How far are we back in technology

2020 - we take a look back

Funded by the BMBF: The vaccine against corona has been approved

It was the topic of the past few days and for many the proverbial ray of hope at the end of the tunnel: The EU was eagerly awaiting the approval of the first vaccine candidate from the German company BioNTech. On December 21, 2020, the time had finally come - the first vaccine against COVID-19 was approved in the EU and the vaccination campaigns could begin.

The fact that the approval was granted so quickly is due not only to excellent scientific performance, but also to the financial support of the BMBF. Because in addition to its international involvement in the vaccine alliance CEPI, the BMBF has also funded three projects in Germany that rely on different technologies with the special program to accelerate research and development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. One of these projects is the now approved vaccine from BioNTech, which was funded by the BMBF with up to 375 million euros.

The company CureVac and IDT Biologika have also received further funding. Thanks to BMBF funding, the institutions were able to set up their projects more broadly and thus ultimately make faster progress.

Charité Berlin developed a PCR test as early as January 2020

Right at the beginning of 2020, when the corona virus was previously only known from China, researchers from the BMBF-funded German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) at the Charité Berlin developed a decisive innovation for containing the pandemic. Christian Drosten's working group succeeded in developing a PCR test protocol for the detection of SARS-CoV-2, which was immediately made available to the WHO as a guideline for laboratories worldwide. At the time, it was the world's first diagnostic test with which the SARS-CoV-2 virus could be detected in the laboratory. With this PCR test, the research group was one of the world's pioneers.

In a global comparison in the research area of ​​cybersecurity, CISPA is in first place

The BMBF also supports innovations in other fields: A few years ago, the CISPA was founded in Saarbrücken. Security solutions for digital systems are to be developed there. CISPA is one of three national competence centers for IT security research funded by the BMBF since 2011. The institute's self-imposed claim is to "take on an outstanding position in research, transfer and innovation on an international level by combining state-of-the-art, often revolutionary basic research with innovative application-oriented research, corresponding technology transfer and social discourse" (CISPA, 2020). The CISPA 2020 came much closer to this: This year the institution belonging to the Helmholtz institutes achieved first place in cybersecurity in the global Computer Science Ranking. A really big success - congratulations!

Bloomberg Innovation Index 2020: Germany moves to the top

And there is another first place to celebrate in 2020: According to the Bloomberg Innovation Index 2020, Germany moves to the top in the global innovation ranking. It is also the second largest exporter of research-intensive goods. This proves that researchers from Germany are driving innovations forward around the world. Because especially in times of the corona pandemic, but also when mastering long-term global challenges such as climate change, innovations - and thus the courage and research spirit of the developers - are needed more urgently than ever.

With this year's top 1 placement, Germany is pushing South Korea, who has been reigning innovation winner for six years, from the throne. The BMBF does not want to rest on this top position - on the contrary. We want to maintain and expand this pioneering role in 2021 - with targeted investments in education and important future technologies such as artificial intelligence or quantum technologies.

R&D quota rises to 3.17% of GDP

The Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft) recently reported good news: In its latest survey, the association found that in 2019 the ratio of spending on research and development (R&D ratio) rose to 3.17% of gross domestic product (GDP). This is the third time in a row that Germany has achieved its goal of spending at least 3 percent of its gross domestic product on research and development - and the trend is rising. Expressed in absolute numbers, this means: In 2019, companies, the state and universities in Germany spent a total of around 109 billion euros on research and development.

This positive development also benefits the German research landscape in terms of personnel. “Never before have so many researchers worked in companies as last year,” says the Stifterverband. A great development that we want to build on!

The largest Arctic expedition of all time - the MOSAiC expedition - was successfully completed in 2020

It was an expedition of extremes: temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius, 150 days of darkness in the polar night, the nearest mainland up to 1,000 kilometers away and the geographic North Pole sometimes less than 200 kilometers away. In 2020 the MOSAiC expedition ended with the arrival of the POLARSTERN on October 12th in its home port of Bremerhaven. Goosebumps moment in 2020.

The expedition also stands out in terms of internationality: More than 80 institutes from 20 countries and expedition participants with 37 nationalities were involved. A total of 442 scientific trip participants, POLARSTERN crew members, young researchers, teachers and media professionals were there during the five expedition sections. With the information obtained, the researchers want to better understand climate change and take climate and ecosystem research to a new level. Germany has taken a leading role here by assuming well over half the costs of the expedition. The findings are eagerly awaited, because the evaluation of the data has only just begun. If you want to look back on this special event in 2020, we recommend our report on the MOSAiC expedition.

The federal government is investing 6.5 billion euros in the digital pact for schools

No, of course the DigitalPact School is not an original product of the year 2020. Since 2019 *, the states and municipalities have been able to apply for federal funds for investments in the digital educational infrastructure. In connection with the corona pandemic and the resulting temporary homeschooling, however, the digitization of schools experienced an important boost. The BMBF supports this once again.

As a result of the school closings due to the pandemic, it was decided this year to supplement the DigitalPact with a further 1.5 billion for IT administration, tools for creating digital content and loanable school mobile devices for schoolchildren and teachers. As of 2020, a total of 6.5 billion euros will now be made available by the federal government. The federal states and school authorities contribute another 10 percent of this sum. With these over seven billion euros from the federal and state governments, the prerequisites for education in the digital world are to be noticeably improved nationwide and in the long term.

Two of this year's Nobel Prizes go to Germany

In October 2020, two researchers in Germany were awarded the most important scientific award: the Nobel Prize. Let's briefly review the days: On October 6, 2020 it became known that the astrophysicist Reinhard Genzel, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, together with the British researcher Roger Penrose and the US scientist Andrea Ghez is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. The researchers have detected a black hole in the center of the Milky Way and thus made a decisive contribution to our knowledge of the formation of galaxies.

One day later it was announced that the microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, head of the “Max Planck Research Center for the Science of Pathogens” in Berlin, together with Jennifer A. Doudna, had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for developing the CRISPR-Cas9 gene scissors . The gene scissors CRISPR-Cas9 is a fascinating new method for genome editing. This allows selected locations in the genome to be cut out very precisely and efficiently and the genome to be modified. More about it here.

Both decisions by the Stockholm Prize Committee show that Germany is an excellent and competitive science location.

JUWELS supercomputer in Jülich is number 1 in Europe

1-1-0-1-0-0-… - that is roughly the language in which JUWELS speaks. Sounds very simple, but it leads to top performance, for which the supercomputer from Jülich and its “colleagues” in Munich and Stuttgart were awarded this year. In 2020, the three computers of the German Gauss Center for Supercomputing will rank 7th, 15th and 16th in the list of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers. On top of that, JUWELS is the world's most energy-efficient among the 100 fastest computers. These top results in the “Supercomputer Olympics” 2020 prove that Germany has not only risen to the top in Europe, but is also playing in the world supercomputer league.

Super-fast computers are a must in order to be at the forefront of science and business in the digital age. They provide precisely tailored computing power for users from all areas of research. The applications range from the search for active ingredients against Covid-19 to the optimization of wind turbines and questions relating to particle physics.

The federal government is providing more than 650 million euros for quantum technologies in this legislative period

A real milestone for research policy: In 2020 it will be certain that the federal government will provide more than 650 million euros for research into quantum technologies in the current legislative period. Its aim is for German institutes and companies to play a key role in shaping the so-called second quantum revolution and to play a leading role in its transfer to application and marketing. The Federal Government is therefore pooling its forces under the leadership of the BMBF to strategically advance the development of quantum technologies in Germany.