Business and trade have long played a key role in German-Hungarian relations. This year, Hungary has even overtaken Russia in terms of trade volume with Germany, despite its relatively small market. The old myth of Hungary as the “workbench” of the West has long since become obsolete. Scientific cooperation with Hungary is popular, especially when it comes to young businesses, as the establishment of the German-Hungarian Centre of Excellence EPIC Innolabs shows. “Europe United” also means working together to create new jobs, provide the best possible education and open up new prospects for young people.
Research cooperation on an equal footing
Dávid Gyulai is an expert in industrial data analysis at EPIC Innolabs in Budapest, a joint venture of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the Hungarian Institute for Computer Science and Control SZTAKI. While still a student, he was involved in the establishment of a Fraunhofer Project Center in Budapest in 2010. Since taking up his work at SZTAKI, he has been one of many positive examples of successful research cooperation between Hungary and Germany. “The young scientists cooperate with their German partners on an equal footing and complement each other very well in their work,” he said. Regular exchange is taking place, for example within the framework of project workshops in Hungary or Germany.
The joint Centre of Excellence EPIC also shows how the EU can function as a catalyst for such cooperation. The long-standing close research cooperation between the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and SZTAKI was honoured in 2016 as part of Horizont 2020, the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation. Having founded a Fraunhofer Project Center in Budapest in 2010, the two institutions recently received substantial EU funding to the tune of 11 million euros to support the establishment of EPIC.
Tackling issues for the future together
Germany and Hungary want to make internationally recognised research and development results available to industry in the areas of production and logistics and to establish a regional centre for industrial digitalisation and Industrie 4.0. In connection with the EPIC project, more than 40 research institutes and companies founded the Hungarian platform Industrie 4.0, taking their lead from the German model. For example, they want to jointly disseminate digitalisation technology, support the adoption of best practices from Europe, primarily from Germany, and offer advice on the reform of Hungarian vocational training.
During its Presidency of the European Council from July 2020, Germany will also place an emphasis on digitalisation and Industrie 4.0 so that many more young people like Dávid Gyulai can carry out cutting-edge networked research in Europe. Federal Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Orban jointly set up a working group on innovation to further strengthen cooperation in this key area. Dialogue is especially important where there are differences of opinion. Germany firmly believes that scientific freedom is not only a prerequisite for innovation, but an integral part of liberal societies. Hungary is facing international criticism after the relocation of a large part of the Central European University from Budapest to Vienna as a result of a Hungarian law of 2017 and the restructuring of the Academy of Sciences this year.
Young people are not just taking part in the discussion but are actually helping to shape the future
Young people from Germany and Hungary engage in regular and intensive dialogue with one another. For example, over 120 young people from both nations held discussions with high-ranking German and Hungarian politicians, business and employee representatives at the third German-Hungarian Forum, which was hosted by the Federal Foreign Office, the Andrassy University and the German-Hungarian Youth Office, in mid-September this year.
The young people talked about what modern work in a networked world can look like, what role Europe should play in this regard and how innovation and climate can benefit one another. Thanks to such networks, young people can become more involved, talk about rapid changes in business and science at an earlier stage and develop new ideas themselves. They are thus part of a young, European civic culture that thinks nothing of exchanging views on common issues across national borders.