Press Release No. 45 | November 8, 2023

DFG to Fund 12 New Research Training Groups

Topics range from cross-border labour markets and curiosity to ultra-fast nanoscopy / A total of approximately €93 million for the first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 12 new Research Training Groups (RTGs) to further bolster the support offered to researchers in early career phases. This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee in Bonn. From spring 2024 onwards, the new RTGs will receive a total of approximately €93 million over an initial period of five years. This includes a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. The new groups include one International Research Training Group (IRTG) with partners in Israel.

In addition to the 12 new groups, the Grants Committee agreed to extend the funding of another 15 Research Training Groups for an additional funding period. RTGs offer doctoral researchers an opportunity to complete their doctorates by following a structured research and qualification programme at a high level of subject-specific expertise. The DFG is currently providing funding to a total of 219 RTGs, including 28 IRTGs.

The Grants Committee also decided that universities of applied sciences (UAS, i.e. Fachhochschulen and Hochschulen für Angewandte Wissenschaften – HAW) will also have the opportunity in future to submit proposals under the Research Training Group Programme as the lead university. Proposals may be submitted by universities of applied sciences that have an independent right to award doctorates or that are able to guide doctoral researchers towards obtaining a doctorate in cooperation with a doctoral institution.

By adapting its guidelines, the DFG is responding to the fact that UAS with a strong research profile in various German federal states are increasingly being granted the right to award doctorates: the DFG’s aim in opening up the Research Training Group Programme is to contribute to the quality assurance of doctorates at UAS. Draft proposals and proposals are reviewed in accordance with the research and qualification-related requirements that apply under the Research Training Groups Programme.

Broadening eligibility to submit proposals under the Research Training Groups Programme complements the package of measures adopted by the DFG in recent years to tap into the research potential of UAS. UAS can submit draft proposals for Research Training Groups from 1 June 2024.

The new Research Training Groups in detail
(in alphabetical order of host university, with information on the spokesperson as well as the other applicant universities and cooperation partners):

Cross-border labour mobility and migration are key topics in globalisation research. Nevertheless, cross-border labour markets have not yet become a subject of research in their own right, as the focus is mostly on national labour markets. Why are cross-border labour markets emerging in some industries and not in others? Why do they connect certain countries while leaving others out? These and similar questions will be investigated by the Research Training Group Cross-border Labour Markets: Transnational Market Makers, Infrastructures, Institutions. Based on empirical and theoretical research, the researchers will seek to gain a better understanding of how cross-border labour markets emerge, function and are consolidated. (Bielefeld University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ursula Mense-Petermann; also applying: University of Duisburg-Essen)

Small electrically powered flight systems, often referred to in common parlance as “air taxis”, could probably soon be built in series production and put to use. But how is the transport of people and freight using such aircraft to be put into practice, especially in large cities? What technical hurdles still need to be overcome and what concerns among the population need to be taken into account? The Research Training Group Technological & Operational Integration of highly automated Air Transport in Urban Areas is dedicated to these issues and aims to provide a comprehensive analysis, modelling and problem-solving solution for such advanced air mobility. The goal is to help put into practice the idea of local, emission-free mobility in the air. (TU Dresden, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Hartmut Fricke)

An acute heart attack, also known in medicine as a myocardial infarction, occurs when a blood vessel in the heart muscle becomes blocked, cutting off the heart muscle’s oxygen supply and preventing it from doing its job. If the oxygen supply is restored through medical treatment, so-called reperfusion injury can occur as soon as blood flows through the heart muscle again – so the renewed blood flow can result in additional damage in some cases. The Research Training Group Targeting Cellular Interfaces in Reperfused Acute Myocardial Infarction aims to understand the molecular and cellular processes that contribute to reperfusion injury and use this to derive therapeutic concepts. (University of Duisburg-Essen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Tienush Rassaf)

Over the past ten years, a new field of research has been established in communications engineering: molecular communication. Molecules are used as information carriers to communicate in environments and with objects or organisms that are not suitable for conventional communication systems based on electromagnetic waves. The Research Training Group Synthetic Molecular Communication Across Different Scales: From Theory to Experiments aims to develop new molecular communication models. To this end, the researchers will be taking a closer look at sensor technology and the control of bioprocesses, the control of magnetic nanoparticles in blood vessels, and molecular communication via so-called volatile stimuli. (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Robert Schober)

What happens when living creatures are curious and want to find out more about their environment? Even though a lot of research has been done into this phenomenon in psychology and behavioural biology, there is still no standard definition of curiosity. It can be described as behaviour, as a cognitive or emotional state, as motivation, or as a stable characteristic of an individual. The Research Training Group of the same name will investigate Curiosity systematically according to three aspects: when, why and how are we curious? The aim is also to clarify the role of curiosity in successful learning. The Research Training Group aims to combine data from experiments and behavioural observations of humans and primates with computer modelling in order to gain a better understanding of information processing and neuronal processes. (University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Nivedita Mani)

How can resources be recovered from wastewater? This is the question that is to be investigated by the Research Training Group Valuable Wastewater (WERA) – Recovery of Critical Raw Materials by the Example of Phosphorus. Phosphorus is a key component of many products, including fertilisers and foodstuffs. Yet there are insufficient quantities of this crucial substance in Europe. For this reason, the Research Training Group brings together experts from the engineering and natural sciences to gain a better understanding of the process of phosphorus recovery. They will be jointly involved in investigating physico-chemical and process engineering mechanisms. The objective is to be able to develop new separation processes and customised adsorber materials, depending on the composition of the wastewater. (RPTU Kaiserslautern-Landau, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Sergiy Antonyuk)

The International Research Training Group Belongings: Jewish Material Culture in Twentieth-Century Europe and Beyond looks at Jewish cultural history based on objects and material goods. With its deliberately ambiguous title – referring to both physical property and the sense of belonging – the focus is on the interrelationship between people and objects in 20th century Europe. While its main focus will be on the Shoah, the Research Training Group in Leipzig and Jerusalem also aims to work on topics from other periods and regions. In this way, new insights are to be gained into European-Jewish living environments and their interrelationships with the non-Jewish environment. (Leipzig University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Yfaat Weiss; cooperation partner: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel).

How can natural and interconnected common property be used in a sustainable way? The Research Training Group Economics of Connected Natural Commons: Atmosphere and Biodiversity aims to develop an interdisciplinary approach to this question. On the one hand, it will look at the atmosphere, in particular aerosols, along with regional climate and urban air, and on the other hand it will examine biodiversity, with a focus on forests and soils. What is the connection between these natural and man-made resources? What potential synergies arise from their utilisation? In order to answer these and other questions, the Research Training Group brings together experts from economics, the natural sciences and the life sciences. (Leipzig University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Martin F. Quaas)

Matter in a solid and liquid state consists of tiny building blocks that are constantly in motion. Static microscopy is not enough to fully understand how matter behaves. Ultra-fast videos of the microscopic world provide entirely new insights. The Research Training Group Ultrafast nanoscopy: from single-particle dynamics to cooperative processes takes a novel approach to investigating the dynamics of matter at the nanoscale. One important objective is to combine ultrafast laser physics with high-resolution microscopy, involving experts from the fields of physics and biology working closely together. In the future, this work could be used in electronics or molecular nanotechnology. (University of Regensburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Rupert Huber)

The conversion of carbon dioxide into energy-rich carbon compounds is a promising strategy in the search for suitable processes to reduce the greenhouse gas CO2. The economic added value of such a transformation increases if a larger number of carbons are integrated and so-called multi-carbon compounds are generated. The Research Training Group SPECtroscopic Tools for challenging REduction reactions – Catalytic coupling of CO2 (SPECTRE) will utilise oxalate, i.e. salts of oxalic acid, as a reactive starting compound for other chemical substances. The synthesis of oxalates is to be planned using catalytic coupling reactions. The researchers will use sophisticated spectroscopic methods to investigate the mechanistic processes of such transformations. (University of Rostock, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ralf Ludwig)

