For applicants and spokespersons of Research Training Groups

Funding line: Research Training Groups (RTGs)

The DFG funds a Research Training Group for a maximum of nine years, divided into two funding periods. In the case of Research Training Groups whose establishment proposal is decided by November 2021, both funding periods last four and a half years. For Research Training Groups whose establishment proposal is decided on in May 2022 or later, the first funding period is five years and the second funding period is four years.

In Research Training Groups whose establishment proposal is decided on by November 2021, the individual funding period of a doctoral researcher is generally 36 months.

In addition, doctoral researchers in these Research Training Groups who were in DFG-funded employment in December 2020 and received funding for less than 36 months, or who took up a doctoral position in the Research Training Group at a later time, can receive funds for up to 48 months from the Research Training Group funding. The decision regarding possible funding extensions from the funds available to the Research Training Group beyond the standard funding period of 36 months is made by the respective Research Training Group itself.

In Research Training Groups whose establishment proposal is decided on in May 2022 or later, the maximum individual funding period of a doctoral researcher is 48 months. This depends on the qualification scheme in the individual Research Training Group.

In addition, the individual maximum funding period of 48 months may not be exceeded in any Research Training Group.

If the review of the renewal proposal does not result in a renewal decision, the Research Training Group can apply for completion funding for the doctoral researchers still working on their doctorates at that time.

In Research Training Groups for which a decision on the establishment proposal is made by November 2021, completion funding can be requested for a maximum of 18 months, but only until the individual standard funding period of 36 months is reached.

In Research Training Groups for which a decision on the establishment proposal is made in May 2022 or later, completion funding can be requested for a maximum of 12 months, but only until the individual standard funding period of 48 months is reached.

Graduate Schools have been financed from 2006 until 2019 through a funding line of the Excellence Initiative, which is financed by the federal government and the governments of the federal states. A Graduate School (GSC) is intended to support the profiling of the institution through appropriate early career support while delivering economic and structural added value for the university and the participating departments. Its size and thematic breadth are therefore determined by the university's strategies. There are no strict rules relating to size or structure – for example the participating researchers, institutes or doctoral researchers.

Research Training Groups (RTGs) have been funded by the DFG since 1990. In contrast to Graduate Schools, they pursue a focused research programme and the number of participants is restricted.

In recent years, Graduate Schools, which are funded through the Excellence Initiative, have been joined by other structures and programmes for the support of graduates at higher education institutions. Useful information about applying for funding for Research Training Groups is available in the information sheet on the positioning of Research Training Groups within the environment of other doctoral programmes.

A Research Unit is a group of outstanding researchers who collaborate closely on a research task. The most important aspect is the research results and not the qualification of individual research assistants, although they may obtain their doctorates as part of the group. Proposals for Research Units must contain a detailed description of the sub-projects in the same way as proposals in the Individual Grants Programme.

Research Training Groups are characterised by an overarching research programme, which must offer suitable material for doctoral projects. It must also be clear how doctoral researchers benefit by being members of the group. In addition to the quality of research, the programmes for the qualification and supervision of doctoral researchers are therefore also of prime importance.

DFG staff is glad to advise you on the most suitable funding programme for your research idea.

Programme variation: International Research Training Groups (IRTGs)

All Research Training Groups funded by the DFG offer doctoral researchers an introduction to the international scientific community and an international environment. A Research Training Group (RTG) is expected to maintain close contacts with researchers in other countries, invite visiting researchers from abroad, recruit doctoral researchers internationally and allow them to spend time working abroad and attend international conferences.

International Research Training Groups (IRTGs) are a programme variation of Research Training Groups. As well as the international aspects of an RTG outlined above, they also involve a formalised cooperation with a partner institution abroad, or less commonly more than one partner institution, with which the research programme and supervision programme are jointly carried out. All doctoral researchers complete one or more research visits to the partner institution (normally of between 6 and 12 months) and receive co-supervision from a lecturer at the partner institution. Doctoral researchers from the partner institution also spend an extended period working at the German institution in the IRTG. Detailed information is available in the information sheet on the distinction between International Research Training Groups and Research Training Groups.

Experience has shown that an IRTG functions best when both partners make an equal and complementary contribution. You should therefore only apply for an IRTG if the cooperation is an equal one and your international partners have the same degree of interest in the collaboration and the exchange. Rather than applying for an IRTG, it is also possible to apply for an RTG with a strong international orientation and plan a transition to an IRTG in the second funding period, which you can work towards during the first period.

For more advice, please contact the responsible contact person at the DFG Head Office.

In order to apply for an IRTG it is usually an essential requirement that you have already collaborated successfully with your international colleagues in a particular framework. You and your partners should also consider the question of complementary funding from the outset (see matching funding).

In the case of preparing an IRTG proposal you can apply to the DFG for funds for a preparatory workshop. Please note the guidelines on applying for funding for preparatory meetings for International Research Training Groups. Please direct any questions you may have to the contact person responsible for your federal state.

