Germany

A schematic overview of the main actors, programmes and governance structure for alignment of national research.

 

Research in the area of food, nutrition, physical activity and health research in Germany is financed by institutional - and project funding of the Federal Government and the Federal States. The Federal Government coordinates its activities by strategic programmes which define the priorities and strategic orientations of future research funding.
 

Public Health: Academies give recommendations on the further development of health research

During the last decades, a big success has been achieved in the area of public health. However, in order to better make use of its full potential, further political support, a further development of research infrastructures and more international engagement is needed. This is what the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, acatech ─ German National Academy of Science and Engineering and the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities suggest in the common statement „Public Health in Germany ─ Structures, Developments and Global Challenges" which was published on 16 June, 2015.

The Health Research Framework Programme of the Federal Government:

Action Plan: Prevention and Nutrition Research

The fact that people live longer and their living and dietary patterns have changed considerably within the last decades also means that there is a marked increase in the number of people suffering from chronic diseases. This situation confronts not only each individual, but also the German health system and society as a whole, with new challenges.
To address these challenges, research funding of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) intends to strengthen prevention and health promotion in all areas of society by focusing on the development of new approaches through interdisciplinary research and innovation activities. It was against this background that in the end of 2010 the Federal Government introduced "Research into Prevention and Nutrition" as one of the six fields of action in its Health Research Programme - Health for Everyone - - BMBF. The Action Plan "Prevention and Nutrition Research", published in June 2013, describes the strategic aims of research funding in this field. It combines relevant research approaches in an interdisciplinary manner – ranging from biomedicine to epidemiology, prevention research and nutrition research.
The key objectives of the action plan include:
• Obtaining dependable knowledge on influencing factors and their effects as well as their relevance for the occurrence of diseases as starting point for successful prevention measures
• Developing effective prevention measures and dietary recommendations
• Establishing an efficient, interdisciplinary and internationally competitive nutrition research sector
• Devising new recipes for processed foods based on the latest scientific findings
• Gaining more knowledge about the long-term effects and health-economic impact of prevention measures

To achieve these aims, the action plan initiates several novel funding measures and strategically links them up with existing funding activities. In total, the action plan provides project funding for research and development projects of up to €125 million in the period 2013-2016.
The funding measures of the action plan with relevance for the scope of JPI HDHL include:

BMBF intends to establish regional, theme-focused competence clusters in nutrition research which pool the nutritional competences of universities, non-university research institutions and industry. These clusters will develop targeted strategies to combat diseases that are associated with nutrition. Furthermore, the international visibility and scientific excellence of German nutrition research will be enhanced. In general, the funding measure aims to orient German nutrition research towards a more interdisciplinary approach and increase its relevance for practical applications.
Clusters are expected to start in spring 2015. A total funding budget of up to 21 Mio € for three years will be provided for this funding initiative.
BMBF intends to establish interdisciplinary research consortia on a regional basis which pool all the expertise and resources that are needed for the respective research objectives. The consortia will focus on topics of overarching importance and are intended to improve the scientific basis for primary prevention and health promotion measures as well as accelerate their transfer to everyday life.
Consortia are expected to start beginning 2015. A total funding budget of up to 19 Mio € for three years will be provided for this funding initiative.
BMBF supports evaluation studies to clarify whether and how prevention measures work. Funding is provided for follow-up studies of evaluations that have already been completed with the aim of examining the long-term effects of primary prevention and health promotion.
Research projects start beginning 2015. A total funding budget of up to 4 Mio € for three years are being provided for this funding initiative.
 