More and more people are receiving artificial joints. Biomaterials are also used outside the field of orthopaedic surgery, for example as dressings to treat chronic wounds. If particles of implanted biomaterials rub off, this can lead to local inflammation – but also to long-term effects on organ systems. For example, is there a connection between the detached titanium particles of an implant and a later neurodegenerative disease? Questions such as this are the focus of the Research Training Group Systemic and local reactions in case of incompatibility to biomaterials for joint and skin lesions. Data sets from two large long-term medical studies are to be taken into account. The findings may be relevant for the future development of biomaterials and new treatment approaches. (University of Rostock, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Rainer Bader; also applying: University of Greifswald)

Everyone has to have a place to live – and momentous upheavals and social change processes are reflected in our homes, too. By the same token, the built environment of houses and housing complexes impacts on the way people interact in society. This reciprocal relationship is the focus of the Research Training Group Societal Transformation and Spatial Materialization of Housing. Social conflicts, ecological demands, the digitisation of the living environment: if current social developments are creating the built environment of tomorrow, what challenges, problems and contradictions does this pose for housing? (Universität Weimar, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Sigrun Langner; also applying: Goethe University Frankfurt am Main)

The RTGs which have had their funding extended for an additional period
(in alphabetical order of host university, with information on the spokesperson as well as the other applicant universities and cooperation partners, and with references to the project descriptions in the DFG’s online database GEPRIS):

RTG The physics of the heaviest particles at the Large Hadron Collider (RWTH Aachen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michal Czakon)

RTG Mechanobiology in Epithelial 3D Tissue Constructs (RWTH Aachen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Rudolf E. Leube)

RTG The Dynamics of Demography, Democratic Processes and Public Policy (DYNAMICS) (HU Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Heike Klüver; also applying: Hertie School Berlin)

RTG Dynamic Integration – Law in-between Harmonisation and Plurality in Europe (DynamInt) (HU Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Matthias Ruffert)

RTG Regional disparities and economic policy (University of Duisburg-Essen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Tobias Seidel; also applying: University of Bochum, University of Dortmund)

RTG Cybercrime and Forensic Computing (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Felix Freiling)

RTG Novel antiviral approaches: from small molecules to immune intervention (University of Erlangen-Nuürnbergerg (FAU), Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Klaus Überla)

RTG Fourier Analysis and Spectral Theory (University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thomas Schick)

RTG Intrinsically Disordered Proteins – Molecular Principles, Cellular Functions, and Diseases (University Halle-Wittenberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andrea Sinz)

RTG Communication and Dynamics of Plant Cell Compartments (University Halle-Wittenberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ingo Heilmann)

RTG Crossing Boundaries: Propagation Of In-Stream Environmental Alterations To Adjacent Terrestrial Ecosystems (RPTU Kaiserslautern-Landau, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ralf Schulz)

RTG GenEvo – Gene Regulation in Evolution: From Molecular to Extended Phenotypes ( Mainz University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Susanne Foitzik)

RTG CONVEY – Continuous Verification of CYber-Physical Systems (LMU Munich, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Dirk Busch; also applying: Technical University of Munich (TUM))

RTG Chemical Biology of Ion Channels (Chembion) (University of Münster, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Bernhard Wünsch)

RTG cGMP: From Bedside to Bench (University of Tübingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Robert Feil)

Further information

Media contact:

The Research Training Groups spokesperson can also provide additional information.

Programme contact at the DFG Head Office:

  • Dr. Armin Krawisch
    Head of Research Training Groups and Career Support
    Tel.+49 228 885-2424

More detailed information on the funding programme and the Research Training Groups to be awarded funding can be found here: