Strengthening research ties with Berlin universities

NUS has long-standing ties with universities in the German city of Berlin and academics from both sides should tap on these links to further their research, a recent webinar heard.

Joint calls and events are in the works, with the aim of allowing researchers to network. Both sides are actively inviting academics to submit research ideas to facilitate matchmaking for greater synergies. There will also be support for further development of projects already funded, including research focuses that would lead to added value for all participating institutions.

“I continue to encourage collaborations between our researchers. It is only by coming together and leveraging our unique expertise and experiences that we can generate creative, innovative and effective solutions for our global needs,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

Prof Tan noted that Germany and Singapore are countries which invest heavily in research and development, a vital engine of economic growth. Germany is one of the few countries in Europe that has continued to increase investment in this area, despite the financial crisis of 2008. Likewise, Singapore plans to invest some $25 billion over the next five years to fund scientific research and boost support for innovation and the commercialisation of technologies.

“Our researchers are well placed, and well supported to engage in solid, pioneering research work,” Prof Tan said.

The webinar on 26 Jan was organised by the Berlin University Alliance (BUA), a research and education-focused consortium of four universities in the German capital – Freie University of Berlin; Humboldt University of Berlin; the Technical University of Berlin; and the Charité Medical University of Berlin.

No slowing down

NUS had a research partnership with BUA member Humboldt University from 2015 to 2018 which yielded 20 jointly-funded research projects in areas including the natural sciences, mathematics, law and social sciences.

Expanding this tie-up, NUS then signed an MOU with the BUA in 2019 to establish the BUA-NUS Research Partnership. Through seed grants, the partnership supports research collaborations between BUA and NUS researchers in themed areas.

The Partnership has launched two calls for proposals to date. The first call, for 2019 to 2020, was successful and the universities are looking at further development for those projects.

The second call, for 2020 to 2021, had a focus on global health and was open to all disciplines. Reviews of the proposals are currently underway.

“With a call for joint research proposals focusing on global health, we have made the first steps towards answering some of the most urgent research questions together. However cooperation between our researchers is not limited to global health,” said Professor Sabine Kunst, President of Humboldt University and spokesperson for BUA.

She noted that the initial joint call in 2019 attracted excellent research projects in wide-ranging fields including life sciences, mathematics and engineering.

Both Prof Tan and Prof Kunst agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of international research collaborations, with advances in vaccines, diagnostics and treatments possible only because of cooperation among researchers from all over the world.

Singapore's Ambassador to Germany, His Excellency Laurence Bay, said that both countries enjoy decades of excellent bilateral collaboration in the field of education and research. The Singapore Embassy has been pushing for more exchanges, collaborations and interactions between Singapore and German universities, polytechnics, think-tanks and research institutes – not only those in Berlin, but all across the country.

“My friends, we must accelerate and we must expand our collaboration in research – not slow down, and not stay within our comfort zone,” he urged.