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Excellence Strategy

The aim of the Excellence Strategy is to strengthen Germany’s position as an outstanding place for research in the long term and further improve its international competitiveness. It continues the development of German universities successfully begun with the Excellence Initiative by supporting research of the highest standard, enhancing research profiles, and facilitating cooperation in the research system. The clusters of excellence and graduate schools that were funded under the Excellence Initiative but not continued under the Excellence Strategy will receive completion funding through October 2019.

Funding Lines

On the basis of the administrative agreement reached by the federal and state governments on 16 June 2016, the DFG and the German Council of Science and Humanities are implementing the Excellence Strategy in two funding lines:

  1. Clusters of Excellence (EXC) for project-based funding in internationally competitive fields of research at universities or university consortia. The DFG is responsible for developing and implementing this funding line. Proposals are reviewed and decided upon in an academically driven, two-stage competitive process (draft proposals and full proposals). A total of approximately €385 million are available annually for Clusters of Excellence. The Excellence Commission decided on funding for 57 Clusters of Excellence on 27 September 2018. Funding commenced on 1 January 2019.
  2. Universities of Excellence (EXU) to strengthen universities as individual institutions or as university consortia in the long term and further develop their leading international role on the basis of successful Clusters of Excellence. The German Council of Science and Humanities is responsible for developing and implementing this funding line. A total of approximately €148 million will be available annually for Universities of Excellence. Final decisions will be made by the Excellence Commission on 19 July 2019. Funding will begin on 1 November 2019.

Programm Information – Clusters of Excellence

Purpose

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 and Cooperation

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

Additional cooperation partners, such as researchers from other universities, non-university research institutions, the private sector and other areas of society, may also participate.

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

The detailed funding criteria are set out in

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.

Universities with Clusters of Excellence can also apply for a university allowance, to be seen as an additional strategy allowance, amounting to €1 million per year. Institutions that are successful under the Universities of Excellence funding line may only receive the university allowance until such funding begins.

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

Universities of Excellence (EXU)

The purpose of the Universities of Excellence funding line is to strengthen either a university as a single institution or a consortium of universities (University Excellence Consortium) in the long term on the basis of sustained, joint strategic objectives in a long-lasting collaboration and to develop its international leading position in research based on successful Clusters of Excellence.

Decisions on the Universities of Excellence will be made on 19 July 2019, with funding to begin on 1 November 2019. Approximately €148 million will be provided annually for this funding line.

The press conference will be livestreamed on 19 July 2019 at about 4 pm at

The German Council of Science and Humanities is responsible for developing and implementing this funding line. Universities of Excellence and University Excellence Consortia will be subject to an independent external evaluation every seven years.

Decision-Making Bodies

Decisions on draft proposals and full proposals in the Excellence Strategy are made by the Committee of Experts and the Excellence Commission.

The Committee of Experts consists of 39 members with proven research track records who represent the entire range of academic disciplines. In addition, they have extensive experience in international settings, in university management, in teaching or in the private sector.

The Chair of the German Council of Science and Humanities and the President of the DFG are non-voting members of the committee and preside over it.

The Excellence Commission consists of the Committee of Experts and the government ministers responsible for research at the federal and state levels.

Facts and Figures

On 27 and 28 September 2017 the Committee of Experts for the Excellence Strategy made its initial decisions in the Excellence Strategy. It chose 88 projects to proceed to the full proposal stage in the Clusters of Excellence funding line. The selection was made from 195 draft proposals, which were submitted to the DFG by 63 universities. The draft proposals were then reviewed by international panels on the basis of research quality criteria.

All 88 invited full proposals were received by the DFG by the 21 February 2018 deadline. They were submitted by 41 universities from 13 German states. Of these proposals, 26 were submitted jointly by at least two universities, including 3 by three universities. Just under half of the projects build on Clusters of Excellence or Graduate Schools that were funded during the previous round of Germany’s Excellence Initiative.

The decision on future Clusters of Excellence in the Excellence Strategy was taken on 27 September 2018. The Excellence Commission, consisting of the international Committee of Experts and the federal and state government ministers for research, selected 57 Clusters of Excellence out of 88 project proposals. These will be funded for the next seven years.

Statistical Overviews and Reviewer Survey

The report “Exzellenzstrategie des Bundes und der Länder – Statistische Übersichten zu den Förderentscheidungen zu Exzellenzclustern (September 2018)” (Excellence Strategy of the Federal and State Governments – Statistical Overview of Funding Decisions on Clusters of Excellence) describes the draft and full proposal phase up to the award stage in the first competitive round for the funding of new Clusters of Excellence. In addition to presenting key figures on the distribution of projects by region and discipline, it examines topics such as the interdisciplinary nature of the Clusters and the composition of the review groups.

During the proposal phase for the Excellence Strategy in 2018, a total of 88 establishment proposals were reviewed in 32 meetings by 385 reviewers from 31 countries. On the basis of these reviews, the Excellence Commission decided in September 2018 to award funding to 57 Clusters of Excellence. The infas Institute for Applied Social Sciences conducted an online survey of the reviewers on behalf of the DFG to evaluate the programme’s review process. Two-thirds of reviewers responded to the survey, the results of which are presented in this report.

A total of 26 letters of intent to submit a proposal in the Universities of Excellence funding line were submitted to the German Council of Science and Humanities by the 21 February 2018 deadline. Following the decisions in the Clusters of Excellence funding line, made in September 2018, 19 universities/university consortia were eligible to compete for Universities of Excellence. All 19 proposals, 17 from individual universities and two university consortia, were submitted by the 10 December 2018 deadline. The Excellence Commission approved funding for 11 Universities of Excellence on 19 July 2019.

Contact

The following contact persons are available at the head offices of the DFG and the German Council of Science and Humanities:

For general programme information

For the “Universities of Excellence” funding line

For the “Clusters of Excellence” funding line

Contact persons for individual Clusters of Excellence and for administrative matters

Use of funds

for Brandenburg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein

for Bavaria, Hessen, Thuringia

for Baden-Württemberg, Hamburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland

for Berlin, Lower Saxony, Saxony

Note

Information on the Excellence Strategy will be updated regularly on this site during the course of the programme. For direct access, use our quick link at