At the end of 2017 the University signed a memorandum of understanding for a strategic research partnership with the four institutions within the Berlin University Alliance: Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.
During the course of 2018 and early 2019, the partners have funded a number of workshops across the disciplines covered by Oxford’s academic divisions, to help bring researchers together to explore new ideas and more substantive research proposals. By the end of Trinity Term 2019 over 30 workshops will have been held, some here in Oxford, but the majority in Berlin. The workshop programme has had a budget of over €200,000, with Oxford funding half of that amount, and the Berlin partners jointly funding the other half.
In addition to the workshops, a first call for seed funding was made in September 2018, with applications for the first round closing on 31 October. The first round saw funding of €450,000 being awarded across the five institutions, and 29 awards made from 66 applications. The awards are held jointly by an Oxford PI and by colleagues from one or more of the Berlin institutions, encouraging collaboration within the BUA. A second seed funding call, of €300,000, closed on 27 June. The intention behind the seed funding is that award-holders should be able to apply subsequently for more substantial funding from third parties, such as the German Research Council, the DFG, from UKRI and from the ERC/EU, as well as other foundations.
Oxford has recently established a subsidiary company in Berlin, intended to act as the kernel for an Oxford–Berlin Research Centre, to be developed over the next two years. The centre is envisaged primarily as providing accommodation and work space for Oxford’s academics and graduate students to spend time in Berlin, working in laboratories and libraries, together with meeting and seminar space, offices, an auditorium and exhibition space, and catering facilities.
Although there will be residential facilities for short stays in Berlin, the Berlin centre will not be an Oxford overseas campus. Any Oxford student spending time there would have been matriculated previously as a member of the University and a college; any faculty member or researcher from Oxford would spend time in Berlin purely to pursue their own research, or as part of a research group or other collaboration.
The Berlin Senate has decided to take forward the establishment of a Berliner Haus in Oxford. This will provide a base for Berlin University Alliance academics and graduate students when they come to Oxford. A number of Oxford graduate colleges have expressed an interest in supporting the Berlin presence through the provision of residential accommodation and visiting fellowships.
Over the next two to three years, the main aims of the Oxford presence in Berlin will be to further develop our research partnership with the BUA and with other major institutions in and around Berlin, to help our partners establish a Berliner Haus in Oxford, and to establish a research centre in Berlin. We will also aim to establish high quality research initiatives across all disciplines, funded by collaborative applications to the EU framework programmes as well as from other funders and charitable agencies.
The Oxford–Berlin Partnership has been taken forward in Oxford by Professor Alastair Buchan, former Head of the Medical Sciences Division and Pro-Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for Brexit strategy, and now Director, Oxford in Berlin. He is supported by Nina Tomlin, Director of the International Strategy Office and Alasdair MacDonald, Oxford coordinator for the partnership. Several Oxford academics are involved in the partnership’s Academic Steering Committee, part of whose remit is to help identify and support areas of collaborative research involving Oxford and at least one of the Berlin partners.