Funding decisions have now been made in Germany's Excellence Strategy, a programme designed to strengthen top-level research at universities in Germany. On 27 September 2018, the Excellence Commission, consisting of the members of the international Committee of Experts and the research ministers of the federal and state governments, approved 57 Clusters of Excellence to be funded from among the 88 proposed projects.
A list of the approved Clusters of Excellence, with their titles and applicant universities, can be found at:
The decisions were announced by Anja Karliczek, Federal Minister of Education and Research and Chair of the Joint Science Conference, and Prof. Dr. Eva Quante-Brandt, Science Senator for Bremen and Deputy Chair of the Joint Science Conference, during a livestreamed press conference following the meeting of the Excellence Commission in Bonn. Prof. Dr. Peter Strohschneider, President of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), and Prof. Dr. Martina Brockmeier, Chair of the German Council of Science and Humanities, explained the process and procedures by which the selection was made.
In September 2016, the DFG, which is responsible for implementing the Clusters of Excellence funding line in accordance with the administrative agreement between the federal and state governments, issued a call for proposals. A total of 195 draft proposals were submitted to the DFG in April 2017 by 63 universities. The proposals were then reviewed by 21 international panels based on research quality criteria.
These assessments served as the basis for decision in the 29 September 2017 meeting of the Committee of Experts, made up of 39 researchers appointed by the Joint Science Committee. At that meeting, the Committee selected 88 projects to proceed to the full proposal stage. The full proposals were submitted by late February 2018 by 41 universities from 13 German states. Of the proposals, 62 were submitted by a single university, 23 by two universities, and 3 by three universities.
The 88 full proposals were then reviewed in spring and summer of this year by 32 panels involving almost 400 researchers, 90 percent of whom are based outside Germany. On the basis of these research quality assessments, the Committee of Experts conducted a comparative assessment on 25 and 26 September, with final decisions made today by the Excellence Commission.
The 57 Clusters of Excellence now approved are based at 34 universities. A total of 40 will be implemented by an individual university, 14 by two universities, and three by a consortia of three. Approximately 49 percent of the projects build on Clusters of Excellence or Graduate Schools that have been funded through Germany's Excellence Initiative since 2012.
The approved Clusters are characterised by a high level of involvement of non-university partners and multidisciplinarity in the majority of projects extending far beyond the four main scientific disciplines.
Funding for the new Clusters of Excellence will begin on 1 January 2019. Clusters will be funded for seven years; a second seven-year funding period may be granted upon successful proposal submission and review. The administrative agreement envisages funding of approximately €385 million per year, 75 percent of which will be borne by the federal government and 25 percent by the relevant home state.
The decisions on the Clusters of Excellence also serve as the basis for eligibility in the Universities of Excellence funding line, implemented by the German Council for Science and Humanities. In accordance with the decisions,17 universities with at least two Clusters of Excellence and two university consortia with at least three Clusters of Excellence can now compete for funding. Proposals for Universities of Excellence can be submitted until 10 December 2018. They will then undergo review, with final decisions to be made by the Excellence Commission on 19 July 2019.
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