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All faculties participating in drafts for Clusters of Excellence

In addition to the two existing Clusters of Excellence, seven cluster initiatives are beginning preparation of their applications to the Cluster of Excellence funding line of the Excellence Strategy of the federal and state governments

Freiburg, Jul 26, 2022

All faculties participating in drafts for Clusters of Excellence

Photo: Sandra Meyndt

What began in February 2021 with an opening event – the call to prepare the university to take part in the Excellence Strategy of Germany’s federal and state governments, and the conceptual, interdisciplinary work of more than 200 University of Freiburg researchers – has reached its conclusion. The Rectorate requested that seven Cluster of Excellence initiatives further develop their concepts into draft applications in order to submit these to the German Research Foundation (DFG) on 31 May 2023 for the Cluster of Excellence funding line (EXC) of the Excellence Strategy. Both existing Clusters of Excellence of the University of Freiburg, the Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies (CIBSS) and Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS), will submit applications for continuation.

“The present concepts reflect the range of our comprehensive university and the performance strength of all disciplines,” explains University of Freiburg Rector Prof. Dr. Kerstin Krieglstein. “All eleven faculties are taking part in drafting proposals for the Clusters of Excellence. During the preparation, researchers from all the faculties have intensively contributed their expertise, for which the Rectorate is very grateful. All the initiatives are interdisciplinary and pursue very different approaches to innovative ideas. The networking performance and cooperative efforts of the past months have already allowed the participants to bring the research community of our university a considerable step further.”

Due to this outstanding work of all those involved, the University of Freiburg successfully determined its Cluster of Excellence initiatives very early on. The university administration places importance on informing you of all decisions in this process transparently and promptly. At the same time and due to the intense competition, we ask for your understanding that we cannot yet communicate at this early stage the names and content of the initiatives that are to continue working on their applications now. In this way, we would like to avoid any disadvantages in competition cropping up for the initiatives.

Past decision-making process

The University of Freiburg’s opening event for the Cluster of Excellence funding line took place at the start of February 2021. In October 2021, members of the university had already been given initial insight into the planning of the initiatives and the two existing Clusters of Excellence. After that, the specially established Cluster of Excellence Advisory Team began collegial guidance of the Cluster of Excellence initiatives, which brought together internal and external researchers and further experts from nearly all major disciplines.

By the end of March 2022, the initiatives submitted their internal draft applications to the university administration. Based on these internal drafts, external researchers carried out a scientifically led university evaluation process that was significantly oriented to DFG criteria for Clusters of Excellence. Here, the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) contributed its abundant experience of evaluation processes. During the course of the 2022 Summer Semester, the University of Freiburg’s Commission for Research Strategy as well as the Cluster of Excellence Advisory Team introduced their recommendations.

Criteria such as innovation potential of the topics and initiatives as a whole, including their composition in terms of personnel, formed the foundation of the Rectorate’s final decision on which initiatives should work up their concepts as DFG drafts. Excellence in research was a key decision making criterium. The Rectorate will continue to guide further initiatives in order to adapt to other formats the concepts they have worked out up to now.

Incorporated in the university’s overall strategy process

Development of Clusters of Excellence is part of the university’s overall strategy process – a process that the University of Freiburg launched at the end of 2021, with a Rectorate that was newly composed in that same year. The aim of a university-wide overall strategy process is to develop one coherent overall strategy for the coming years together – the University of Freiburg 2030. In addition to Clusters of Excellence, the university is working to reach further milestones as part of its overall strategy process. Among these have been and are applying to extend the European University Program, the Structure and Development Plan from 2024 to 2028 for the state government, and, if the application requirements are met, the funding line of Universities of Excellence of the Excellence Strategy.

Continuing support in application submission

The CIBSS and livMatS as well as the seven selected initiatives will continue to receive support in the coming months from the Rectorate as well as other university structures, so also by the Cluster of Excellence project team consisting of Dr. Frank Krüger from the EXC Project Team, Sorana Kamla and Katja Plachov of Freiburg Research Services (FRS), including Dr. Britta Küst (FRS, Director of Research Cooperation and Structures),  Dr. Christian Jehle (Department of Overall Planning Strategy and University Development; Director, Strategy Process, Performance Analysis, and Structural Development), and Dr. Alexandra Bormann (Director, Department of Overall Planning Strategy and University Development).

Background information on Clusters of Excellence

The objective of the Cluster of Excellence funding line of the Excellence Strategy competition is to support internationally competitive areas of research at universities or university affiliates. Clusters of Excellence annually receive funding from three to ten million euros. In addition, there is “overhead,” an allowance payment of around 22 percent of the funding total. This is to enable the university to cover indirect costs that arise as a result of these projects. The duration of a Cluster of Excellence is initially seven years. A one-time extension of an additional seven years is possible. In the most recent round of the competition, 57 Clusters of Excellence were successful in the Federal Republic of Germany – two of them at the University of Freiburg.

DFG Schedule for Clusters of Excellence