Decision in the Excellence Strategy

Kiel University is one of the 19 top universities in Germany


latest generation of sequencers
© Oliver Franke, IKMB

Cluster of Excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation": Molecular information such as genetic information, proteins or metabolic products helps to understand and be able to treat diseases more precisely. The latest generation of sequencers (see picture) are important tools for precision medicine.

Underwater drilling
© Professor Ingmar Unkel

Cluster of Excellence "ROOTS - connectivity of society, environment and culture in past worlds": Underwater drilling for paleo-environmental research and reconstruction of the human-environment interaction in Stymphalos, Greece.

Launching the wave-glider
© Jan Steffen, GEOMAR

The cluster application "Future Ocean Sustainability" was not successful: Launching the wave-glider GeoSURF during the expedition with the FS SONNE.

On Thursday 27 September, the German Research Foundation (DFG) announced in Bonn which collaborative research projects will receive funding for the next seven years, as part of the Excellence Strategy of the German federal government and states. These include two applications submitted by Kiel University (CAU), "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI) and "ROOTS - connectivity of society, environment and culture in past worlds". They will receive funding of around 100 million Euros up to 2026. This makes the Schleswig-Holstein state university one of the 19 top German universities which have received two or more clusters, and which may now apply to become Universities of Excellence in the second funding line of the Excellence Strategy.

"This is a huge success, which no-one outside of our state had expected," said a very happy CAU President, Professor Lutz Kipp, about the decision. "First of all, we are delighted that two of our applications were successful. We congratulate our colleagues from the inflammation cluster and ROOTS on this sensational result. Unfortunately, our joy is tinged with sadness. The cluster "Future Ocean Sustainability" was not successful. This is bitter for our colleagues. Marine sciences, which are historically associated with our university, will remain a priority research area at the CAU, and continue to be an integral part of the scientific agenda of our university and the state. Overall, I am thrilled by the massive effort made by all those involved. They deserve our heartfelt thanks. A special thanks also goes to our Minister-President Daniel Günther and our Science Minister Karin Prien. Both were personally significantly involved in the applications. The cooperation between science and politics worked extremely well. This success is an enormous image boost for our city and our state."

group picture
© Jürgen Haacks, Uni Kiel

The magic moment: CAU President Professor Lutz Kipp announces the selection result from Bonn. In the coming years, the DFG will provide funding of around 100 million Euros for the projects "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI) and "ROOTS - connectivity of society, environment and culture in past worlds" at Kiel University.

"Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" is coming

"Joyful celebrations for all those at the Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces" (inflammation research). In the past ten years, the Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces" in Kiel and Lübeck, together with partner institutions in Plön and Borstel, has built up unique structures in research and healthcare, and permanently changed Schleswig-Holstein as a biomedical location. Now, the concept of "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI) builds on this foundation. The application was judged to be excellent, and will receive funding from 2019. The multifaceted research approach which the inflammation cluster has practised very successfully for ten years, should now also transfer this interdisciplinarity to healthcare. The goal is to make progress with early diagnosis and preventive intervention for chronic inflammatory diseases, and to improve treatment. Three points are important in the context of a successful treatment, and are therefore at the centre of the PMI research: the early detection of chronic inflammatory diseases, the prediction of disease progression and complications, as well as the prediction of the individual response to treatment. This is based on a modern understanding of medicine: holistic and interdisciplinary; preventive rather than reactive, personalised, tailored to the individual patient."


ROOTS is becoming a Cluster of Excellence

The initiators of the application "ROOTS - connectivity of society, environment and culture in past worlds" are delighted with the approval of the Cluster of Excellence. The cluster aims to investigate the "roots" of social, environmental and cultural phenomena and processes, based on various social, cultural, ecological and economic aspects of past societies, in order to enable a better understanding of current challenges and crises. "For this purpose, scientists from the humanities and natural sciences as well as the life sciences and engineering will work closely together," explained Professor Johannes Müller, archaeologist and spokesperson for the initiative. "In the last ten years, we have successfully enhanced the interdisciplinarity at the Graduate School "Human Development in Landscapes” as well as the Johanna Mestorf Academy, thereby creating a special incentive for national and international researchers to come to Kiel," added the classical archaeologist Professor Annette Haug. The geoscientist Professor Wolfgang Rabbel is also delighted: "ROOTS allows us to further expand cutting-edge research with the expertise of experienced scientists, to develop infrastructures for this purpose, and at the same time, to boost the profile of Kiel University."


Kiel marine research sticks with integrative research agenda, despite lack of Cluster of Excellence funding

Although the application "Future Ocean Sustainability" was not approved for funding, the Kiel marine researchers are nevertheless looking ahead with confidence. In the two funding phases (2006 to 2018) of the Cluster of Excellence "Future Ocean", internationally visible and successful new professorships and cooperative structures were created in Kiel. With the multi-faculty Kiel Marine Science (KMS) priority research area at the CAU, and through the close networking with external partners, the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) and Muthesius University, marine research in Kiel remains excellently positioned to tackle the coming challenges in the integrative study of the world's oceans.

"In the future - despite significant financial cuts - the interdisciplinary exploration of the oceans across all faculties of Kiel University and its institutions as well with non-scientific partners, will remain an important pillar of the research agenda in Kiel," said cluster spokesperson Professor Martin Visbeck from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, who deeply regrets that the Cluster of Excellence application couldn’t manage the final hurdle. For the new research agenda towards knowledge-based solution options for a sustainable use of the oceans within the framework of the UN Agenda 2030, the marine researchers can continue to build on a broad range of expertise in Kiel. "We will now apply for additional funding within the framework of the national research programme MARE:N, the European funding opportunities through Horizon Europe, and from the Deutschen Allianz für Meeresforschung (German Alliance for Marine Research)," added Visbeck.

CAU Excellence Strategy partners

  • State Archaeological Museum Schleswig (ALM)
  • Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY)
  • German National Library of Economics (ZBW)
  • GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research (HZG)
  • Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
  • Research Center Borstel – Leibniz Center for Medicine and Biosciences (FZB)
  • Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN)
  • Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology (MPI) in Plön
  • Muthesius University
  • University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH)
  • University of Lübeck (UzL)
  • Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA) in Schleswig

Photo gallery on decision in the Excellence Strategy


The Excellence Strategy

The Excellence Strategy is aimed at promoting world-class university research. It includes funding lines for Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence. For the first time, the federal government and the federal states are using the constitutional leeway provided by the new Article 91b GG, to support the best universities in the country. The Excellence Strategy provides funding for universities amounting to 533 million Euros a year. Unlike its predecessor, the Excellence Initiative, it is not for a limited period, but operates on a long-term basis. In 2018 terms, the overall programme is worth a total of 533 million Euros per annum. The costs are split in the ratio 75:25 between the federal government and the respective states of the universities. The German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) are responsible for the science-driven evaluation and selection processes. There are two funding lines: Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence. Every seven years, future Universities of Excellence must compete with new proposals from other universities. Originally, 195 scientific project proposals from 63 universities from all 16 federal states competed in the new Excellence Strategy of the German government and the federal states, for over a billion Euros in funding for cutting-edge research. After the final selection round, 57 of the 88 remaining applications in the competition were approved for funding. In a further application round, eleven Universities of Excellence (or university associations) will be selected in a competitive process, for funding from 2019 onwards.



Dr. Katja Barth
Kiel University
Strategy and Planning
Telefon: 0431 880-3050


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Dr. Boris Pawlowski