Interview: Information about the MINT action plan - call for applications for MINT clusters

In February 2019, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research published a nationwide MINT action plan. This includes a communication campaign (STEMMagic), a MINT competence and networking center with an e-platform (still to be advertised), accompanying research (little information has yet been published) and MINT cluster. A total of 55 million euros are to be invested in MINT funding. 

The MINT action plan of the BMBF offers all zdi networks a great opportunity to develop further structurally. The STEM action plan can be found below this one Link.

The latter announced directive on Promotion of regional clusters for STEM education for young people has now been published.

The call also applies to existing MINT networks as long as the funding is used for further development.

Applications must be submitted by to March 02, 2020 be submitted. To make the decision to apply easier and to clarify how to apply, we asked the BMBF a few questions, which were answered in the interview below. 

The detailed documents for the announcement can be found here: 

For those interested, four information events will take place with the opportunity for personal funding advice from the BMBF (20.11/29.11 Hamburg, 02.12/XNUMX Halle (Saale), XNUMX/XNUMX Augsburg). One of these dates is also in NRW:

  • 22.11. Bonn (information link)

zdi network = STEM cluster? A note from zdi.NRW

Funding for parallel structures is excluded – but that doesn't mean that zdi can't participate. However, since the zdi networks in NRW are well-established structures, the applications for funding from the zdi networks must set different priorities and create added value for these existing structures. According to our assessment, it can be assumed that a Individual funding of individual zdi networks rather unlikely should be. We assume (recommend) that Unite national networks to form topic-oriented alliances should.

The interview with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to the MINT action plan

A competitive process will soon be announced that is mentioned in the STEM action plan. "Clusters" can apply here in order to have existing offers or new offers promoted or to develop strategies. Is it correct that way? And when can the publication be expected?

Yes that's right. The corresponding funding guideline was published in the Federal Gazette on November 11.11.2019, XNUMX. Please refer: Funding Policy 

55 million euros are to be invested between 2020 and 2022. What is the purpose of the BMBF in writing this? Which target group should be reached with the offers?

The STEM Action Plan was set up to further strengthen STEM education. It acts as a strategic umbrella: the MINT action plan bundles existing measures (such as the Little Researchers House, student laboratories, student competitions or the National Pact for Women in MINT Professions) and was also the starting signal for the development of new initiatives, for the implementation of which up to 55 million euros will be invested. More than half is spent on the MINT clusters. A total of 40 clusters are to be funded in two competition rounds and the first 15 to 20 MINT education clusters are to start work as early as 2020. In the coming year, another 20 to 25 regional MINT education clusters are to be selected.

With this nationwide structural funding, the BMBF aims to expand and consolidate the range of extracurricular MINT activities for young people in the area. For children and young people, access to MINT afternoon offers should become as natural as a sporting or musical hobby. Only then will we later have MINT specialists and young MINT scientists.

A special focus in the target group is on girls and young women, who should be explicitly addressed. It is important that we succeed in strengthening and deepening girls' and young women's interest in MINT so that they have more confidence in these fields in the future and women in MINT professions become a matter of course. Addressing young people is particularly useful for this.

Who is your call for “new initiatives to strengthen STEM education” aimed at? Who are you hoping to receive applications for the job advertisement from?

All stakeholders who can contribute to the design and further development of good STEM education are invited/encouraged to apply. This also includes the zdi networks. It is also conceivable to cooperate with partners who are active in the STEM field but not yet in the education sector, eg technology clusters, maker scene, etc. Good STEM education can only be implemented in a network and together. The funding measure is a new initiative to strengthen STEM education.

What content-related focus does the BMBF hope for in applications?

The aim of the funding guideline is to support the establishment and expansion of regional cluster structures for good STEM education. The composition of the clusters from key MINT actors from the regions and municipalities is intended to ensure that the content of the clusters is primarily based on the need for MINT education in the region addressed. The sketches to be submitted should show what needs are being addressed in the target region. These can be very different structures with very different ideas for offers. The offers/the training content itself are not funded. Rather, the promotion of structures is intended to help, for example, a university together with a company from the region and a local MINT association to create the conditions so that good MINT education can be offered or existing MIT education can be expanded. The content of the planned offers is then based on the requirements of the region.

Which age group should be reached with the offers?

Especially the age group of 10-16 year olds. Children can easily be inspired by MINT topics. Unfortunately, in too many cases this enthusiasm is lost on the threshold of adolescence. This is where the initiatives of the MINT action plan come in and therefore the offers should primarily be made for young people between the ages of 10 and 16. It is also known that girls and young women in particular often underestimate their abilities in the STEM field and choose a STEM career too seldom. As a result, many potential specialists are lost that we urgently need in Germany.

The total sum up to 2022 is 55 million euros. What is the amount of funding for the individual MINT offers?

We provide €500 per cluster, up to €1 million in justified exceptional cases; the clusters must secure their own funding after the end of the funding. After that, the interested parties will certainly also align the amount of funding applied for. In principle, the amount of the grant per project depends on its requirements.