To be successful, IRTGs need equally strong groups in both countries with complementary interests and expertise. It is also important that the partners have the necessary means to ensure that the collaboration and the doctoral exchange work well. Applying for matching funding is your partner's responsibility. It does not matter what source these funds come from.

The DFG has agreements with various research funding organisations abroad regarding applications and bilateral funding for IRTGs. However, in the case of countries with which there are currently no such agreements, suitable solutions can normally be found. Please get in touch with the contact person at DFG Head Office responsible for the relevant country at an early stage.

Applying for matching funding is always your partner's responsibility. The partner should make contact with a funding organisation in their home country as early as possible to find out about opportunities and conditions relating to matching funding.

Please get in touch with the contact person responsible for the relevant country at DFG Head Office in advance to find out about the details of the process.

No, there are no quotas for either research areas or countries. All proposals for the establishment or renewal of an RTG or IRTG are subject to the same conditions in the review process and compete against one another.

The application and review process is identical for IRTGs and RTGs. During the review process, special attention is given to the implementation of the collaboration in the research programme and the joint supervision and qualification programme. For IRTGs, in some cases there is cooperation with international partner organisations of the DFG during the review stage. Before applying for an IRTG, please refer to the guidelines on Research Training Groups and International Research Training Groups.

Submitting a proposal

Proposals for Research Training Groups are submitted by the university or equivalent institution which acts as the applicant. The proposal is signed by the designated spokesperson and the university leadership. Please submit a copy of the proposal through the responsible ministry in your federal state to give the ministry the opportunity to comment.

There are two stages in the decision-making process for Research Training Groups.

In the first stage, a draft proposal is reviewed in a written process. On the basis of the draft proposal and the review, the responsible DFG Review Board discusses the draft proposal in its regularly occurring meetings and formulates a recommendation for the Senate Committee on Research Training Groups. On the basis of the draft proposal, the written reviews and the recommendation of the Review Board the Senate Committee on Research Training Groups makes the final positive or negative recommendation about the submission of an establishment proposal. This recommendation-decision.

In the second stage, an establishment proposal is submitted and reviewed in situ at your institution. The results of the review form the basis for the funding decision that is prepared by the Senate Committee on Research Training Groups and decided by the Grants Committee on Research Training Groups. The meetings of the Senate and the Grants Committee on Research Training Groups take place twice a year, usually early May and early November.

If you would like to submit a draft, do not hesitate to get in touch with the contact person for your location for advice.

You should expect it to take between one year and 18 months from the submission of the draft to the decision on the full proposal. This includes time spent getting advice, possibly a preparatory workshop in the case of International Research Training Groups, and the review of the draft and full proposal. The Grants Committee on Research Training Groups meets twice a year, usually in early May and early November. Please get in touch with the contact person for your federal state in good time to allow exact time planning.

The Research Training Group should include between five and ten researchers. The responsible participation of early career researchers is expressly encouraged. These are for example advanced Postdocs, Leaders of a research group or Juniorprofessors experienced in supervision.

This possibility is not specifically excluded. However, one of the aims of an RTG is to support the structural development of a particular location, and this may be more difficult and less promising where the group is split over two locations. You should only apply for a multi-location RTG if the joint research topic demands it and the locations will make a complementary and synergistic contribution to the RTG.

If you decide to apply for a multi-location RTG, please describe very clearly how the collaboration between the two locations will take place and how you will ensure that doctoral researchers can maintain contact between locations. Carrying out the qualification programme represents a particular challenge for multi-location RTGs, which will be specially evaluated in the decision-making process.

The further apart the locations, the more important it is to have a critical mass of supervisors and doctoral researchers at both locations. In the proposal, please describe the added value created by the collaboration between locations and explain why it is not possible to make up a group of participating researchers for your topic at a single location.

If the topics of the Collaborative Research Centre and the Research Training Group are closely related, it is both advisable and necessary to fund them together. For Research Training Groups established separately from a Collaborative Research Centre, the usual DFG procedural rules to prevent duplicate funding apply. Thematic overlap is permitted if the Research Training Group offers sufficient unique features in terms of content or structure. A structural unique feature might be the establishment of an International Research Training Group, for example.

Establishment and project renewal reviews are carried out at the university where the RTG is to be set up, or is already located.

Cooperations with an application partner in the shape of a company or a not-for-profit or public organisation can be very valuable for doctoral researchers. Cooperations of this type are therefore expressly welcomed and supported, although certain aspects must be considered.

Should you wish to cooperate with a company or a not-for-profit or public organisation as an application partner to your Research Training Group, please note the following:

  • The DFG cannot fund contract research.
  • The contribution of the cooperation partners to the collaboration must be appropriate and must be disclosed.
  • The collaboration must be governed by a cooperation agreement. The DFG will provide non-binding sample cooperation agreements.

In principle it is possible to apply for one or more transfer projects within a funded Research Training Group. For more information, please refer to the guidelines on Research Training Groups and International Research Training Groups and the guidelines on knowledge transfer projects.

We recommend that you seek advice from DFG Head Office beforehand. For an initial consultation, please get in touch with the contact person in the Research Careers division responsible for knowledge transfer.

