DFG Intensifies Cooperation with St. Petersburg

(07.06.17) At the beginning of June 2017, a DFG delegation led by Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek travelled to St. Petersburg. In the last five years, the DFG has funded nearly 100 proposals with cooperation partners in Russia’s northern capital. In addition to the first German-Russian Collaborative Research Centre, TRR 160, based at the Ioffe Institute and the State University, this year nine more research projects funded jointly with the university, were given the go-ahead. The DFG took this opportunity to hold discussions with representatives of various universities and other research institutions at a press conference, workshop and evening reception held at St. Petersburg’s highly respected House of Scientists.

Press conference held by DFG Secretary General Dzwonnek at SPBU; left, CRC spokesperson Manfred Bayer


The DFG maintains particularly intensive cooperation with researchers and institutions in St. Petersburg, and the State University is now one of its most important university partners in this international cooperation. Due to its special status in the Russian Federation, the university has a free budget and is able to provide project funding with international participation. Since 2017, the DFG and St. Petersburg State University (SPBU) have therefore been able to jointly fund nine projects in mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry and geography with the participation of nine different German universities.

As well as joint project funding, the prominent topic of discussion at the meeting between the rector, Nikolay Kropachev, and DFG Secretary General Dzwonnek as well as at the press conference that followed, was the further development of bilateral cooperation. The DFG delegation became convinced that in spite of difficult political circumstances, the conditions for German-Russian research cooperation have been improved together with the Russian partners. The State University also used the opportunity for discussion of administrative matters, inviting representatives of its university to attend a workshop with the DFG. After it was opened by the DFG Secretary General, Jörn Achterberg (DFG Bonn) presented some possibilities for international cooperation and the DFG’s work in Russia. Karin Zach, the Head of Division for Physics and Mathematics at the DFG, outlined the DFG’s proposal and review processes and also discussed various aspects of good scientific practice. In her role as Programme Director for Programme Coordination, Transfer Projects and International Cooperation (Europe), Amelie Winkler presented the funding programme of Collaborative Research Centres and illustrated their international link-ins and focus on early career researchers. The DFG and SPBU, which was represented by the Vice-Rector for Research Sergey Aplonov and his predecessor Sergey Tunik, thus offered seminar participants a successful insight into a particular form of bilateral cooperation.

Finally, since 2015 the DFG has been linked with SPBU through a Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) funded jointly with RFBR. Prof. Bayer (TU Dortmund), the spokesperson for the first German-Russian CRC (TRR 160) ‘Coherent manipulation of interacting spin excitations in tailored semiconductors’, who accompanied the delegation, spoke at the press conference and at the seminar on this successful research cooperation. There are currently around 150 researchers engaged in projects within this group, based at the Technical University of Dortmund, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, the University of Paderborn, and in Russia, at SPBU and the renowned Ioffe Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. By studying the manipulation of spin excitations in semiconductors, the research group is addressing what is currently one of the most important topics in solid-state physics. The research programme investigates relevant and topical questions on spin electronics, spin optics and spin-based quantum information processing. On the following day, this gave the delegation the opportunity to find out about the progress achieved on the project at the university’s Faculty of Science and Mathematics. Prof. Alexei Kavokin, Russian co-spokesperson for TRR 160, and numerous early career researchers were already presenting the first results from their joint research.

To nurture links and develop future ideas, the DFG and the German Consulate General in St. Petersburg hosted an evening reception at the House of Scientists, where the Collaborative Research Centre was formally inaugurated in 2015. This venue – so rich in scientific tradition – was ideal for representing St. Petersburg’s special significance as an important European centre of research and the continuation of the bilateral dialogue between the research nations of Russia and Germany, as Consul General Aderhold emphasised in her words of welcome.

With a population of 5 million, St. Petersburg is the fourth largest metropolis in Europe and one of the continent’s most important centres of research. As the ‘northern capital’, St. Petersburg is home to around 10% of Russia’s scientific potential with over 100 higher education institutions and 340,000 students. Saint Petersburg State University was founded as the country’s first university and higher education institution for science in 1724 by Peter the Great, who also established the Academy of Sciences (now the Russian Academy of Sciences) in the same year. The State University has been closely cooperating with German researchers and research institutions since its establishment.

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