BMBF Supports Research into Connections between Biodiversity and Human Health

National initiative offers funding for projects dedicated to the future prevention of disease, promotion of health as well as therapeutic approaches to physical and mental health that consider the relationship between biodiversity and human health.

Against the backdrop of the current crisis in biodiversity and ongoing challenges in relation to human health, this funding initiative by Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF – Federal Ministry for Education and Research) is designed to support investigations into the connection between biodiversity and human health. It reflects the German government’s strategy on global health which encourages an interdisciplinary and cross-sector approach for addressing health problems in accordance with the ‘One Health’ approach. The funding initiative is part of the BMBF’s overarching research programme for the conservation of biodiversity (Forschungsinitiative zum Erhalt der Artenvielfalt – FEdA).

The aim of the scheme is to support innovative approaches to the promotion of health that are based on biodiversity and address both dangers and benefits for the physical and mental health of humans and its relationship to (changes in) biodiversity. The resulting research outcomes should contribute to the future prevention of disease, promotion of health as well as therapeutic approaches to physical and mental health.

Participating projects must include collaboration between multiple different research disciplines including natural sciences, medicine and humanities. This may cover research areas such as ecology, eco-toxicology, psychology, medicine and public health, social sciences, as well as urban and town planning. In addition, projects should ideally also include the participation of other relevant stakeholders in society, including municipalities, health insurers, associations and businesses.

The thematic focus of the initiative is on the following areas:

  • Integrity of water and soil ecosystems.
  • Health risks through zoonoses.
  • Agrobiodiversity.
  • Non-communicable diseases.
  • Urban and landscape development.
  • Mental illnesses and resilience.

Projects may choose to adopt one of the following research approaches, a combination of both approaches is also possible:

  1. Research that addresses the foundations of the cause-and-effect relationship between biodiversity and human health.
  2. Research into the application of biodiversity interventions via experimental (pilot) studies.

The programme is structured in two phases: an initial, one-year concept funding phase and a three-year main funding phase. During the initial phase, funded organisations will develop a suitable project concept and establish a research consortium of multiple partners. BMBF will then pick the most promising collaborative projects for further funding during the main project phase.

During phase 1 of the programme, only institutions of higher education (Hochschulen) and non-educational research institutions in Germany are eligible to apply. However, an agreement for collaboration with at least one practice partner must be in place.

During phase 2 of the programme, the list of eligible applicants includes the following organisations in Germany:

  • Public bodies on a municipal or state level.
  • Institutions of higher education (Hochschulen).
  • Non-educational research institutions.
  • University hospitals.
  • Commercial businesses.
  • Civic organisations such as foundations, associations and societies.

Each consortium must include at least one practice partner working directly in the relevant application area.

In the first funding phase up to €100,000 per project is available over a period of 12 months. This is intended to cover personnel and travel costs as well as costs associated with the development of R&D partnerships and project-related administrative work. In the second funding phase, the grant is extended by additional three years.

Institutions of higher education and non-commercial research institutions are eligible for full funding. Funding levels for commercial partners vary according to the type of applicant and the type of research carried out.

Applications for the phase 1 of the initiative are open until the deadline of 16 November 2022.

(This report was the subject of a RESEARCHconnect Newsflash.)