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Posted: April 30, 2009
Germany funds its first DFG research centers for another four years
(Nanowerk News) Following a successful second funding period, the first three DFG Research Centres will again be extended and will continue for another four years. This decision was made by the Joint Committee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) at its spring session in Bonn. As a result, the Research Centres established in 2001—"The Ocean in the Earth System" in Bremen, "The Center for Functional Nanostructures" in Karlsruhe, and "Research Center for Experimental Biomedicine" in Würzburg—will be able to continue their work through mid-2013. Each of the three centres will receive total funding of approximately 25 million euros in the next four years.
In recent months, all three centres were reviewed by high-calibre peer review panels and were unanimously recommended for continued funding. As the reviewers from Germany and abroad had already done, the Joint Committee of the DFG has, by way of its approval, also underscored the outstanding scientific work and capacity-building effects of the Research Centres: "The centres represent top-level research at the highest international level and the successful bundling of scientific know-how in particularly forward-looking fields of research," said DFG President Professor Matthias Kleiner following the Joint Committee's decision. Kleiner recalled that the Research Centres were established by the DFG in mid-2001 as "a completely new and strategic funding instrument". Working together in these centres are both various departments and institutes of the respective universities as well as universities and non-university research institutions. "With these diverse collaborations and with their cumulative scientific expertise, the Research Centres have, thus, also become a model for the clusters of excellence in the Excellence Initiative of the federal and state governments," said Kleiner.
For the institutions in Bremen, Karlsruhe and Würzburg, all of which already received positive reviews and extensions in early 2005, this marks the beginning of the third funding period. Since then, all three have been able to continue their successfully started research projects, as the reviewers emphasised in their recommendations.
The DFG Research Centre in Bremen was able to lay claim to and further establish its position as "one of the world's leading centres for marine-geoscientific research". Its objective, to use complex geoscientific analyses to obtain a better understanding of the ocean's role in the global Earth system, enabled the Bremen researchers to attain a number of significant findings. For the next four years as well, numerous innovative projects with original approaches are planned for the main topics of "Ocean and Climate", "Relationships Between Geosphere and Biosphere" and "Sediment Dynamics".
In the opinion of the peer review panels and the DFG, the work performed by the Research Center for Functional Nanostructures in Karlsruhe "played a defining role in the field of nanoscience and earned the Center a visible position in an area that is heavily observed and researched internationally". The basis for this is the subject-specific excellence and the outstanding collaboration of the participating institutions and the researchers who work there. The research areas of "Nano-Photonics", "Nano-Electronics" and "Molecular Nanostructures" are, above all, "flagship projects for research".
The Rudolf Virchow Center for Experimental Biomedicine in Würzburg has also developed outstandingly over the past four years and, with its research of key proteins and its numerous studies on the formation, diagnosis and therapy of illnesses, has likewise proven itself to be competitive and visible on an international level. Considered particularly interesting and significant is its work on cancer and platelet research, as is the high number of patents that have come from the research, of which 18 were registered in the last four years.
In addition to their scientific work, considerable capacity-building effects arise from all three institutions. The Research Center for Experimental Biomedicine, for example, makes outstanding contributions towards equal opportunity for women researchers: 57 percent of the postdoctoral positions and 51 percent of the doctoral positions at the Würzburg institution are occupied by women. In Bremen, the promotion of young researchers is a core element of the Research Centre; through the exemplary support of young researchers on all levels and the committed collaboration with partners in Germany and abroad, the marine-geoscience centre is attractive to young researchers from around the world. The centre in Karlsruhe, "Functional Nanostructures", is important as a cornerstone of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), which is currently being established. This institute is being promoted as an institutional strategy within the scope of the Excellence Initiative; with KIT, a model, unique in Germany, merges together the University of Karlsruhe and the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, part of the Helmholtz Association, to create new opportunities for cooperation and to utilise synergies. For their respective universities, the three centres are also of great importance to the states in which they are located.
In addition to the three centres that just received extensions, the DFG also funds three other Research Centres: The "Matheon – Mathematics for Key Technologies" Research Centre in Berlin and the "Molecular Physiology of the Brain" Research Centre in Göttingen were established in 2002 and, following their first positive intermediate evaluation in 2006, will again be reviewed in the coming year. The youngest institution is the "Regenerative Therapies" Research Centre in Dresden, which commenced work in 2006. Four of the total of six Research Centres are, following appropriate supplementary proposals, now also funded as clusters of excellence within the scope of the Excellence Initiative of the federal and state governments.