Press Release No. 19 | May 10, 2024

DFG to Fund 17 New Research Training Groups

Topics range from explainable AI in medicine to hydrogen as an energy source and research into human-environment systems / Approximately €123 million for the first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 17 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 autumn 2024 onwards, the new RTGs will receive a total of approximately €123 million over an initial period of five years. This includes a programme allowance of 22 percent for indirect project costs. The new RTGs include three International Research Training Groups (IRTGs) with partners in India, Japan and Switzerland.

In addition to the 17 newly established groups, the Grants Committee approved an additional funding period for another nine RTGs. Research Training Groups offer doctoral researchers the opportunity to complete their doctorates by following a structured research and training programme at a high level of subject-specific expertise. The DFG is currently providing funding for a total of 214 RTGs, including 26 IRTGs.

The 17 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):

The global demand for energy is continuously on the increase. Meeting this demand has serious consequences in terms of the climate, biodiversity and ecology. Hydrogen is a promising energy source on the way to achieving a renewable and carbon-neutral energy economy, but its use involves certain challenges. This is the starting point for the German-Japanese IRTG Hy-Potential: Hydrogen – Fundamentals of Production, Storage & Transport, Applications, and Economy. The group’s research plans cover areas ranging from hydrogen production and storage, the transport of hydrogen, its thermochemical and electrochemical applications through to life cycle assessments and energy system analyses. (RWTH Aachen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Heinz Pitsch; cooperation partner: Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan)

How was truth “produced” from the 13th to the 17th century? And how did truths prevail during this period of social, political and religious change? These are the questions to be investigated by the RTG Knowing – Believing – Asserting: Production and Enforcement of Truth in the Premodern Period. The researchers firstly intend to look at which practices and processes are pivotal in the construction of truths and how these shape speech, thought, action and decision-making. Secondly, they will be analysing how processes of “truth production” are observed and reflected in images, plays and texts of the time. The focus is on Europe, but also on China and Korea. (Ruhr University Bochum, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christina Lechtermann)

How are metabolic and infectious diseases interrelated? The German-Swiss IRTG Metabolic and Endocrine Drivers of Infection Susceptibility is dedicated to pursuing this question. It was not least the coronavirus pandemic that highlighted the potentially harmful interactions between diseases: patients with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, for example, were at a significantly increased risk of a severe infection. It is also known that bacterial and viral infections can trigger hormonal changes, in turn giving rise to metabolic disorders. The aim of this IRTG is to determine the exact mechanisms involved in such interactions and ultimately enable these insights to be put to use for therapy. (TU Dresden, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Stefan R. Bornstein; cooperation partner: ETH Zurich, University of Zurich, both Switzerland)

The construction of a new building triggers a range of different processes: construction has to be planned and organised in legal terms, while at the same time the buildings and the urban planning involved themselves give rise to social developments. These interrelationships are the focus of the RTG Organizing Architectures. Here, buildings are seen as products of collective processes, thereby shifting the focus from the idea of an individual artistic work by the architect to a consideration of the process of creation. The aim is to initiate a new type of architectural historiography in which buildings are directly linked to organisational forms such as institutions, networks or communities of interest. (University of Frankfurt/Main, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Carsten Ruhl; also applying: TU Darmstadt)

The question of why sexual reproduction has survived despite its “cost” is a key, longstanding question in evolutionary biology. The RTG Evolutionary Genomics: Consequences of Biodiverse Reproductive Systems (EvoReSt) addresses this and similar questions by investigating the causes and consequences of different reproductive systems for genomes. In doing so, it pursues a novel approach by comparing different forms of reproduction across the full spectrum of possible model systems: from plants, animals and fungi to prokaryotes such as bacteria, organelles and viruses. The aim is to obtain fresh insights into the interactions between genes associated with the different reproductive systems – and investigate their evolutionary consequences. (University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Elvira Hörandl)

A bourgeois movement emerged around 1700 that championed the ideals of reason and freedom, namely the Enlightenment. One of the consequences of this is that politics and “enlightenment” have been intertwined with each other ever since. This reciprocal relationship is the focus of the RTG Enlightenment Politics, which focuses on the period from the 18th century – the Age of Enlightenment – through to the present day. Even now, the word “enlightenment” is regularly used in international politics to varying rhetorical effect depending on the subject and the person. Its social relevance can be seen in current attacks on such things as scientific rigour or in the area of European policy, for example. Such insights can also give rise to a new perspective on the Enlightenment. The researchers will also be looking beyond Europe to different cultures, religions and geographical areas. (University of Halle-Wittenberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Elisabeth Décultot)

Almost every technical system today is controlled digitally. Yet such systems, especially those that are safety-critical, are becoming increasingly complex and heterogeneous, making it impossible for developers, users and also other systems at interfaces to understand all their aspects. The solution to this could be technical systems that explain their own behaviour and state themselves. Building such systems is the challenge pursued by the RTG CAUSE – Concepts and Algorithms for – and Usage of – Self-Explaining Digitally Controlled Systems. This RTG combines hardware, software and system perspectives to enable the investigation of theoretical foundations, development methods and practical applications by means of a holistic approach. (TU Hamburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Görschwin Fey; also applying: University of Oldenburg, University of Bremen). 

One key phenomenon in mathematics is the interplay between geometry and numbers. One of the underlying factors here is the fact that algebraic invariants can be assigned to geometric objects – variables that remain constant in spite of minor changes to the object. By the same token, structural changes to the object are expressed in a different value for the invariant. The RTG From geometry to numbers: Moduli, Hodge theory, rational points looks at this phenomenon by analysing how the different theories on the two aspects relate to each other. The aim is to calculate individual numerical invariants and investigate their properties in order to identify general relationships. Ultimately the goal is to find answers to questions which have long been unresolved in some cases. (Leibnitz University Hannover, Professor Dr. Stefan Schreieder; also applying: HU Berlin)

Life is largely based on photosynthesis, i.e. a reaction triggered by light. Light-driven processes have a key role to play in modern technology, too – in material production, data processing, or the use of light as an information carrier, for instance. What is more, light is an indispensable tool for microscopy. The RTG PhInt – Photo-Polarizable Interfaces and Membranes is dedicated to investigating light-driven processes of this nature, focusing in particular on the relationship between surfaces and interfaces between two phases – in solids, but also on biological membranes. The researchers will be looking at how the individual structures react to light and how their properties change as a result. (University of Jena, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Benjamin Dietzek-Ivansic)

When solving optimisation problems mathematically, several, possibly contradictory target functions usually have to be optimised simultaneously. There are numerous examples of applications of complex problems of this kind, such as in cancer therapy or in the planning of public transport networks. The latter involves weighing up the time spent travelling against costs, benefits and emissions, for example. Although such optimisation problems are widespread, existing methods do not allow useful calculation of certain key categories of problems. The RTG Mathematics of Interdisciplinary Multiobjective Optimization aims to research the mathematical theory of so-called multi-criteria optimisation as a potential application method. This work will involve close collaboration between researchers from the fields of mathematics, computer science and the engineering sciences. (University Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU), Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Stefan Ruzika)

The notion of a stronger Europe is currently dominating socio-political debate, not least in the wake of the war in Ukraine. The RTG Post-Eurocentric Europe: Narratives of a World Province in Transformation aims to explore a range of different ideas relating to Europe as an institution. In doing so, the researchers will focus on a wide historical and geographical range – extending from the Middle Ages to the present day and from the Mediterranean and the Balkans to the transatlantic and Eurasian regions. The aim in drawing on the concept of the “narrative” is to analyse the dynamics and processes involved in European self-perception. Such narratives – i.e. stories that lend purpose and meaning to the world view of a group or culture – continue to be important in the formation of positions and institutions associated with political power. (University of Konstanz, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Albrecht Koschorke)

“Hearables” are regarded as a new generation of networked technical assistance systems for people with disabilities. The RTG Hearable-centered assistance: From sensors to participation is dedicated to the development of this type of close-to-ear system. Technically speaking, one aim will be to network conventional hearing aids with sensors and external devices, ultimately turning hearables into a personalised “health centre on the ear”. A particular feature here is that actors from the caring community such as relatives, neighbours and carers are to be involved in the development of the assistance systems. This will enable the specific needs of patients and carers to be taken on board when it comes to technical implementation – ultimately resulting in improved opportunities for participation. (University of Oldenburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Andreas Hein; also applying: University of Bremen)

Current debates on the Anthropocene – the age of man – are the subject of the RTG Ecological Regime Shifts and Systemic Risk in Coupled Social-Ecological Systems (ECORISK). The focus is on human beings as a factor influencing global ecological processes in recent history. What are the causes and effects of far-reaching processes of ecological change? How is it possible to avoid or mitigate man-made regime shifts, i.e. sudden transitions to new ecosystem states? The interdisciplinary team aims to contribute to a better understanding of human-environment systems and assess the risks associated with them. The researchers will be focusing particularly on intensive farming since this is a particularly striking example of human activity and the damage it inflicts on the environment. (Osnabrück University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Martin Franz)

Setting objectives, carrying out plans and monitoring progress in the pursuit of goals – self-regulation is a key factor in people’s lives. The RTG Flexibility and Balance as Characteristics of Adaptive Self-Regulation will be investigating two characteristics that are assumed to have a particular influence on self-regulation: firstly, the ability to use self-regulation skills flexibly from one situation to the next, and secondly the capacity to balance the various processes that serve the pursuit of goals. The research questions address a range from the genetic basis of flexibility to the role of balance in attention processes. The significance of these two aspects in connection with self-regulation will be investigated in various areas of life such as school and work, as well as in coping with traumatic experiences. (Saarland University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Malte Friese)

For decades now, computer-aided methods have helped doctors make diagnoses. Even more extensive support is provided by digital expert systems that automate the entire diagnostic process and even the planning of treatment. Such systems are becoming increasingly precise thanks to modern deep learning methods, but they also involve very specific challenges. It is these challenges that are the focus of the RTG KEMAI – Knowledge Infusion and Extraction for Explainable Medical AI. The aim is to combine the advantages of knowledge-based and learning-based systems in order to ensure the accuracy of medical diagnoses and provide these to doctors in a clear and verifiable manner. The RTG will be conducting research at the interface between computer science, medicine and ethics; the technical challenges will be addressed in close coordination with examples of clinical application, also taking into account the fact that ethical issues are an omnipresent factor in medical decision-making processes. (University of Ulm, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Timo Ropinski)

What causes the structure of the Standard Model of elementary particle physics? Can the fundamental forces in the universe be unified? What is the nature of dark matter? The aim of the RTG Particle physics at colliders in the LHC precision era is to pursue such fundamental questions of elementary particle physics in greater detail. In doing so, the researchers will draw on data from the third “run” of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator launched in 2022 at CERN in Geneva. The precision measurements at the LHC will be used to undertake a more exact verification of the Standard Model of particle physics, in particular the properties of the Higgs particle. This is highly significant since the Standard Model is also valid at higher energies than had been expected before the LHC was commissioned. In investigating these research questions, the RTG will pursue close links between theoretical and experimental particle physics. (University of Würzburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Werner R. Porod)

The capacity of organic molecules to emit light in an excited state is utilised in numerous applications, such as medical imaging, analytical chemistry and physics. The German-Indian IRTG Photoluminescence in Supramolecular Matrices seeks to develop a new generation of materials with luminescent properties of this nature. The aim is to produce customised supramolecular assemblies for this purpose, i.e. molecules that are organised in superordinate structures. These molecular assemblies consist of light-emitting substances and an environment that has an influence on the luminescent properties. (University of Würzburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Frank Würthner; cooperation partner: Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research, Thiruvananthapuram, India)

The nine RTGs with 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):

Further information

Further information is also available from the RTG spokespersons.

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

Media contact

DFG Press and Public Relations
Telephone: +49 228 885-2109

Programme contact at the DFG Head Office

Dr. Armin Krawisch
Telephone: +49 (228) 885-2424