Pentagon funding German university research: Report | News | DW | 22.06.2019
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Pentagon funding German university research: Report

The Pentagon reportedly funds projects ranging from finding a substitute to a common military explosive to tracking whales. Some of the research has dual commericial and military use.

The US Department of Defense has provided $21.7 million (€19 million) to German universities and institutes since 2008 to conduct research, according to an analysis of funding data conducted by Der Spiegel.

The weekly magazine identified 260 grants issued by the Pentagon for a range of research projects, mostly related to science and technology.

The top grant recipient was the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich, which has received $3.7 million for 23 separate projects. One project to find a substitute for the widely used military explosive RDX received $1.72 million of that sum.

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Universities in North Rhine-Westphalia also received grants despite a state law requiring universities to "contribute to a sustainable, peaceful and democratic world" as well as be "committed to peaceful goals."

Critics say this is a clear requirement to reject research funding from the US military. The NRW universities defend the grants by pointing out they are not involved in armaments research, although some outcomes of research have dual commercial and military use.

For example, RWTH Aachen received $530,000 for "a scalable and high performance approach to readout of silicon qubits" research project, which explores novel methods for qubit selection — key components of quantum computers.

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In 2012, a $50,000 grant supported a RWTH project that developed textiles for military and commercial applications designed to repel insects using only physical agents without the use of insecticides.

Non-university research institutes also benefited from Pentagon grants. The largest receivers of funds were the Max Planck Society, the German Aerospace Center and the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for Polar and Marine Research.

AWI researchers received $973,000 distributed in four grants between 2013 and 2017 to develop infrared-based automated whale detection. Der Spiegel speculated that automated infrared detection may also useful for naval operations, calling it "a classic example of the dual-use problem."

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