The German federal and state governments passed the Excellence Initiative on 23 June 2005. The aim of the Excellence Initiative is to make Germany a more attractive research location, making it more internationally competitive and focussing attention on the outstanding achievements of German universities and the German scientific community.
Between 2006 and 2011 the DFG received a total of €1.9 billion in additional funding for the three funding lines of the initiative:
- Graduate schools to promote early career researchers
- Clusters of excellence to promote top-level research
- Institutional strategies to promote top-level university research
The DFG is jointly responsible for running the initiative together with the German Council of Science and Humanities, which is primarily responsible for the third funding line (institutional strategies).
In June 2009 the federal and state governments approved continuing the Excellence Initiative for another five years (2012 through 2017), allocating €2.7 billion in funding.
In June 2012 funding was awarded for 45 graduate schools, 43 clusters of excellence and 11 institutional strategies.
The funding period is five years. The precise conditions for receiving funding were defined in accordance with the criteria specified by the federal and state governments.
Universities were invited to submit funding proposals in response to a call issued in 2010. The involvement of non-university research institutions was expressly welcomed. The proposal process was a two-stage process (draft proposals followed by full proposals). The draft proposals and full proposals were reviewed by international peer review panels. To be eligible for the third funding line (institutional strategies), an institution had to have been granted at least one cluster of excellence and at least one graduate school.