Cov2.
Investment coordination and GloPID-R
Germany exchanges information with other national players, foundations and scientific institutions philanthropic sponsors under the WHO umbrella in order to achieve the most targeted and coordinated investment possible for the research funds available worldwide. In this regard, the cooperation within “Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Research” (GloPID-R) is most relevant. In this international network, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research coordinates investments in research and development with other actors who are involved in infectious disease research funding under the roof of the WHO.
G7 and G20
Germany is also closely working together with G7- and G20-member states. The G7 and the G20 has expressed its backing for closely coordinated approaches and for the work and global pandemic plan of the WHO, the Coalition of the Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the vaccine alliance GAVI, as well as the crisis mechanisms of the IMF and the World Bank.
The recently adopted G7 Leaders’ statement expresses “our conviction that current challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic need a strongly coordinated international approach, based on science and evidence, consistent with our democratic values, and utilizing the strengths of private enterprise.” The G7 “will increase coordinated research efforts, including through voluntary support for the global alliance Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation. We will support the launch of joint research projects funded by both public and private resources, and the sharing of facilities, towards rapid development, manufacture and distribution of treatments and a vaccine, adhering to the principles of efficacy, safety, and accessibility.”
The G7 Science and Technology Ministers have made a joint declaration on Covid-19 that revolves around a "shared vision for science and technology in responding to the pandemic, protecting human health, and promoting social and economic recovery”. In detail, the declaration includes the G7 ministers' intention to enhance cooperation on shared Covid-19 research priority areas; make government-sponsored research, data and information related to Covid-19 easily accessible to the public; strengthen the use of high-performance computing to boost responses; launch a global partnership on AI; and exchange best practices to advance broadband connectivity to mitigate educational, social and economic damages and foster recovery.
|Q2.Do you have dedicated arrangements in place for communicating science advice and for refuting misleading information to the public on Covid-19?||Germany is aware of the need to counter the dissemination of misleading information through the media, and to intensify risk communication for the general public as well as for health care professionals. With view to the spread of disinformation regarding Covid-19, the Federal Government has declared it an explicit goal to communicate all policy measures and steps to tackle the pandemic in a "transparent and comprehensive manner”. The editorial departments of all government communication channels rectify misunderstandings, untrue statements and purposeful disinformation. Furthermore, the Federal Government publishes information on how to identify fake news.
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research set up a topic page “Corona virus fact check”. As the virus spreads around the world, Germany is aware of the importance of getting accurate information about the disease. To combat misinformation, the webpage is updated regularly and this information is spread through social media channels to counteract false information.
Moreover, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research issued a Call on detecting and combating online disinformation campaigns. The aim of the Call is to foster the research on methods and technologies as well as social and regulatory frameworks to gain a better understanding and to contain mass distribution of disinformation related to Covid-19.
The Press and Information Office of the Federal Government addresses the general public with a wide range of Covid-19 related topics through its homepage www.bundesregierung.de and social media channels. With one of the most important cross-media promotion campaign in history and the widespread support of the civil society, the Federal Government promotes Germany’s Corona-Warn-App. The app helps citizens to determine whether they have had any contact with an infected person. This way, German health services can interrupt chains of infection more quickly. The Corona-Warn-App is available as free download in more than 20 languages.
Furthermore, the Robert Koch Institut (RKI), Germany’s government agency and research institute for disease control and prevention, publishes a daily written situation report on the Covid-19 (available in English language).
|Q3. What new STI policy measures, if any, is your country taking to respond specifically to the Covid-19 crisis?||The Federal Republic of Germany is heavily engaged in strengthening research to address the Covid-19 crisis. To this end, the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag allocated additional funds for related research.
Corona-related funding for German research institutes
The German Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) has provided 9,574 Mio. € to support (federal) research institutes in the fight against Corona. The research activities aim at
• supporting the national fight against spreading of the virus
• the development of vaccines and therapeutics
• establishing and improving the national and international crisis management
• health education and information for the public and professionals.
The institutes receiving support from the German Federal Ministry of Health are:
• Robert Koch Institute (RKI): (i) Expansion and strengthening of the surveillance systems for acute respiratory infections (currently: ICOSARI, GrippeWeb, Arbeitsgemeinschaft Influenza), establishing an integrated molecular surveillance system and increase of diagnostic capacities. (ii) Establishing and improving of national and international crisis management and support of the Federal States in fighting the outbreak. (iii) Education and information for the public and professionals – support of international measures of the RKI (here: African partner institutions and countries).
