Clusters of Excellence (EXC) and Collaborative Research Centres (CRC) present themselves in Moscow

B. Konze-Thomas (DFG), G. Birgelen (Permanent Deputy Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Russia)

(27.02.13) As part of Russia's Germany Year, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFFI) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) hosted a one-day workshop at the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences (RAN) in Moscow. The chosen theme was 'Prospects of German-Russian Scientific Cooperation in Clusters of Excellence (EXC) and Collaborative Research Centres (CRC)', and 120 researchers and academic administrators from both countries discussed opportunities for expanding joint research activities.

The DFG and the RFFI have been funding bilateral projects involving researchers from Germany and Russia since 1995, but there is also growing mutual interest in long-term collaborations in large-scale research networks. So in 2012 the two organisations signed an agreement to expand the joint funding of International Research Training Groups and Collaborative Research Centres. The workshop was designed to present funding programmes and opportunities on both sides. The event was supported by the German Embassy and the German House for Research and Innovation (DWIH) in Moscow, represented inter alia by Georg Birgelen and Gregor Berghorn, who welcomed those present on behalf of the German organisers. For the RFFI, the event was opened by Vladimir Kvardakov (vice-president) and Vladimir Eliseev (director).

A delegation of six travelled from the DFG's Head Office in Bonn: Beate Konze-Thomas (Coordinated Programmes and Infrastructure) and Klaus Wehrberger (Research Centres division) and programme directors Georg Bechtold (Chemistry and Process Engineering), Michael Lentze (Engineering Sciences), Guido Lüniger (Geosciences) and Michael Mössle (Physics). After the DFG had presented the Excellence Initiative and its various funding programmes, there were presentations by six representatives of German clusters of excellence and Collaborative Research Centres. Gerhard Bohrmann (EXC 309, Bremen), Jochen Feldmann (EXC 4, Munich), Frank Hauke (SFB 953, Erlangen-Nürnberg), Stefan Odenbach (SFB 609, Dresden), Walter Richtering (SFB 985, Aachen) and Karl Dieter Weiss (SFB 689, Regensburg) presented their interdisciplinary, long-term basic research projects to highlight opportunities for cooperation in the natural, earth and engineering sciences. Russian participants included the directors of leading institutes of the Academy of Sciences (RAN) and senior representatives of federal and national research universities from all over Russia, including Arkhangelsk, Chelyabinsk, Kazan, Komi, Moscow, Perm, Petrozavodsk, Pushchino, St. Petersburg, Saratov, Stavropol, Tomsk, Tyumen, Zhukovsky, Yakutsk and Yekaterinburg.

In view of the great public interest in research clusters with high innovation potential, new prospects for cooperation were debated in a panel discussion with political and business representatives. All the participants agreed that a solid funding basis must be an essential prerequisite for any joint project. In addition to the DFG and RFFI as funding organisations, the vice-rectors of Russia's two most important universities, Alexei Khokhlov (Moscow State University) and Sergey Tunik (St. Petersburg State University) put forward their own funding options for Collaborative Research Centres. In addition, the representative of the Russian science ministry (MON) mentioned financial resources made available by MON to the new national research universities for the expansion of international cooperation. The directors of major Russian research institutes, such as Andrei Zabrodsky (Ioffe Institute St. Petersburg) and Kev Salikhov (Zavoisky Institute, Kazan) stressed the interest of the Academy of Sciences in building long-term research structures with Germany. Mats Nordlund (vice-president of Skoltech) also drew attention to the establishment of new bilateral centres through funding from the Skolkovo Foundation. Finally, Robert Breitner from the German-Russian Chamber of International Commerce pointed out that there is a general willingness in industry to fund innovative major projects, and in some cases this is already happening. By way of conclusion, the DFG and the RFFI emphasised their desire to support successful initiatives to establish Collaborative Research Centres, including the search for new partners to co-fund projects in Russia.

Clusters of excellence are internationally visible research and training institutions at German universities. They are being funded by the DFG until 2017 through the Excellence Initiative, each cluster receiving up to €35 million. Collaborative Research Centres receive DFG funding for a period of up to 12 years. Both programmes may include universities and non-university research institutions from abroad and business and industry partners for the purpose of knowledge transfer.

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