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Clusters of Excellence (Excellence Strategy)

Clusters of Excellence support project-based funding in internationally competitive research fields at a university or university consortium.

This funding line, which was established under the Excellence Initiative (2005 – 2017), was further developed in the Excellence Strategy.


Full proposals for Clusters of Excellence can be submitted via the DFG’s elan portal beginning 8 January 2018. Proposals are upon invitation only and must generally be submitted in English and received by the cut-off deadline of noon on 21 February 2018.

Clusters of Excellence are intended to form an important part of the strategic and thematic planning of the applicant university/universities, hone their profiles and promote prioritisation. They are also expected to create excellent training and career opportunities for early career researchers. Together with the Universities of Excellence, Clusters of Excellence serve to strengthen Germany's position as a research location in the long term and further improve its international competitiveness.

Additional information on Clusters of Excellence, including the programme objectives, eligibility requirements and proposal submission procedure, can be found in the call for proposals, which was agreed upon by the Committee of Experts at its inaugural meeting on 20/21 September 2016.

Proposal Submission

Proposals in the Clusters of Excellence funding line are reviewed and decided upon in an academically driven, two-stage competitive process (draft proposals and full proposals), which will be implemented by the DFG.

The DFG Head Office received a total of 195 draft proposals by the 3 April 2017 deadline.

On 28 September 2017, the Committee of Experts decided which draft proposals will be invited to submit full proposals. The deadline for submission of full proposals is noon on 21 February 2018. The Excellence Commission will make the final funding decision on the proposals for Clusters of Excellence on 27 September 2018.

Funding will begin on 1 January 2019.

Detailed information on proposal submission and the review and decision-making processes is available in the programme guidelines (DFG form ExStra 100).

In Brief


To support project-based funding in internationally competitive research fields at a university or university consortium; hone research profiles and promote prioritisation at universities; create excellent training and career opportunities for early career researchers.

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may be submitted by universities and consortia of two, in exceptional cases three applicant universities.

Proposal Requirements

Clusters of Excellence serve to strengthen the research profiles of applicant universities by enhancing priority areas and providing prospects for development. They build on outstanding previous work and address an institution’s strengths and weaknesses in relevant performance areas.

Important funding criteria are:

  • Excellence of research
  • Track record of participating researchers
  • High quality of the university’s supporting structures in the Cluster of Excellence
  • Supportive and high-performance environment for the Cluster of Excellence

Type and Extent of Funding

Clusters of Excellence funded under the Excellence Strategy can receive between €3 million and €10 million annually.

Funding covers personnel, direct project costs and instrumentation. The funding amount for a Cluster of Excellence includes a programme allowance for indirect project costs of 22 percent of the approved and expended project funds.

On the basis of a proposal, additional funds of up to €1 million per year can be requested as a university allowance.

Funding Duration

Clusters of Excellence are funded for seven years (1 January 2019 through 31 December 2025). A second funding period of seven years is possible.

Forms and Guidelines

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Printable version of a page from the website of the DFG (German Research Foundation)