• Bernhard Nocht Institute on Tropical Medicine, Research Center Borstel, Hasso Plattner Institute: (i) Measures to develop new infrastructures for diagnosis and development of new anti-virals and therapies against Covid-19, (ii) research aiming at characterization of SARS-CoV-2 to better understand its spreading and properties, (iii) providing data on epidemic transmission patterns and diagnostics of proof and resistance of the virus.
• Bernhard Nocht Institute on Tropical Medicine – extra application “international”: Support for the health care system in 12 African countries: Equipment for diagnostic centers, training of lab personnel und capacity building.
• Bernhard Nocht Institute on Tropical Medicine – extra application “Counselling of health professionals”: Establishing a 24 h counseling service for health professionals to (i) support individual medical decisions/considerations and (ii) prevent decrease in the management of other diseases.
Programmes to accelerate research and development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2
Germany supports the development of vaccines within the international Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) framework, which it has supported with a total of 90 Mio. € since 2017. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the German Ministry of Education and Research has allocated an additional 140 Mio. € for vaccine development within CEPI.
In addition, the German Ministry of Education and Research has launched a special programme with up to 750 Mio. € to accelerate research and development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. The programme specifically aims at enabling clinical studies with larger groups of test subjects, and to expand manufacturing capacities.
Research Call for COVID-19 Treatment Options
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research issued a call on the development of drugs for the treatment of Covid-19, as well as research that contributed to better understanding the virus, on 3rd March 2020. The Call’s budget currently amounts to 45 Mio. €. Based on the research priorities set in the WHO roadmap for COVID-19, the Call is structured in different modules:
• Module 1 - Combating Covid-19 through early clinical studies for the application of already known therapeutic approaches to Sars-CoV-2
• Module 2 - Control of Covid-19 through new therapeutic and clinical diagnostic approaches
• Module 3 - Research that contributes to the understanding of the virus and its spread
• Module 4 - Support of already ongoing research projects on corona viruses
The Call closed on 11 May 2020 and a total of 525 proposals were submitted. So far, over 50 projects have been selected for funding, but the evaluation is still under way. Updated information on the projects funded in the Call will be made available through GloPID-R and the UKCDR Dashboard.
Call for interdisciplinary research on epidemics and pandemics
On March 19, 2020, the German Research Association (DFG) launched a Call for interdisciplinary research proposals on epidemics and pandemics. Projects will be funded that address prevention, early detection and containment or research on the causes, consequences and handling of epidemics and pandemics looking at SARS-CoV-2 and other human-pathogenic microorganisms and viruses.
University Medicine Network
Since March 2020, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the establishment of a research network with 150 Mio. € to promote the exchange of data and research of German university medicine in the context of the current pandemic crisis. The network’s goal is to establish centralized infrastructures for data sharing, such as a patient-related database, in order to identify best practices, ensure the highest possible standard for treatment, and generate a solid foundation of data for research and treatment. In this way, the initiative aims to bring together and evaluate the action plans, diagnostic and treatment strategies of all German university clinics by bundling patient data across all German university hospitals in a joint database and merging patients’ medical histories. This approach may effectively flank the medical staff’s work and allow scientists to gain knowledge on the individual treatment of patients, pandemic management, and the development of therapies. The network also aims to launch a national task force on Covid-19 that brings together German university medicine and political representatives.
New political measures to accelerate and facilitate mass testing, data sharing and transmission chain detection
Due to the coronavirus crisis, Germany passed a new law for the protection of the population during epidemics of national relevance on May 15, 2020. The law envisages new measures to accelerate and facilitate mass testing and sets in place new mechanisms for fast data sharing and faster detection of infection transmission chains. It includes the expansion of existing reporting systems, it enables the Federal Ministry of Health to oblige health insurance providers to pay for coronavirus and antibody tests, and it requires test laboratories to transmit both positive and negative test results as well as further testing data to the Robert Koch Institut (RKI), Germany’s government agency and research institute for disease control and prevention, in an anonymised form.
|Q4A. At national level, what mechanisms are you developing or relying upon to bring together different STI actors (researchers, industry, government, health sector, foundations, etc.) to effectively collaborate on responses to Covid-19?||University Medicine Network
Since March 2020, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the establishment of a research network with 150 Mio. € to promote the exchange of data and research of German university medicine in the context of the current pandemic crisis. The network’s goal is to establish centralized infrastructures for data sharing, such as a patient-related database, in order to identify best practices, ensure the highest possible standard for treatment, and generate a solid foundation of data for research and treatment. In this way, the initiative aims to bring together and evaluate the action plans, diagnostic and treatment strategies of all German university clinics by bundling patient data across all German university hospitals in a joint database and merging patients’ medical histories. This approach may effectively flank the medical staff’s work and allow scientists to gain knowledge on the individual treatment of patients, pandemic management, and the development of therapies. The network also aims to launch a national task force on Covid-19 that brings together German university medicine and political representatives.