After approval and during the active period of the Research Training Group

You can publish advertisements for posts in DFG-funded projects, including Research Training Groups, on the DFG website. The European Liaison Office of the German Research Organisations (KoWi) also publishes information about available jobs at German research institutions. On the European mobility portal Euraxess you can both publish job advertisements and view the curriculum vitae of people who are interested in doctoral research.

Doctoral researchers whose post or fellowship is not funded by RTG funds but by other means can join the Research Training Group as associate members. As such, they can benefit from the facilities and funds (e.g. travel funds) of the RTG. The acceptance and supervision of associate members is subject to the same criteria and requirements as for doctoral researchers funded from RTG funds.

The Research Training Group itself is responsible for the selection and acceptance of doctoral researchers. Questions relating to residence, visas etc. should be discussed in plenty of time with your university's International Office or Welcome Centre. You will also find useful tips on the European mobility portal Euraxess.

One of the features of Research Training Groups is that they offer doctoral researchers an excellent environment for research and intensive supervision. However, it is still advisable to document in writing the responsibilities and obligations of both parties, supervisor and supervisee, the basic principles of the supervisory relationship and other framework conditions. The DFG has compiled recommendations as to what points to take into consideration in a supervision agreement.

The use of funds in a Research Training Group is subject to budget year earmarking. This means that funds allocated for a specific budget year may only be used during this budget year. All funds left over at the end of the calendar year are returned to the DFG. Only in exceptional cases it is possible to carry a limited amount over to the next calendar year.

However, to allow flexibility in the use of funds, all funds not earmarked for specific purposes may be used for other cost items. This includes both direct project costs and funding for staff. However, funds must always be used in a way that serves the aim of the Research Training Group – i.e. the qualification of doctoral researchers – and the scientific quality of the research and qualification programme. Rejections or partial rejections in the award letter must not be circumvented. Please note the principles regarding budget year earmarking and repurposing in the guidelines for use.

If possible you should request all the funds required for the Research Training Group in the establishment proposal and renewal proposal. Additional proposals are only possible in certain cases, which are described in appendix III of the guidelines for use.

Please direct any queries to the contact person at DFG Head Office responsible for your Research Training Group.

During the current funding period more principal investigators can be appointed, either in a cost-neutral way or with additional costs. In both cases a supplemental proposal suitable for review must be submitted.

In the supplemental proposal you must state how the new principal investigator is to be integrated into the research and into the qualification programme. And the scientific CV of the PI should be included. If additional means are requested a justification of these means is necessary. The research project and its fitting into the research programme of the research training group as well as its suitability for a PhD-project needs to be stated.

In case the number of principal investigators exceeds the maximum number of ten through this supplement, please justify.

Formal conditions and timelines for a supplemental proposal with additional means due to additional PI(s) can be found in DFG form 54.05 or 54.07, respectively.

More information can be found in appendix V of the proposal preparation instructions.

If support is necessary, e.g. if the expectant mother handles substances which are toxic to reproduction as part of her research and is not allowed to carry out the work herself, the funds needed for support can usually be provided from the funds already approved by the DFG. If necessary, additional funding can be made available.

It goes without saying for the DFG that people with a chronic illness or disability should also be allowed to participate in DFG-funded Research Training Groups on an equity basis. Please note that for members of the Research Training Group with a recognised severe disability or whose condition has equal status to that of a severe disability, priority must be given to the benefits provided under the social security system and the relevant agencies on site should be consulted for advice where relevant. This might be the works council, the Integration Officer or the local representative body for severely disabled employees at the research institution. Support is also available for those concerned and for the employer from the authorities responsible (e.g. the Inclusion Office or Integration Office, for further details see: Those affected by health-related restrictions in particular should refer to the so-called “Complementary Independent Participation Counselling” (EUTB) (  

Originally set up in connection with a research project, the external website “PROMI – Promotion inklusive” also provides information geared specifically to the target group on the topic of doing a doctorate with a disability. In addition to an introductory accessible video, detailed information is provided (in German and English) for those taking a doctorate who have health-related restrictions. Specific information is also provided for supervisors of doctoral candidates with disabilities and for the employing institution:

If you have any special questions regarding DFG funding for a Research Training Group relating to a disability or chronic illness, please contact the DFG Head Office for advice.

In the case of doctoral researchers who are unable to work due to illness where there is no statutory or collectively agreed entitlement to continued payment of remuneration, for example, it is possible to reactivate unused staff funding at a later date on a person-specific basis. There is also the option of working part-time for personal reasons such as a disability or chronic illness while at the same time extending the term of the contract. If there is any indication of such a situation arising, please contact the person responsible for your Research Training Group at the DFG Head Office right away so as to have the use of funds approved.

Contact persons

Contact persons for enquiries about proposals for Research Training Groups and the general process can be found here



Berlin, Brandenburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Thüringen:

Bremen, Hessen, Schleswig-Holstein:

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen:

Hamburg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland:



Further Information

on DFG funding programmes: