Press Release No. 50 | November 24, 2023

DFG to Fund 17 New Collaborative Research Centres

Topics range from linguistic creativity to the circular factory for the perpetual product / €210 million for the first funding period / Measures adopted to stabilise the funding rate and funding amounts

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 17 new Collaborative Research Centres (CRC) to further support top-level research at German universities. This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee in Bonn. The new CRCs will receive a total of approximately €210 million in funding for an initial period of three years and nine months as of 1 April 2024. This includes a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. Four of the new networks are CRC/Transregios (TRR) spread across multiple applicant universities.

In addition to the establishment of the 17 new groups, the Grants Committee also approved the extension of another 16 existing CRCs for an additional funding period, including five CRC/Transregios. Collaborative Research Centres allow researchers to tackle innovative, challenging and long-term research projects as a group, thereby supporting the further development of priority areas and structures at the applicant universities. As of April 2024, the DFG will be funding a total of 278 CRCs.

Furthermore, the Grants Committee has taken additional steps to stabilise the balance between funding rates and approved funding amounts under the Collaborative Research Centres programme. The funds requested currently far exceed the budget available to the DFG. For this reason, the first funding period of all newly approved Collaborative Research Centres will be shortened by three months, as was already the case in May of this year. In addition, the approved funding amount for all other Collaborative Research Centres is reduced by five percent across the board.

The reason for these measures is firstly the increased number of proposals submitted. Secondly, the significant increase in personnel costs at universities in particular has had an impact, resulting in a considerable increase in the funds requested per proposal. By means of the measures now adopted and the funds that will be released as a result, the DFG is fulfilling its responsibility to maintain the functionality of the Collaborative Research Centres programme, guarantee a reliable funding rate and ensure the continued existence of numerous research networks.

The new Collaborative Research Centres in detail
(in alphabetical order by their host university, including the names of spokespersons and the other applicant universities):

No systematic research has yet been carried out into linguistic creativity as it occurs in everyday communication in the creation of new words and sentences, for example. Creativity is an essential feature of language competence and an important component in the development of comprehensive language theories. The Collaborative Research Centre Linguistic Creativity in Communication is dedicated to this field of research in that it will seek to analyse the characteristics of language creativity at all linguistic levels. It will do so based on empirically collected data. In addition, the CRC will investigate the communicative benefits and success of linguistic creativity, as well as its limitations. (Bielefeld University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ralf Vogel)

Complex solid solutions have special properties due to the particular arrangement of the various surface atoms, which is why they offer new perspectives in various technological areas, including electro-catalysis. Through collaboration between researchers from the fields of materials, surface and data sciences as well as physics and chemistry, the Collaborative Research Centre Atomicscale understanding and design of multifunctional compositionally complex solid solution surfaces aims to arrive at a better fundamental scientific understanding of the arrangement of surface atoms in complex solid solutions, thereby gaining insights into the resulting reaction mechanisms. The objective is to be able to control the composition of the mixed crystals at the atomic level in order to produce optimised surfaces of mixed crystals geared towards specific applications. (Ruhr University Bochum, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Alfred Ludwig)

The Collaborative Research Centre NuMeriQS: Numerical Methods for Dynamics and Structure Formation in Quantum Systems aims to advance the understanding of dynamics and structure formation in quantum systems. To this end, it combines numerical calculation methods developed in physics and chemistry, also linking these to the latest developments in mathematics and computer science. This should make it possible to solve complex quantum physics and chemistry problems more efficiently – or indeed make them quantitatively solvable in the first place. To this end, the network will draw on optimised computer architectures and modern IT methods, including those from the field of machine learning. (University of Bonn, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Carsten Urbach)

Chronic inflammation has an impact on the condition of the bones – it is not uncommon for those affected to suffer from inflammatory diseases of the skin, intestines or teeth, for example, also involving bone loss and fractures. How do the underlying processes of the immune system work? How do the various organs interact? These are the questions that the CRC/Transregio DIONE Degeneration of bone induced by inflammation will seek to answer. The researchers will use model organisms and humans to investigate how the different cell types responsible for bone remodelling communicate with each other. Their ultimate aim is to pave the way for new therapeutic procedures. (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Aline Bozec; also applying: TU Dresden)

The ability to express negation is one of the fundamental and universal characteristics of human language. Linguistic and non-linguistic cognitive processes are involved in the acquisition and processing of negation, but the understanding of how they relate to each other is still poor. For this reason, researchers in the fields of linguistics and psychology will come together in the Collaborative Research Centre Negation in language and beyond (NegLaB) to tackle unresolved questions concerning the function of negation in language. The objective is to provide a theoretical perspective on how negation manifests itself in natural languages, how it is acquired and processed, and why its concrete expression differs so greatly between languages. In this way, the network aims to contribute to a better understanding of the links between linguistic competence and general cognition. (Goethe University Frankfurt, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Cecilia Poletto)

Dysfunctions of the brain often involve cognitive deficits such as failures of perception or communication. One of the places in which such cognitive deficits originate is the cerebral cortex, where excitatory and inhibitory nerve cells are engaged in active interplay and play a key role in information coding. The CRC/Transregio Inhibitory neurons: shaping the cortical code (INCODE) is dedicated to the interneurons involved in this process. How do the properties of interneurons contribute to the coding of information? How do they influence cortical codes based on experience? The network aims to answer these and other questions in order to better understand complex brain functions. (University of Freiburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Marlene Bartos; also applying: Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, FU Berlin and HU Berlin)

In industry, almost all chemical products are manufactured using catalytic processes. As “green chemistry” advances, new types of catalysis are essential to the efficient utilisation of vital raw materials such as water, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons from biomass. At the same time, the essential mechanisms of catalysis, although widely used, are still only partially understood. The Collaborative Research Centre Pushing Electrons with Protons – Unifying Multi-Electron Redox Catalysis by Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer is dedicated to the development of new concepts and strategies for catalysis, drawing on the phenomenon of proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET). It will also seek to clarify the fundamental mechanistic questions regarding reactions with PCET. (University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Sven Schneider)

The Collaborative Research Centre Higher structures, moduli spaces and integrability will look into three aspects that play an important role both in mathematics and with regard to specific physical problems. The researchers hope their study will generate fresh insights from the perspective of both disciplines. Current research questions in theoretical physics, for example in the fields of quantum field and string theory, require mathematical approaches in order to arrive at precise solutions and predictions. By the same token, the physical questions addressed in the network will provide new input in various mathematical areas where – motivated by unsolved physical problems – it will be possible to develop new mathematical approaches, new links between mathematical disciplines and new methods. (Universität Hamburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jörg Teschner)

Multifunctional high-performance components are needed to improve the energy efficiency and performance of many products, such as those in mechanical engineering or in wind turbines. A new class of such components is to be developed by the CRC/Transregio Multi-functional high performance components made from hybrid porous materials. Hybrid porous materials are made up of different materials whose density can also be varied via their pores. In this way, new and additional properties and functions can be integrated in components – and this is what the network will be seeking to achieve. (University Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU), Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Jan C. Aurich; also applying: Leibnitz University Hannover)

For a strong economy that is resource-conserving, low-emission yet at the same time competitive, new production cycles are needed that can turn used products into new ones. The Collaborative Research Centre A Circular Factory for the Perpetual Product will look at the question of how the maximum value retention of products can be achieved using innovative production systems. In this network, researchers from the fields of production engineering, product development and materials engineering, ergonomics, robotics, computer science and knowledge modelling will collaborate to investigate the questions involved. (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Gisela Lanza)

Diseases of the eye often involve serious limitations for those affected. Many of these diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, “dry eye” and glaucoma, mainly affect older people. A new Collaborative Research Centre entitled Towards immunomodulatory and anti(lymph)angiogenic thera-pies for age-related blinding eye diseases will now look into this problem. The researchers will investigate the emergence and development of age-related eye diseases, combining findings from ophthalmology , angiology (the study of vascular diseases), immunology and oncology. (University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Claus Cursiefen)

The categorisation of gender and the relationship between biological sex and social gender is by no means always clear. For this reason, the Collaborative Research Centre Sexdiversity – Determinants, meanings and implications of sex diversity in sociocultural, medical and biological landscapes will seek to investigate what “biological sex” refers to at various levels of analysis – from cells to organs and from organisms to societies. To this end, the network will draw on expertise from the life sciences, humanities and social sciences. The objective is to look into the complexity and dynamics of biological sex in order to gain a deeper understanding of sexual diversity in biomedical research. The network will also seek to pave the way for the development of new therapies and individualised medicine. (Universität zu Lübeck, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Olaf Hiort)

In the search for the origins of life, the big questions still remain: how was it possible for molecules to become the first cells in the early days of the Earth, setting in motion a chemical evolution? In order to find answers to these questions, the CRC/Transregio Molecular evolution in prebiotic environments brings together researchers from the geosciences, chemistry, biophysics and theoretical physics. Together they will look into questions such as which chemical, physical and geological conditions are required to trigger molecular evolution with RNA as the carrier molecule. The findings may also be relevant to the study of early life on other planets. (LMU Munich, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Dieter Braun; also applying: TU Munich)

How and through whom does migration – i.e. a spatial shift in a person’s place of residence – take on changing meanings? How and why is society’s approach to migration changing? These questions are the focus of the Collaborative Research Centre Production of Migration, which addresses a gap in research, namely the inadequate understanding of how societies produce migration and its constantly renegotiated meaning, and what consequences this has in terms of change. The objective of the Collaborative Research Centre is to develop a reflexive theory of the social production of migration that includes scholarship as an object of research. (Osnabrück University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andreas Pott)

Light-driven chemical reactions on metals at the nanoscale are the focus of the Collaborative Research Centre Elementary Processes of Light-Driven Reactions at Nanoscale Metals. It aims to establish a comprehensive understanding of the process stages that take place on different temporal and spatial scales, since many of the underlying elementary physical processes and chemical reactions are still poorly understood. The long-term vision of the network is to manage chemical reactions via the catalytic properties of metals on a nanoscale and to control the reaction pathways so precisely that they can be activated by sunlight to enable sustainable technologies. (University of Potsdam, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Matias Bargheer)

Plants have a particularly pronounced phenotypic plasticity, i.e. an ability to adapt their growth and development to different environments and conditions. Yet there are still many gaps in our understanding of the extent and form of plastic reactions and their evolution. The Collaborative Research Centre Phenotypic plasticity in plants – Mechanisms, constraints and evolution aims to decipher the genetic and molecular basis and mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity as well as its costs and limiting factors. The objective is to uncover the interactions between the genotype, i.e. the genetic make-up of a plant, and the expression of traits in different environmental conditions, thereby gaining a better understanding of the growth and reproduction of plants. This is important with regard to plant breeding adapted to climate change, for example, so it is also significant in view of global nutrition and future urban planning. (University of Potsdam, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michael Lenhard)

How can satellites be kept stable and efficient in very low Earth orbits at altitudes of around 200 to 450 kilometres? This question is relevant because the use of satellites in these orbits is well suited to Earth observation, for example, and providing internet coverage in rural regions. Satellites in such orbits could also help reduce space debris. The Collaborative Research Centre Advancing Technologies of Very Low Altitude Satellites (ATLAS) aims to combine the various challenges involved here. In low Earth orbits, corrosion is accelerated by highly reactive oxygen, for example, and there is a need to develop new propulsion technologies. The network will seek to gain a better understanding of these and other aspects. (University of Stuttgart, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Stefanos Fasoulas)

The CRCs extended for a further funding period
(in alphabetical order by their host university, including the names of the spokespersons and additional applicant universities, with reference to project descriptions in the DFG online data-base GEPRIS):

Further information

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Further information is also available from the spokespersons of the Collaborative Research Centres.

Contact at DFG Head Office:

For further information about the funding programme and the funded Collaborative Research Centres, see: