Germany Boosts Spending on Space

The money represents an increase of 6 percent over 1987, compared with a 4 percent rise in the government’s overall science budget. Sectors due to receive a reduced share of the $4.7 billion budget include research into the use of coal and other fossil fuels (down 10.5 percent) and nuclear fission technology (down 15.3 percent). Biotechnology (up 7.7 percent), oceanography (up 11 percent) and ecology (up 8 percent) are among the beneficiaries. Presenting his budget to the Bundestag, Re

Jan 25, 1988
Richard Sietmann
The money represents an increase of 6 percent over 1987, compared with a 4 percent rise in the government’s overall science budget. Sectors due to receive a reduced share of the $4.7 billion budget include research into the use of coal and other fossil fuels (down 10.5 percent) and nuclear fission technology (down 15.3 percent). Biotechnology (up 7.7 percent), oceanography (up 11 percent) and ecology (up 8 percent) are among the beneficiaries.

Presenting his budget to the Bundestag, Research and Technology Minister Heinz Riesenhuber cited “a stronger integration of Europe and the Western world generally” as the reason for greater spending on space research. He argued for greater international collaboration to counter “growing concern about protectionism and current discussion about the disadvantages of the free flow of technological information.” Riesenhuber also announced a 15 percent increase, to $55 million, to enhance the transfer of technology and knowledge from West Germany’s research institutes into the private sector.

Despite such increases, the government’s share of national R&D spending—up by 15 percent over the past six years, compared with a 45 percent rise in private industry—is likely to decline still further in 1988. One type of expenditure that has already fallen, to about half of its 1982 figure, is the direct allocation of government funds to industrial R&D—for example, as various types of subsidies to encourage the employment of R&D personnel in private companies. Riesenhuber said the money saved had been diverted to support areas he saw as major responsibilities of central government—basic science in high-tech areas and environmental and health research.

Yet even among basic research the increases are not uniform. The budget for the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science which focuses on fundamental research, will grow by only 2.9 percent. The Fraunhofer Society for the Promotion of Applied Research, however, will get an in crease of 7.5 percent.

Heinz Staab, director of the Max Planck Society, has described as “absurd” the cutback in basic research, which he alleged took place after West Germany decided to back the European space programs. In 1984, the last time space expenditure threatened to impoverish other areas of science, pressure from the Max Planck Society and other organizations persuaded the government to provide them with additional funds.

Sietmann is a freelance writer in West Berlin.


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(The Scientist, Vol:2, #2, p.7, January 25, 1988)
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