Press Release No. 23 | May 31, 2024

DFG to Fund Eleven New Collaborative Research Centres

Topics range from statistics for the energy transition and emerging viruses to types of disease progression in the case of affective disorders / €148 million in funding for the first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing eleven 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 €148 million in funding for an initial period of three years and nine months as of October 2024. This includes a programme allowance of 22 percent for indirect project costs. Five of the new networks are CRC/Transregios (TRR), each of which is made up of multiple applicant universities.

In addition to the establishment of the eleven new groups, the Grants Committee also approved the extension of another 22 existing CRCs for an additional funding period, including eleven 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. From October 2024, the DFG will be funding a total of 269 CRCs. 

The new Collaborative Research Centres in detail

(in alphabetical order by their host university, including the names of spokespersons and the other applicant universities):

What are the biological foundations of aggression in mental disorders? How do these change in sufferers over the course of their lives? And how is it possible to develop suitable therapies? In pursuing these questions, the CRC/Transregio Neuropsychobiology of Aggression: A Transdiagnostic Approach in Mental Disorders looks at a number of aspects: genetics, molecular mechanisms, hormonal and neural systems and the associated behaviour. In this way, the aim is to gain a more precise understanding of the biology, physiology and psychology behind specific aggressive behaviour. (RWTH Aachen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ute Habel; also applying: University of Frankfurt, University of Heidelberg)

The CRC/Transregio Rough Analysis, Stochastic Dynamics and Related Fields will seek to analyse phenomena that are subject to random influences. To this end, the CRC/Transregio will focus both on basic research and examples of applications, such as instances that occur in financial mathematics. The mathematicians involved will combine so-called rough analysis and stochastic dynamics, linking these to other related areas of mathematics such as geometry and algebra. One key element here is the “theory of rough paths”: this is not only mathematically significant, but can also be used to develop significant new methods for modelling dynamic processes in the natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics and social sciences. (TU Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Karl Friz; also applying: FU Berlin, HU Berlin)

Reducing CO2 emissions and the transition to renewable energies are key global challenges. Decisions taken in connection with the energy and transport transition should be based on reliable empirical findings, since they will impact on numerous aspects of our lives in the future. The basis for these findings is provided by the constantly growing volume of data, which requires statistically sophisticated analysis methods. The CRC/Transregio Spatio-temporal Statistics for the Transition of Energy and Transport aims to develop novel statistical methods and machine learning procedures for this purpose. It will draw on these to develop new simulation tools for modelling transport routes, making precise predictions about wind and solar energy generation, and ensuring more reliable control of electrical energy networks. (TU Dortmund, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Roland Fried; also applying: University of Bochum)

Global agriculture faces the challenge of ensuring food security for a growing population in the future, too, in spite of climate change and resource scarcity. If suitable climate-resistant plants are to be used, it is important to analyse their genetic characteristics. Advances in DNA sequencing have already led to a comprehensive understanding of genome organisation, the discovery of genes and the realisation that point mutations – so-called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – contribute significantly to genomic diversity. These SNPs give rise to various proteoforms, i.e. differing forms of a protein, which in turn can help plants adapt to different environmental conditions. The Collaborative Research Centre Plant Proteoform Diversity – SNP2Prot will seek to investigate how variation in the genome sequence translates into different proteoforms. (University of Halle-Wittenberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Marcel Quint)

Emerging viral infections pose a major threat to global health, as demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent outbreaks of Ebola. In the future, too, viruses will be able to spread from animals to humans, who usually have no immune defence against them. For this reason, the WHO has drawn up a list of diseases that can be triggered by emerging viral infections and have the potential to spread rapidly. The CRC Emerging Viruses: Pathogenesis, Structure, Immunity aims to address four critical areas of research in connection with these viral infections: pathogenesis, structural characterisation of cellular targets, immunity and intervention. (University of Hamburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Marylyn Martina Addo)

