Applied-research financing

Strategic financing of applied research has considerably improved the scientific and technical basis for contaminated-site remediation in Germany. And while technical solutions to the problem of contaminated sites are now largely within reach, the requisite financial resources are not always ready to hand.

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Site-contamination R&D in Germany

Germany has made substantial investments in site-contamination R&D since the 1980s, to the tune of more than €300 million in funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and third parties.

Research, research associations, research networks, and research programs funded by the BMBF have brought about major technical and scientific advances in conjunction with innovation and sustainability, via initiatives such as the following:

  • KORA, the German acronym for “controlled natural retention and reduction of pollutants in connection with contaminated soil and groundwater remediation projects”
  • RUBIN, the German acronym for “use of permeable cleaning walls for contaminated site remediation”
  • REFINA, the German acronym for “land use reduction and sustainable land management”
  • SAFIRA, the German acronym for “cleanup research for regionally contaminated aquifers”
  • SAFIRA II, the German acronym for “revitalization of large and complex contaminated sites”
  • TASK, the German acronym for “terrestrial and water contamination remediation clearing house”

On completion of these contaminated-site R&D initiatives, the BMBF turned its attention to sustainable land management. However, a number of scientific and technical challenges remain to be solved, particularly for large and complex contaminated sites such as contaminant deposits at former brown-coal mines and contamination at abandoned chemical plants. Contamination in such cases usually cannot be cleaned up and hazards cannot be averted using conventional measures over a reasonable period.

In such settings, it is particularly difficult to set feasible remediation objectives, and to optimally structure pollutant-source and pollution plume remediation measures. Support from scientific experts continues to be essential in such cases.

 

European research

Roughly concurrently with Germany’s grappling with the problem of site contamination and land recycling, the EU’s Framework Program of Research (FRP) has also addressed this issue and has provided extensive funding in support of various projects and initiative. For further information in this regard, visit the EUGRIS website, an outgrowth of FP5, which was coordinated by the UBA.

EU funding has also provided support for networks such as the Common Forum and the Network for Industrially Contaminated Land in Europe (NICOLE), as well as for transnational research alliances such as Sustainable Management of Soil and Groundwater under the Pressure of Soil Pollution and Soil Contamination (SNOWMAN).

 

Project funding in Germany

Project funding in Germany

Research programs and models for contaminated-site remediation, as well as implementation authority are organized and funded in accordance with the relevant spheres of responsibility and are assigned to the various regional states.

The federal government provided extensive site remediation funding under the Verwaltungsabkommen zur Regelung der Finanzierung ökologischer Altlasten (VA-Altlastenfinanzierung) administrative agreement that was concluded with the former East German regional states The cleanup of abandoned brown-coal mine sites has also been financed under this agreement.

The federal government has allocated around €6 billion for the “Wismut-Sanierung” remediation program, in the government’s capacity as legal successor to the former East Germany. This program began in 1991 and is slated for completion in 2020.

The German army’s contaminated-site remediation program provided €400 million in funding between 1991 and 2008.

Aside from the Ministry for the Environment’s Umweltforschungsplan (Environmental research program), the federal government currently lacks a general funding program for technique and procedure optimization or for the financing of specific projects.

The Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (german federal environmental foundation) also sometimes provides funding for new technical solutions.

 

EU project funding

The lion’s share of contaminated site remediation and land recycling project funding has stemmed from the EU’s Framework Program for Research (FP), beginning with FP4. Like Germany’s research funding in this domain, such projects are only eligible for funding secondarily or in direct connection with current areas of research.

FP6 allowed a first step to be taken toward collaboration and coordination via networking of the various member states’ research programs. The European Commission’s ERA-NET scheme aims to promote coordination and reciprocal openness on the part of national and regional research programs. The ultimate goal is to achieve long term collaboration on the part of the various national programs beyond the confines of European research, as has already been done in the SNOWMAN network.

The European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE) and the LIFE+ program are also highly effective funding instruments that focus on municipal implementation and use.