German Centre for Rail Traffic Research at the Federal Railway Authority

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Topic: DZSF

Goals and Tasks of the German Centre for Rail Traffic Research

The German Centre for Rail Traffic Research elaborates the rail sector’s central issues as defined in the Federal Research Programme for Rail Transport and provides solutions for them.

Governmental research funding plays an essential part in the freedom of science and research as stated in article 5, paragraph 3 of the German constitution. The German Federal Constitutional Court defines research as being an intellectual activity that pursues the goal to gain new insights in a methodical, systematic, and verifiable way. Scientific work is a precondition for governmental research funding. Within their constitutional responsibilities, the German Government and the German federal states support this research.

The central budgetary element for implementing governmental support measures in the field of research are benefits within the meaning of the German Federal Budget Code (BHO). The interest for support in the specific measure has to be considerable. Usually, the state’s interest is described in the form of funding programmes. Full financing is granted only as an exception, for example if the economic interest of the applicant towards the federal interest represents only a subordinate motive.

This distinguishes research funding from pure business development. Economically oriented companies are focused on commercially promising projects. Therefore, governmental funding has the purpose to close the emerging gap. Furthermore, if the commercial benefit of research is overemphasized, the scientific claim can be impaired. As a result, governmental research funding always has to keep an eye on the requirements as stated in constitutional law.

Supporting research and technological development is intended to launch and accelerate necessary innovation processes in the field of rail transport. Parallel to in-house research of the German Centre for Rail Traffic Research, multiple funding instruments that can be complementary and if needed be used in parallel come into effect for accomplishing the tasks:

  • Within research programmes that are clearly defined in terms of content, ideas and new technologies are developed through research funding. The funding is intended for companies, research facilities, and universities as well as their cooperative partners. The basis for this is formed by respective funding guidelines. The achieved results should be application-oriented and market-oriented.
  • Contractual research is the main field of departmental research. In a problem-oriented, practical, and interdisciplinary way, it approaches specific questions in which the Federal Government holds a predefined interest. This covers the German Government’s wide range of tasks in the field of rail transport. Departmental research supports preparing or implementing political decisions and perceiving public tasks. It creates independent specialized knowledge at the interface of science, industry, the state, and politics which is available to the entire railway sector. In general, research and development activities are achieved by placing research contracts with external researchers.

In the future, migration of the research results into practice is another key issue of the research programme. Strategies are to be framed and concepts have to be developed to support the usage of innovative products. For example, changes of the legal and secondary regulations or incentive systems are appropriate measures to be considered..