Membranes are of fundamental importance to the development of complex cellular architectures and undergo repeated remodelling by the cells. Yet it is still not fully understood how cells remodel membranes in order to generate certain functions. The CRC Cellular membrane remodelling – how changing form creates function proposes a working hypothesis here, namely that cells possess several basic types of membrane remodelling patterns and are able to combine these to produce specific biological functions. The network will now seek to test this hypothesis, thereby closing the research gap in membrane research. (University of Heidelberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michael Meinecke)

What does the notion of “home country” or “homeland” really mean? And why is it such a natural part of the way human beings view the world? The CRC Home(s): Phenomena, Practices, Representations aims to explore the diversity and dimensions of this notion and analyse them from a comparative perspective, both globally and historically. With a focus extending from modernity back to the Middle Ages and even further back into antiquity, the participating researchers will investigate the diverse phenomena of social and individual ties to territorial spaces and social groups, also looking into the practices linked to people’s sense of their geographical and social roots, as well as narrative discourses relating to the idea of ‘belonging’ and of being ‘foreign’. In this way, the network will seek to contribute to an objectification of discourse on this subject and improve understanding of current homeland conflicts. (University of Heidelberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christiane Wiesenfeldt) 

With increasing age and as a result of external stress factors, there is a decline in the reliability of cellular processes in the human body, for example in the biosynthesis of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) and proteins. These processes often come to lack precision, resulting in incorrect sequences, altered protein structure or misdirected localisation in the cells, for example – experts refer to this as a decrease in fidelity. This phenomenon is accompanied by age-related physiological changes and illnesses. The CRC Systems-level consequences of fidelity changes in mRNA and protein biosynthesis aims to gain a comprehensive overview of the systemic consequences of the loss of fidelity and clarify how the changes contribute to diseases. (University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andreas Beyer) 

The Collaborative Research Centre Hadrons and Nuclei as Discovery Tools is dedicated to a better understanding of the standard model of particle physics and the search for new physics beyond this standard model. In doing so, the network aims to gain insights that are of overarching relevance to both the microcosm of particle physics and the macrocosm of astrophysical issues. The researchers will be making use of the university particle accelerators MAMI and MESA in Mainz to search for new physical phenomena. By carrying out precision measurements on hadrons – subatomic particles that are held together by powerful interaction – and on atomic nuclei, the aim will also be to close some important research gaps in physics. (University of Mainz, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Concettina Sfienti)

Affective disorders are mental illnesses whose dominant characteristic is temporary mood swings, with depression and bipolar disorder being widespread forms. Trajectories of Affective Disorders: Cognitive-emotional Mechanisms of Symptom Change are the subject of the CRC/Transregio which bears this title. The types of progression of affective disorders vary greatly and have a powerful impact on the patients themselves, their families and society as a whole. Why do relapses occur repeatedly, even after phases of improvement? The network will seek to pursue this question in more detail by collecting data from patients via smartphones over extended periods of time. In this way, the aim is to instantly record changes in symptoms, cognitive-emotional states and stress factors in day-to-day life. The researchers hope to be able to predict disease progression more accurately and subsequently develop customised therapies. (University of Marburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Tilo Kircher; also applying: TU Dresden, University of Münster)

Ubiquitin is a small protein that controls the degradation and function of most cellular proteins. But what is its role in cancer? Very little is still known about how ubiquitin might be linked to the formation, development and metastasis of cancer cells. The CRC/Transregio Functionalizing the Ubiquitin System against Cancer – UbiQancer will seek to conduct fundamental research into these links, while at the same time advancing the scientific development of therapeutics. The concept of the network is based on the view that the “language” through which proteins communicate is disturbed in cancer, and that ubiquitin has a key role to play in this process. (TU Munich, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Florian Bassermann; also applying: University of Frankfurt, University of Würzburg)

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 the project descriptions in the DFG online database GEPRIS):

Further information

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

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

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