In Brief

International Cooperation with China on Research Infrastructures: Challenges and Opportunities

The new joint project "WIKOOP-INFRA" of the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) and the GIGA explores possibilities for international scientific cooperation with China.

China’s rapid rise to being a leading nation in research and innovation has led to the development of numerous outstanding research infrastructures for the Natural and Life Sciences. The associated challenges and opportunities regarding international cooperation with China are the focus of WIKOOP-INFRA, a joint project of the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) and the GIGA funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

China’s willingness to cooperate internationally on large-scale research facilities is attracting great interest from the global scientific community. However, the framework conditions for such cooperation are complex. In the joint project WIKOOP-INFRA, scientists from DESY and the GIGA together investigate the challenges that in particular the large science organisations, such as the Leibniz Association and the Helmholtz Association, face with regard to internationalisation, despite China’s considerable efforts to offset them. The project focuses on the analysis of four central topics that can lead to obstacles, frictions, and conflicts, and which potentially stand in the way of trustful cooperation: reciprocity and mutual access to research infrastructures and data; research integrity; intellectual property rights and technology transfer; and, dual-use technologies. Despite the extensive difficulties, current global challenges – above all, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change – show that scientific cooperation with China is more important than ever for Germany and many European Union countries. “It must be our concern to consolidate and further expand our cooperation with China. Of course, we must not leave out the controversial and security-relevant aspects of that cooperation” says Dr. Martin Sandhop, Head of “International Cooperations” within the DESY Directorate Office. Up to now, however, there has been no systematic assistance for scientists and research institutions in evaluating cooperation possibilities, nor recommendations on how best to deal with the sensitive issues mentioned. The WIKOOP-INFRA project aims to develop evidence-based guidelines that will provide international actors, especially from Germany and the EU, with more orientation and certainty of action on sensitive issues in pursuing cooperation with China on large-scale equipment research. Within the framework of the project, interviews and specialist workshops are planned with responsible persons, researchers, and experts from the German, European, and Chinese scientific communities. Project results will be made available to the interested public through workshops, discussion events, and the development of a guide on cooperation with China as well as via further publications.

Contact: Dr. Margot Schüller Senior Research Fellow Phone: +49 (0)40 - 42 88 74-31 Email:

Research Project | 01/09/2021 - 29/02/2024

Ensuring Safe, Transparent and Mutually Beneficial Collaboration with China at Analytical Research Infrastructures

The joint project WIKOOP-INFRA will draw up empirically grounded guidelines that offer researchers from Germany and the EU support and guidance for scientific cooperation with their Chinese colleagues at large research infrastructures under existing framework conditions.
BMBF, 2021-2024


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