Germany plans Global Centres to tackle worldwide problems

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is calling for proposals to set up ‘Global Centres’ to explore worldwide challenges, all of them located in countries of the Global South. Four of them are to focus on climate issues and four on health and pandemic topics.

A German university can apply to set up any one of the eight cross-disciplinary centres. Successful institutions will then work closely with German and international organisations in developing the centres. Germany’s Foreign Office is providing about €22 million (US$26 million) for the scheme up to 2025, and each centre is to receive an annual €600,000. Funding can later on be extended up to 2030.

“We are facing huge challenges in the 2020s. We seek to, and must, deal with worldwide crises in order to preserve the world’s natural resources,” Michelle Müntefering, minister of state for international cultural affairs and education at the Foreign Office, said.

“The past few months have shown that research on climate change, environmental, health and pandemic issues is the key lever to handle the most urgent problems through academic collaboration across borders.”

Key requirements for prospective centres include an interdisciplinary approach, strong international networking across several continents and close communication between the fields of politics, business and civil society, in order to ensure swift transfer of new insights to practical areas.

Universities participating in the scheme can benefit from support measures ranging from digital communication formats in research and teaching and the development of degree programmes based on staff exchange and scholarships to the setting up of guest lectureships.

“The corona[virus] pandemic has shown us that in times of global crisis we have to work together globally. This applies to health research, for example in seeking therapeutics and vaccines to combat the pandemic, and equally to the enormous challenge of climate change and its consequences,” said DAAD President Joybrato Mukherjee, announcing the programme.

“With the new Centres for Climate and Health Research, we want to make a further contribution to intensifying international collaboration.”

The four Centres for Health and Pandemic Preparedness are to focus on preventing and treating infectious diseases. The aim is to expand and improve prevention, treatment and response mechanisms relating to health and pandemic issues. The centres will, therefore, cooperate closely with national and international disease control authorities, extra-university research institutions and pharmaceutical and medical engineering industries.

Research issues such as reducing levels of greenhouse gases that are harmful for the climate, promoting a climate-friendly economy or adapting to the impacts of climate change are to be viewed from different subject and transnational perspectives by the four Centres for Climate and Environment.

In addition to climate research, they are to involve fields such as the engineering, natural and social sciences in treating topics relating to climate and the environment.

The proposals for the centres will be assessed in a two-stage process by a selection committee of university experts. Universities interested in the scheme can first of all submit a draft project. Following a launch event marking pre-selection and networking in mid-December, full proposals can be handed in until 23 February.

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