Funding measures in the area of obesity research:

About 16 million Germans are suffering from obesity and about every third German adult is overweight. Obesity causes personal suffering and high costs: The allocated costs of obesity are considered to be about 17 billion Euros per year for the German health care system.
Aim of the Network is to enhance research into prevention, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for obesity and its associated diseases. By a closer networking of fundamental, application-oriented and clinical research, results will be translated more quickly into medical care and/or successful prevention strategies. Since 2008, the competence network is funded by the BMBF with €18.4 million.
The IFB is a joint center of the University and the University Hospital Leipzig. It cooperates with many relevant institutions in the area of medicine, obesity, and nutrition. Moreover, it offers several activities to inform citizens, scientists and health care professionals. The IFB team investigates and treats obesity (adiposity) as well as its secondary diseases in children, adolescents, and adults. For the funding period of 2012 – 2015, a budget of € 24 million is provided.
More details about BMBF research funding in the fields of nutrition, prevention and health research can be found here (in German only): http://www.gesundheitsforschung-bmbf.de/de/praeventions-und-ernaehrungsforschung.php
 

National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030 of the Federal Government

The overall goal of the bioeconomy concept is a structural transition from an oil-based to a bio-based industry. The target vision is a natural cycle-oriented, sustainable biobased economy that carries the promise of global food supplies that are both ample and healthy, and of high quality products from renewable resources.

With the National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030, the German Federal Government has established the conditions for realizing such a vision. BMBF funding initiatives in the field of bioeconomy reflect the five priority areas of the national research strategy, of which three priorities are closely involved in the field of food production and security.

•  Action area "Producing Healthy and Safe Foods"
The development of consumer-oriented product and process innovations along the food manufacturing chain for healthy, high-quality, affordable and safe foodstuffs is supported through the action area "Producing Healthy and Safe Foods". This takes into account that demographic change, the increase in nutrition-related diseases, as well as changing lifestyles and circumstances are some of the central social and scientific challenges in our times.

To support research on sustainable food production that is highly efficient and has a low environmental impact, the BMBF is engaged in the ERA-Net SUSFOOD (SUStainable FOOD production and consumption). This European initiative focus on food chain sustainability beyond the agricultural production and cover processing, packaging, transport, retailing, food services, storage and consumer activities. In January 2014 the 2nd joint call was announced.

In terms of meat, a prerequisite for healthy foodstuffs is healthy animals. Various factors such as diseases, epidemics, methods of treatment, animal husbandry, etc. can seriously affect the health and welfare of farm animals. This can have a considerable influence on the economy, environment and society including meat quality and consumer protection, and does not simply have only effects on the animal and its keeper. The BMBF thus participates in European initiatives which aim to fund transnational cooperations in the research area "Animal Health and Welfare", in particular the ERA-Net EMIDA (Emerging and Major Infectious Diseases of Livestock) and the new campaign ANIHWA (Animal Health and Welfare).

•  Action area "Securing the Global Food Supply"
Plants are fundamental to produce healthy foodstuffs and to securing the global food supply. The increase and security of plant-based production, the quality of plant-based raw material, and the sustainability of agricultural practices are thus global challenges that require new approaches in research and cultivation. The National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030 broaches this important issue within the action area "Securing the Global Food Supply". The BMBF has established a funding priority in the research field of plant biotechnology named PLANT 2030. This program subsumes the national "Plant Biotechnology for the Future" (web link in German only) and the international "PLANT-KBBE" (Transnational PLant Alliance for Novel Technologies - towards implementing the Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy in Europe) funding initiatives that aim to increase the efficiency of cultivation, develop targeted and optimized plants with combined characteristics, e.g. to enhance the production of healthy foodstuffs, and to make plant production more sustainable in general.

•  Action area "Ensuring Sustainable Agricultural Production"
A third action area of the national research strategy, "Ensuring Sustainable Agricultural Production", has also an significant impact on food-relevant research topics. The area of plant breeding is focused on the expansion of the productive potential of crops, on stabilizing yields through improved resistance to pathogens, and on enhanced tolerance - among other things to heat, drought, cold and salinity. Research and innovation into breeding, feeding, housing, and into the health of livestock (including bees) and fish supports the sustainability objectives of the bioeconomy concept.
 

Institutional funding:

In addition to project funding both ministries BMEL (Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture) and BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) as well provide institutional funding.

