Alliance for cutting-edge research founded in Schleswig-Holstein

Increase innovation, prevent shortage of skilled workers, utilise synergies. Schleswig-Holstein has enormous research and development potential. And many opportunities to create value chains, from fundamental research right through to technology development, in the state between the seas. This is why the institutions involved in cutting-edge research in Schleswig-Holstein are now intensifying their cooperation. This week, with the signing of a joint declaration, they founded the "Alliance for cutting-edge research in Schleswig-Holstein".

The alliance includes 14 universities, non-university research institutions and the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH). The aim of this new network is to build up interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation, and foster intensive collaboration on overarching research and organisational topics. Plans include new forms of joint promotion of early career researchers, building up a Dual Career Network, the shared use of research platforms, as well as the involvement of stakeholders and the establishment of think tanks for current issues in politics, the economy and society.

In the initial phase, the focus of the networking efforts is on career development for promising scientists, career prospects for partners of researchers, as well as the topics of digitalisation and artificial intelligence. This should facilitate the creation of a joint network for career development. Shared efforts to attract excellent young scientists should be driven by the exchange of job vacancies and joint appearances at career fairs.

"The founding of such an alliance in Schleswig-Holstein is long overdue. We thereby give science a strong voice when it comes to tackling large social projects," said the President of Kiel University (CAU), Professor Lutz Kipp, outlining the goal. In addition to the science policy dimension of the new alliance, solutions should be developed for major challenges in the areas of education, energy, food, peace, health, artificial intelligence and digitalisation and the environment, and implemented together with partners.

"Science must become more pragmatic, smart and internationally-visible in its cooperation, to keep the science location of Schleswig-Holstein competitive among the national and international competition," added CAU Vice President Professor Karin Schwarz. In doing so, the alliance attaches great importance to boosting cooperation with Hamburg. This will strengthen the north in the nationwide competition for national and European funding.

Minister of Science Karin Prien also praised the initiative: "The 'Alliance for cutting-edge research' is an idea which the CAU already included in its application for funding to become a University of Excellence. I am delighted that the university has pursued this good idea. This alliance will not only support the CAU on its successful path, but also boost Schleswig-Holstein overall as a research location, and further drive the required networking in cutting-edge research."

Joint task of digitalisation and artificial intelligence

In the area of digitalisation, the partners particularly seek closer and more extensive cooperation through consortia for the national research data infrastructure (NFDI), to master the challenges faced in this area. "We are considering, for example, networked infrastructures for research data and information. Closer cooperation is also advisable on other digitalisation topics, such as applications for artificial intelligence," said the head of the ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics (Kiel/Hamburg), Professor Klaus Tochtermann, looking ahead.

"In materials and coastal research, over the next few years the emphasis will gradually shift from experiments to systematic (AI-based) simulations, and predictions based on them," emphasised Professor Matthias Rehahn, Scientific Director of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research (HZG). "The Alliance for cutting-edge research in Schleswig-Holstein synergistically combines the relevant competence in the north."

Acquiring excellent specialists

Certified as a family-friendly university, the University of Lübeck (UzL) supports the spouses or partners of newly-appointed professors, on request. Since 2018, the UzL and the CAU have been members of the Dual Career Network Germany, and joined the newly-established regional network “Dual Career Hamburg + der Norden” (Dual Career Hamburg and the North), founded in Hamburg in the spring of 2019. Advice is provided to clients based on the quality standards and ethical guidelines developed by the network. Where necessary, the Dual Career advice is also offered at management level in administrative areas. "In their Alliance for cutting-edge research, the University of Lübeck, together with the CAU and the other research institutions, aim to create a Dual Career Network in Schleswig-Holstein," announced UzL President Professor Gabriele Gillessen-Kaesbach.

Networking is a prerequisite for excellence in the north

"We very much welcome the fact that with the new alliance, the already-successful collaborations of the Fraunhofer ISIT with many research institutions in Schleswig-Holstein are now being strategically aligned and expanded throughout the state," said the head of the Fraunhofer ISIT Dr Axel Müller-Groeling. "We hope that in future there will be much more intensive and diverse exchange of scientists between our institute and the other partners in the alliance."

Professor Gabriel Felbermayr, President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), also knows that the structured networking of diverse competences and scientific success are closely related: "Research has long since become a team discipline, lone fighters are increasingly fading into the background. When conducting research, interdisciplinary cooperation in particular helps to develop practical bases for decision-making for politics, the economy and society. The Alliance for cutting-edge research in Schleswig-Holstein thus strengthens the north immensely as a science location."

"Without the intensive cooperation between the CAU, GEOMAR, the Research Center Borstel, the University of Lübeck and the Max Planck Institute, it would not have been possible to become a leading location internationally in the field of evolutionary biology, and to attract excellent early career researchers from all over the world to Schleswig-Holstein every year," agreed Professor Diethard Tautz, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön (MPI-EB).

"Excellent research requires a shared culture to make the regional research landscape especially productive for all partners,” concurred Professor Stefan Ehlers, Director of the Research Center Borstel - Leibniz Lung Center. "The Alliance for cutting-edge research provides a tangible expression of this shared understanding of a supportive enabling culture for science, extending beyond interdisciplinary collaborations on research projects."

Medicine of the future

"Modern university medicine is characterised by differentiation and proliferation of medical and nursing fields of knowledge," said Professor Jens Scholz, Chairperson of the Board of the UKSH. "For ground-breaking therapies, we increasingly rely on specialists from the fields of information technology, physics, biochemistry and countless other areas of expertise. Only through cooperation between experts in the academic community can we meet the challenges of researching the diseases of the 21st century, and win the race against time - as is the case with the current coronavirus pandemic." In this sense, the new alliance is a strong sign of a new beginning, and the excellent standards set for our own work.

Lutz Kipp at his desk
© Jürgen Haacks, Uni Kiel

Setting the course for the future: The six-year term of Kiel University’s President Professor Lutz Kipp ends on 31 May. The signing of the founding agreement of the Alliance for cutting-edge research in Schleswig-Holstein was one of his last official acts.

The Alliance for cutting-edge research in Schleswig-Holstein

Founding members: Kiel University (CAU), European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility GmbH (European XFEL, Schenefeld), Research Center Borstel - Leibniz Lung Center (FZB, Borstel), GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research (HZG, Geesthacht), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN, Kiel), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Plön (MPI), Muthesius University of Fine Arts and Design (Kiel), University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), University of Lübeck (UzL), ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics (Kiel/Hamburg), Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA, Schleswig), Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology (ISIT, Itzehoe).


Scientific contact

Professor Karin Schwarz
Vice President of research, technology transfer and young scientists


Dr. Boris Pawlowski