DFG Research Centres

The primary objective of this programme is to establish a limited number of internationally visible and competitive research centres at German universities. The centres should be an important element of a university's strategic planning, serving to enhance its research profile and further research priorities. The DFG provides initial funding and support for professorships and independent junior research groups. The centres offer excellent working conditions for early career researchers and a framework for interdisciplinary cooperation.

Unlike the Clusters of Excellence funded under Germany's Excellence Initiative and Excellence Strategy, DFG Research Centres are set up in response to thematic calls issued by the DFG. The centres thus serve as an important strategic instrument in the DFG's funding portfolio.

The first three centres, located in Bremen, Karlsruhe and Würzburg, were established in 2001, following an open programme announcement. Another four centres, in Berlin, Göttingen, Dresden and Leipzig/Halle/Jena, were established in 2002, 2006 and 2012 according to thematically focused calls.

During the German Excellence Initiative competition, four of the centres (FZT 15 in Bremen, FZT 47 in Karlsruhe, FZT 103 in Göttingen und FZT 111 in Dresden) applied for and were granted additional funding as Clusters of Excellence.

DFG funding for three DFG Research Centres ended in 2013 and 2014; these included the DFG Research Centre for Experimental Biomedicine at the University of Würzburg (FZT 82), the DFG Research Centre Matheon – Mathematics for Key Technologies (FZT 86) at the Technische Universität Berlin and the Centre for Functional Nanostructures (CFN) (FZT 47/EXC 172) in Karlsruhe. In addition, in 2018 DFG funding expired for two centres in Bremen (FZT 15/EXC 307 – MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences) and Göttingen (FZT 103/EXC 171 – Nanoscale Microscopy and Molecular Physiology of the Brain). However, building on these centres, the universities in Bremen and Göttingen were successful in establishing two new Clusters of Excellence within the framework of the German Excellence Strategy: EXC 2077 The Ocean Floor – Earth’s Uncharted Interface (Bremen) and EXC 2067 Multiscale Bioimaging: From Molecular Machines to Networks of Excitable Cells (Göttingen).

Two DFG Research Centres are currently being funded, receiving a total of about €25 million per year.


An important strategic funding instrument to concentrate scientific research competence in particularly innovative fields and create temporary, internationally visible research priorities at research universities

Eligibility Requirements

Research universities

Proposal Requirements

DFG Research Centres enable the universities to establish research priorities on the basis of existing structures. The thematic focus must incorporate a high degree of interdisciplinary cooperation. Networking with other research institutions at the university location is encouraged. DFG Research Centres are open for cooperation with partners from industry.

Type and Extent of Funding

Funding may be provided for up to six professorships as well as associated independent junior research groups working within a DFG Research Centre. Following the start-up funding provided by the DFG, the host university commits itself to financing the professorships from its core budget. Appropriate personnel and material resources will also be made available. Funding for each DFG Research Centre averages approximately €5m per annum. Research Centres may receive funding for up to a maximum of 12 years.

Forms and Guidelines

The DFG annually announces one or two topics for which universities are invited to submit project drafts. German and international experts select approximately three of the most promising concepts in a pre-selection phase. The DFG then invites these universities to submit their proposals and to present their project to an international review team in a two-day competitive review. The DFG's Joint Committee decides on the establishment and funding of DFG Research Centres on the basis of the recommendations made by the review team.

Use of Funds for


Brandenburg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thüringen, Hamburg, Sachsen

Bayern, Hessen

Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland

Berlin, Niedersachsen