The German federal and state governments passed the Excellence Initiative in 2005. The aim of the Excellence Initiative was 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 was jointly responsible for running the initiative together with the German Council of Science and Humanities, which was 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 2012 funding was awarded for 45 graduate schools, 43 clusters of excellence and 11 institutional strategies.