Support Network for Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research (FIS)
The Support Network for Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research (Fördernetzwerk Interdisziplinäre Sozialpolitikforschung, FIS), established by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, encourages cooperating research groups to include Covid-19-related issues and perspectives into existing research and secondly launched a call for interdisciplinary research projects on the social implications of the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2020. Knowledge transfer activities are planned to share the results between science- and policy-actors for better informed public policies.
|Q4B. At international level, what mechanisms are you developing or relying upon to bring together different STI actors (researchers, industry, government, health sector, foundations, etc.) to effectively collaborate on responses to Covid-19?||Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting the international Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) with an additional 140 Mio. € to promote R&D on new vaccines against Covid-19. These come as an addition to the 90 Mio. € that Germany has already been contributing to CEPI between 2017 and 2021. At the European Commission’s Donor Conference on May 4, 2020, Germany has furthermore committed to further increase contributions to CEPI.
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is collaborating with other funders that include foundations, scientific institutions and national players, which are all involved in infectious disease research, in the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Research (GloPID-R) under the roof of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in order to coordinate investments in research and development.
The German Federal Ministry of Health is providing the World Health Organisation (WHO) with additional financial support of 50 Mio. € specifically for Covid-19.
WHO Study “Solidarity”
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is contributing 1.5 Mio. € to the WHO study “Solidarity” alongside 69 other countries, which aims to explore whether existing drugs and treatments may help treat COVID-19. The study, which includes more than 10,000 patients worldwide, is focusing on the Ebola treatment drug Remdesivir; the Malaria drugs Chloroquin and Hydroxychloroquin; and a combination of HIV drugs Lopinavir and Ritonavir as well as Interferon-beta. The German Center for Infection Research and the German Center for Lung Research are coordinating the various German research institutions that participate in this study.
Bilateral and Regional Cooperation
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development will increase measures of German bilateral and regional cooperation with reserve funds in the amount of 20.82 Mio. € and will also examine further possibilities for short-term technical and financial support for the partner countries of German development cooperation. Regional focus is Africa. Teams of experts from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine are providing short-term support in the form of technology and equipment to selected African countries.
|Q5. What novel approaches, if any, is your country using to address the coronavirus crisis (e.g. use of machine learning, open science initiatives boosting access and sharing of data and research results, development and use of prediction models, etc.)?||COVID-19 Hackathon
On 20-22 March 2020, the Federal Government co-sponsored a 48-hour virtual COVID-19 hackathon that was open to the entire German society and aimed at developing solutions to the numerous challenges related to the Covid-19 crisis (e.g. How to organise neighbourhood assistance through helper platforms? How to track corona-infected, tested and recovered persons?). Over 28,000 participants worked on 810 projects organized around 49 themes. 130 project proposals qualified for a project implementation program over the next six months. Furthermore, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting the development and launch of the 34 most promising projects with a grant totaling 1.5 Mio. €. These 34 initiatives will be included within the framework of the Ministry’s pre-existing "Prototype Fund" programme.
In June 2020, the Federal Government launched its new “Corona-Warn-App” which aims to track infection chains, uncover new infection clusters, promote early testing of potentially infected individuals, and thus help curb the spread of coronavirus infections. Download and activation of the app is voluntary. The German government has invested 20 Mio. € into the app’s development and will spend a further 2.5 Mio. € to 3.5 Mio. € per month for operation.
|Q6A. What impact on the STI system do you anticipate in the short-, medium- and long-term, and what measures are you implementing to address those?||Measures to address negative effects on science and research
To counter the detrimental effects of the coronavirus pandemic on Germany’s STI system and help mitigate the negative effects on researchers and projects, the German Ministry for Education and Research has expanded the framework for scientific project funding on short notice. This measure aims to ensure that all procedures surrounding the continued funding and execution of projects, which were already being funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research before the beginning of the pandemic, are processed in a manner that is responsive to the special circumstances.
To further mitigate negative effects on science and research specifically with view to the academic staff, the Federal Government has also extended the maximum legal fixed term for the employment of academic and artistic staff in the qualification phase by six months. In the event of the pandemic lasting for longer than this, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research will be authorized to issue an ordinance to extend the maximum fixed term of employment by a maximum of another six months with the approval of the Bundesrat.
The German Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF) is also supporting university students by facilitating rules and procedures regarding financial education and training assistance. The German National Association for Student Affairs (DSW) is provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with 100 Mio. € for local student services emergency funds. This money is used to help those students who are suffering from particularly acute hardship and who need immediate help and do not have access to other forms of support.
As an immediate measure to address pandemic-related gaps in education due to social distancing rules and mitigate negative effects on German STI systems, the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF) is advancing digitalization in education. Measures include opening 500 Mio. € from the DigitalPakt Schule to enable the German Länder to increase digital teaching provision during school closures until the end of 2020; extra funding of 500 Mio. € to enable schools to lend mobile digital devices to students who don’t have these at home; the expansion the BMBF’s ongoing “Hasso-Plattner-Institut” (HPI) School Cloud project to provide a digital learning environment for schools throughout the country; the launch of a “Wir bleiben Schlau!” (We stay smart!”) campaign to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at home through interlinked web programmes; and 500,000 € of short-term funding for Germany’s Adult Education Association (DVV).
Online survey on research, development and innovation (R&D&I) activities of SMEs
In order to study the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on current and planned private-sector research, development, and innovation activities, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) conducted an online survey targeting innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). More than 1,800 companies took part in the survey. The results of the survey show that the vast majority of the firms plan to adapt their R&D&I activities due to the coronavirus pandemic. Three quarters would postpone or extend the duration of their R&D&I projects, 54% would temporarily interrupt projects and a quarter even abandon their projects. But results also show that three quarters of the consulted SMEs intend to continue or to start R&D&I activities to diversify their product(s) and service range. Digitalization of R&D&I activities will play a greater role in the future for about 50% of the SMEs. A further outcome is the need of support in strengthening entrepreneurial resilience (83%) and entrepreneurial innovation management (74%). In order to mitigate negative effects of the pandemic on innovative SMEs, BMWi has adjusted the framework conditions of project funding, e.g. allowing for more flexibility within existing innovation support schemes.
|Q6B. Is support of the STI system part of planned stimulus packages aimed at supporting the economy?||Initial wave of stabilization measures
The Federal Government has been developing and implementing a variety of measures of historic dimensions to stabilize the economy. In the initial wave of economic stabilization measures and short-term aid in the first two quarters of 2020, the German government sought to ease liquidity shortages and help companies of all sizes and sectors to secure their immediate survival, prevent layoffs, and protect assets. While these measures did not specifically target German STI systems, the broad and swift implementation of measures have been playing a crucial role in maintaining the foundations of STI in Germany as they contribute to keeping experienced teams together, avoiding layoffs of highly qualified workers, and securing intellectual and physical assets. All of these elements are key in sustaining innovation and R&D in the future.
Economic Stimulus Package June 2020
In June 2020, the German Cabinet has adopted a broad, medium-term economic stimulus package worth 130 billion € that includes a temporary cut in value added tax, financial support for parents, and tax relief for companies to ensure liquidity. Germany considers research and innovation to be of vital importance for economic recovery and sustainability, which is why these areas play a crucial role in the package. To this aim, the programme is designed to revive the economy while simultaneously equipping Germany for the future through structural changes that will carry on well into the next decade.
Beyond its socioeconomic goals, the package is specifically geared towards research and measures promoting the research and development of seminal technologies as well as to mitigate climate change. A total of 50 billion € under the programme is earmarked for a package for the future. It includes tax breaks for research into the development of quantum computing and artificial intelligence. Stepping up the use of hydrogen power and promoting electric mobility are also part of the package.
The fiscal measures aimed at the private sector are designed to enable companies to continue investments in research and development even during the crisis. To this end, the tax losses in 2020 and 2021 that may be offset against profits in previous years will be raised to 5 Mio. € per year. Furthermore, the assessment basis for fiscal research promotion is to be doubled to an annual total of 4 Mio. € per company until the end of 2025.
In order to protect innovative potential, the Federal Government is also assisting start-ups. Existing programmes are to be supplemented and additional funding is to be made available for public venture capital investors. Funds of up to 2 billion € have been earmarked to this end.
Due to the federal nature of Germany's political system, there are also a number of initiatives and measures below the federal level, on the level of the German Länder, that also affect Germany’s STI systems on a regional scale. To bolster the regional economy, most Länder have set up supplementary support programmes. These include broader plans such as “Soforthilfe Corona” plans to secure SME financing during the crisis, as well as more specific measures, such as Hamburg’s “HCS InnoStartup” which especially targets innovative startups.
|Q7. Is there anything else regarding the STI policy response to Covid-19 in your country you would like to mention?||[Left blank]|