In addition to the 55 million euros mentioned, the language is funded for six years with 2 funding phases. Is there already information about the grants in the second funding phase?

Each cluster can be funded for up to five years. This depends on a positive interim evaluation after the first funding phase of three years. Subsequent years are funded regressively. Financing concepts for both project phases should already be presented when the outlines are submitted.

So far, the “MINT offers for young people” package has mentioned 30-40 MINT clusters. How do you plan to determine the distribution at federal level and how do you determine the final cluster number?

The available funding could be sensibly divided between 30-40 clusters. Depending on the application situation, there may be fewer or more. The quality of the idea and the chances of its implementation are decisive for the selection. The final number of clusters that will be funded also depends on how many ideas that can be easily implemented are submitted and what support the individual ideas require. Our aim is to achieve a broad impact and area coverage in 16 federal states.

Will there be an office that looks after the MINT clusters? Which tasks are controlled from there?

The clusters themselves receive funding for their coordinator. This person looks after the cluster members and should be included in the application outline. In addition, the BMBF is implementing a second new initiative: another funding guideline will be published shortly. With this, the BMBF aims to set up a nationwide STEM competence and networking center with an e-platform. This is intended to facilitate exchange and networking between MINT actors - also with IT support - and promote the transfer of best practice. Consequently, there will also be a close connection to the MINT clusters, which can report the need for support to the network center, but also get involved in the discussion about best practice, about the conditions for the success of good MINT education.

What factors play a role in awarding the grant? Which institutions can participate (from associations to GmbHs)?

In addition to qualitative criteria and experience of the actors in the MINT field, it is important that the local, relevant actors come together in the MINT cluster and that at least three out of four institutions are represented:

  • Science (such as universities, colleges, non-university research institutions, etc.),
  • Civil society (associations, clubs, foundations, etc.),
  • Business (commercial companies, SMEs, cooperatives, etc.) and
  • Educational institutions, local authorities, municipal associations and other public bodies.

Eligible to apply are legal entities such as universities, non-university research institutions, associations, clubs, foundations, municipal business associations, commercial companies, educational institutions, regional authorities, municipal associations and other public bodies that have proven expertise in the MINT context.

What form of evaluation and quality assurance will future MINT clusters need to provide? How do you plan to check this and will there be accompanying research?

The sketches must contain a concept of how the project partners envisage quality assurance for their work. This is part of the judging criteria for selecting sketches.

Accompanying research on the projects is also planned as part of the MINT research funding guideline. These funding guidelines are expected to be published in the middle of next year. The preparatory work for this is ongoing.

There will also be quality assurance and evaluation measures for the planned STEM competence and networking center.

The funding guideline MINT education for young people (MINT-Cluster) that has now been published also stipulates that the recipients of grants are obliged to promptly provide the BMBF or the institutions commissioned with the data required for monitoring success.

In many countries there are already existing network structures for STEM promotion. Now write out STEM clusters. That's another word for network. Should the existing networks (e.g. zdi networks, MINT regions, etc.) apply for this in order to create even better work through additional resources? Or do you want new parallel structures to emerge?

so The call for tenders is also expressly aimed at existing clusters. For these, however, it is important that the desired quantitative and qualitative novelty and added value is presented. The mere continuation of ongoing MINT measures with federal funds is not possible. Of course, no parallel structures should be created, which is why new clusters are explicitly asked to check the connection to existing cluster and network structures and to supplement them in a meaningful way. In doing so, the clusters should keep an eye on and present the necessity and accuracy of new measures and concepts with regard to the work that has been carried out in the region to date. For the establishment of new cluster structures, the support of an already existing cluster, e.g. B. recommended in the form of a sponsorship.

Are there thematic priorities for funding in the call for applications? Digitalization, for example, is currently always given a particularly high priority.

There are no specific thematic priorities. The aim is to establish low-threshold offers through suitable structures that create opportunities to get to know MINT and points of contact with scientific and technical topics, to get to know different technologies (such as AR and VR technologies, 3D printing, robotics, etc.) and deal with it creatively.

What exactly is to be funded in the call for proposals? The network work or concrete offers? Lecturers for courses or didactics (research)? Teaching and learning rooms (extra-school learning locations) and student laboratories?

The funding guideline focuses on the necessary structures that are required for good extracurricular STEM education in the individual regions. 

Expenditure on personnel and material resources or costs that serve the network partners to set up and provide structures for regular and supervised STEM educational offers for children and young people are eligible for funding. The development of STEM educational offerings (curricula, modules, etc.) is explicitly not part of the funding.

In your publication you talk about selecting the best regional clusters. How will the assessment take place? Which factors do you take into account?

The submitted sketches are evaluated according to defined criteria that are named in the funding guideline. For the evaluation, the BMBF will appoint a panel of experts, which will evaluate the outlines according to the specified criteria. 

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