The BMBF's Institutional funding
• German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE)
The mission of the institute is to conduct experimental and clinical research in the field of nutrition and health, with the aim of understanding the molecular basis of nutrition-dependent diseases, and of developing new strategies for prevention, treatment, and nutritional recommendations. To do so, interdisciplinary cooperation comprising a broad spectrum of experimental and epidemiological methods is pursued. A particular focus of the institute is research on common diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer, whose development involves nutrition-dependent factors.

The BMEL's Institutional funding
 
The BMEL has streamlined and technically well-organised research institutions; their research provides a foundation on which the ministry can form opinions and make specific decisions.

This includes:

· four Federal Research Centres: Julius Kühn Institute (JKI), Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI), Max Rubner Institute (MRI) and the Thünen Institute (TI),

· the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment,

· the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety and the

· German Biomass Research Centre.

The four Federal Research Centres draw up scientific decision aids for the BMEL in the fields of food, agricultural, forestry, fisheries and consumer policy. They broaden the state of the art in their fields for the common good. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) also conducts research into health-related consumer protection.

The most important departmental research centre for the field of JPI HDHL is the Max Rubner Institute, Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food, which focuses on consumer health protection in the nutrition sector.
In addition to its headquarters in Karlsruhe, MRI also conducts research at centres in Kiel, Detmold and Kulmbach. And there is a unit with research focus on fish quality in Hamburg.
Four of MRI's eight departments as well as the MRI Analysis Division use a cross-product approach, focusing their research on investigating the quality rating of foodstuffs in terms of nutritional physiology and health, food safety and bioprocess engineering. This approach traces the active chain of nutrition from the level of molecules and cells to the entire organism. One particularly important area is the study of nutritional behavior. The results of this cross-product research are incorporated in recommendations for healthy nutrition.
The research work undertaken in the other four departments relates to specific categories of foodstuffs such as cereals, vegetables, milk and meat. In these departments the entire food chain is studied. MRI's research, which is geared to the production chain, targets the safety and quality of foodstuffs as well as the sustainability of food production. Investigations cover the whole period from the moment of harvesting or production through to the consumer.

The Max Rubner-Institute is responsible for the continued development and implementation of National Nutrition Monitoring and the Federal Food Key. It also undertakes national tasks in the context of the Agricultural Statistics Act and the Precautionary Radiation Protection Act.
There are eight departments at MRI:
Karlsruhe
• Department of Nutritional Behaviour
• Department of Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition
• Department of Food Technology and Bio Process Engineering
• Department of Safety and Quality of Fruit and Vegetables
Kiel
• Department of Microbiology and Biotechnology
• Department of Safety and Quality of Milk and Fish Products
Detmold
• Department of Safety and Quality of Cereals
Kulmbach
• Department of Safety and Quality of Meat


The ministry is also supported by six Leibniz institutes, which conduct applied research and complement the technical spectrum of the above research institutions. These institutions from the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Scientific ¬Association (WGL) are supported by the BMEL; their scientific findings are used for the ministry's consultation requirements. The most important WGL-Institute within the scope of JPI HDHL is the DFA – German Research Center for Food Chemistry.
Working Group I. Structure and Bioactivity of Low-Molecular Food Ingredients (Hedonic Value) is aiming at characterising naturally occurring, odour active compounds of foods or raw materials and their changes from the raw material to the consumer.
Working Group II. Biopolymers is working on the characterisation and quantification of plant biopolymers, in particular those of cereals.
Working Group III. Physiology – Chemoreception of food ingredients aims to clarify the interaction of food ingredients with cellular target molecules (i.e. receptors, ion channels).
The BMEL departmental research does not confine itself to addressing national issues, but also covers European and global topics. Research is, for example, also conducted to further the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, to fight global hunger, and to fulfil international agreements. BMEL's departmental research bodies participate in many EU cooperative projects, work within European and international bodies, and have alliances with international research institutions.
The ministry needs a scientific foundation for its work. The research findings are always made available to the public. This means that consumers, practitioners in the agricultural, forestry and fisheries sectors, the business community, and people living in rural areas all benefit from BMEL research.
If the departmental research bodies do not have the capacity, or do not have sufficient capacity, to work on topics relevant to policy consultation, the BMEL can also finance research assignments carried out by third parties.