Press Release No. 27 | July 1, 2020

DFG to Fund Three New Research Units

Topics range from processes of production in art to host plant-microbe interaction / Total of approximately €8 million for first funding period

Topics range from processes of production in art to host plant-microbe interaction / Total of approximately €8 million for first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing three new Research Units. This was decided by the DFG Joint Committee at its session during the 2020 Annual Meeting. Like all sessions of the DFG's statutory bodies during the Annual Meeting, that of the Joint Committee was held in virtual form by video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new Research Units will receive a total of approximately €8 million, which includes a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs.

The funding duration is based on the date on which the initial draft funding proposal was submitted. Research Units whose draft proposals were submitted after 1 October 2018 will be funded for a maximum of two four-year periods; this applies to one of the newly established Research Units. The other two groups are based on draft proposals received before 1 October 2018; they will be funded for two three-year periods.

In addition to the three new groups, the decision has also been taken to extend two Research Units and one Clinical Research Unit for a second funding period. Research Units enable researchers to pursue current and pressing issues in their research areas and to take innovative directions in their work. Clinical Research Units are also characterised by the close connection between research and clinical work. In total, the DFG is currently funding 160 Research Units, 13 Clinical Research Units and 17 Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies.

The three new groups
(in alphabetical order by spokesperson's university)

The approach adopted by the Research Unit "The dimensions of techne in the fine arts (manifestations / systems / narratives)" is to understand art production no longer as the result of ideas but of processes. The Research Unit will focus on the material and technological aspects of artistic production. The researchers intend to analyse the complete relationship network of conditions and processes in the production of artefacts in the Early Modern period and its effect and reception down to the present day. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Magdalena Bushart, TU Berlin)

The Research Unit "Voluntariness" will examine the eponymous concept from a historical, sociological and philosophical perspective. Key to the research is the question of how Western premodern and modern and also non-European societies have governed their members through the principle of voluntariness, including for example religiously motivated voluntariness in medieval martyrdom and voluntary 'participation' in dictatorships. Ultimately, the aim is to conceive voluntariness as a core aspect of governmental rule more precisely than has previously been done. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jürgen Martschukat, University of Erfurt)

"Plant-microbe communication through exRNA: systems-level approaches to explore molecular mechanisms and agronomic applications" is the title of a Research Unit at the interface between agricultural sciences and biology. The researchers aim to understand how host plants and their interacting microbes communicate with each other. In the long term, the insights gained into the mechanisms of plant disease and plant immunity could help to develop new strategies to reduce chemical plant protection and protect the yield of important crop plants. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Karl-Heinz Kogel, University of Giessen)

The three groups extended for a second funding period
(in alphabetical order by spokesperson's university, with link to project description in GEPRIS, the DFG's online database of currently funded projects):

The Research Unit "The Role of Nature in Human Welfare in the Social-Ecological System of Kilimanjaro (Kili-SES)" was approved by the DFG in April. Since then, funding has also been approved by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF). To develop strategies for sustainable relationships between humans and nature and to counter the decline of biodiversity and ecosystem services, we need more knowledge about key aspects of the feedbacks between humans and nature. Taking the example of the mountain massif in Tanzania, the Research Unit will therefore investigate the relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem services, human welfare, governance and anthropogenic influences. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese, Goethe University Frankfurt and Senckenberg Society for Nature Research, Frankfurt am Main)

Further Information

Media contact:

  • DFG Press and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2109,

Further information will be provided by the spokespersons of the units.

DFG Head Office contact:

Further information on DFG Research Units: