Polar Research

a programme of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

The polar regions are key regions for climate development and as such, for life on our planet. Germany’s accession to the Svalbard Treaty in 1925 and the Antarctic Treaty System in 1959 means that it is an active participant in international research on the polar regions. Key topics include research on the interaction between the cryosphere, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere. Attention is focused on climate and ecosystem research, as well as on the development of technology suited for the polar climate and the search for natural substances.

In the Research for Sustainable Development (FONA) programme, BMBF funds projects and research programmes in the polar regions, especially in the Arctic, that contribute to better understanding the Arctic processes. Funding priorities are given to projects concerned with changes in marine and terrestrial areas of the polar regions over time and their impacts on the environment and ecosystems. Both regional and global aspects are of interest. Efforts are planned to include the projects in bilateral agreements for scientific and technical cooperation as part of cooperations with foreign partners.

Climate Research

The focus of climate research is on geoscientific and oceanographic research for better understanding of processes in the polar regions, which are considered to be "climate kitchens" of the present and the past. Major funding components are cataloguing and describing the causes and results of climate fluctuations, predictions using models and preventative and protective measures with respect to the impacts of climate change.

Environmental Research

A central concern of the research is the separation of natural and anthropogenic impacts (material inputs) and investigating the associated changes in the polar regions. Knowledge of material cycles and their changes dependent on the prevailing environmental conditions and the temporal development, both in the marine and the terrestrial milieu, are important aspects of the funding.

Geoscientific Research

With the exception of very few areas, the polar regions remain in many aspects unexplored. However, a better understanding of the geological processes and their impacts, which are ultimately the basis of all subsequent developments of animate and inanimate nature, are fundamentally important for interpreting and evaluating existing data and data that have yet to be gathered. Investigations of the oceanic and continental crust and lithosphere, as well as the processes underway there, are also a part of research funding.


Funds may be granted to industrial companies, universities and nonuniversity research establishments. The funding is provided in the form of nonrepayable grants. For applications submitted by companies, generally at least 50 % of project funding must be covered by their own contributions. Funding must be applied for in writing and in the proper form and in some cases applications must be submitted as part of specific calls for proposals.


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