The research ministers from Germany and Russia agreed on 7 February to upgrade their countries' bilateral cooperation in the field of science to a strategic partnership. A formal agreement is expected to be signed by May. Germany foresees allocating 40 million euro per year to the agreement, which will come both directly from the government, as well as from research organisations. The funding will go to German-Russian projects run by universities, research institutes and businesses, as well as researcher exchanges and collaboration between junior researchers. 'We have, with the base of current collaboration with the Russian Federation, an excellent starting point for the strengthening of bilateral cooperation in the most important fields for the future,' said German Minister for Education and Research, Edelgard Bulmahn. Russia is already the country outside of the EU with which Germany has the most intensive bilateral relationship in terms of research. Around 550 partnership agreements between universities are in place, and around 10,000 German and Russian students and researchers are studying in the partner country. The main axis of the strategic partnership will be institutional cooperation between research institutes. This is necessary in order to establish a base for long term and successful cooperation, says Ms Bulmahn. In this context, the Helmholtz Gemeinschaft will open an office in Moscow. A number of cooperation agreements were also finalised on 7 February. These relate to the intensification of collaboration in laser research, the promotion of a research programme on sea and polar research during international polar year in 2007, and the future priorities in information and communications technology (ICT).