The Excellence Strategy: Kiel University leaps an important hurdle

Inflammatory diseases can be the result if the microbial colonisation of the intestines becomes imbalanced. The microbiome is a priority research area of the Cluster of Excellence (EC) "Inflammation at Interfaces".
Image: Anselm Zielonka/ EC “Inflammation at Interfaces”

The three-stage selection process in this competition for millions of Euros in research funding is extremely tough: 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. Only about a quarter of them will be successful. On Friday 29 September, the German Research Foundation (DFG) announced in Bonn which 88 projects from which universities have qualified for the final round. Kiel University (CAU) is among these. Together with its partner institutions, the Schleswig-Holstein state university can now submit three of its four proposals for final evaluation. The decision on funding will be made in one year.

CAU President Professor Lutz Kipp rates the successful interim evaluation of the CAU applications in the areas of marine sciences, inflammation research and societal change "as a very strong signal for the quality of science and innovation in Schleswig-Holstein." Nothing has been won yet, according to the physicist, but apparently the reviewers were impressed by the more than decade-long educational focus practised in Kiel, and the active integration of the research areas and partners involved. "Above all, we owe our success to the creativity of our researchers, and the common desire of the faculties, priority research areas, clusters and committees to sharpen the profile of our university, and together find answers to big scientific questions," praised Kipp. Now is the time to convert possibilities into successes.

Great delight in the Cluster of Excellence “Inflammation at Interfaces”

After two successful funding phases, the Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces" may submit a full application for a future cluster "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation". Professor Stefan Schreiber, spokesperson of the Cluster of Excellence, is delighted about the recognition of the work done so far. The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Kiel University, Professor Ulrich Stephani, added: "Since 2007, we have conducted interdisciplinary research and worked together at four locations in Schleswig-Holstein. Out of this, pioneering structures have arisen, which have made the science location of Schleswig-Holstein internationally visible. In the coming years, we want to intensively pursue our successful research, which also has an immediate benefit for patients."

Kiel Marine Science: off to new shores!

The decision of the DFG panel of experts also vindicates Kiel marine research in the realignment of its research agenda. "With our application 'Future Ocean Sustainability', we want to further expand our strong interdisciplinary research into the ocean and climate change in Kiel. For the first time, we link this directly with the sustainability goals of the UN Agenda 2030," announced Professor Martin Visbeck, spokesperson of the Cluster of Excellence "Future Ocean" and Head of the Physical Oceanography research unit at the GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. The ocean system is suffering, according to the oceanographer: "Therefore, in an international context, we urgently need a viable and knowledge-based re-think of strategies for a sustainable use of the oceans. We want to make a contribution to this in Kiel, and are now submitting a corresponding full application."

ROOTS on its way to becoming a Cluster of Excellence

The initiators of the application for "ROOTS - Societal, Environmental and Cultural Connectivity in Past Societies” are delighted that the first hurdle has been cleared on the way towards becoming a Cluster of Excellence. Through a better understanding of the dynamic environmental-societal relationships of the past, the new Cluster aims to explore the "roots” of current crises and their different social, cultural, ecological and economic aspects. "In order to tackle such complex questions with an innovative and in-depth approach, scientists from the humanities, natural sciences, life sciences and engineering have joined forces for the ROOTS application," explained Professor Johannes Müller, archaeologist and spokesperson for the initiative. "After ten years of experience in the Graduate School "Human Development in Landscapes", we see valuable potential for future outstanding research, in the training of young scientists up to a level of excellence," added archaeologist, Professor Annette Haug. "Building on this, we want to tackle six new topics: environmental hazards and their effects, changing nutrition, knowledge production, technology and innovation, urban spaces, social inequality and conflict and mediation," announced Professor Wolfgang Rabbel from the Institute of Geosciences.

Molecular building blocks and nanomaterials from Kiel blaze new trails

The Kiel application "Responsive Nanosystems", which had the goal of developing novel molecular building blocks and nanomaterials, did not make it into the final round. "Many thanks to all those who contributed to the application with great dedication. Even though we cannot submit a full application, I am confident that many ideas can be implemented well in other contexts," said Richard Berndt, Professor for Experimental Physics and spokesperson of the Cluster Initiative Responsive Nanosystems, about the DFG’s decision.

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 a year. Unlike its predecessor, the Excellence Initiative, it is not for a limited period, but operates on a long-term basis. In 2018, the overall programme is worth a total of €533 million 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 applications from other universities. In the first round of applications, eleven Universities of Excellence (or university associations) will be selected in a competitive process.

Kiel University’s partners in the Excellence Strategy

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


Dr Katja Barth

Kiel University

Strategy and Planning

Tel.: +49 (0)431 880-3050