Press Release No. 30 | July 2, 2009

Road Map for the Next Phase of the Excellence Initiative

The DFG Presents the Schedule for the Next Competition for Elite Universities at Its Annual Press Conference / New Topics: Equal Opportunities, Research in Europe, Increased Flexibility of Funding Programmes

The DFG Presents the Schedule for the Next Competition for Elite Universities at Its Annual Press Conference / New Topics: Equal Opportunities, Research in Europe, Increased Flexibility of Funding Programmes

The road map for the next phase of the Excellence Initiative has been announced. The re-elected President of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), Professor Matthias Kleiner, presented the schedule for the continuation of the elite competition at the DFG's annual press conference in Berlin on 2 July 2009.

German universities will be invited to submit the first draft proposals for new top-level research projects next spring. The submission deadline for the draft proposals will be in the autumn of 2010, after which they will be reviewed. The first interim decision is then expected in early 2011, when a decision will be taken on which of the new draft proposals can proceed to the final round. The universities that pass this stage successfully will then be invited to submit funding proposals for the new projects by the autumn of 2011. At the same time, universities that are already receiving Excellence Initiative funding will be invited to submit proposals for the continuation of this funding. In the winter of 2011/2012 the proposals submitted by the new applicants and the existing institutions will then be reviewed in competition with each other. In the summer of 2012 the German science community and politicians will then reach a joint decision on which universities will receive funding for which projects and institutions until the end of 2017.

As the President of the DFG emphasised, a total of 2.7 billion euros is available for the next phase of the Excellence Initiative. "That is more than 30% more than in the first two rounds," Kleiner said. "This alone gives new ideas and proposals a fair chance." A total of 75% of the 2.7 billion euros will be provided by the federal government and the remaining 25% by the state governments.

Kleiner, who was confirmed for another three-year term of office by the DFG's General Assembly in Leipzig, thanked the heads of the federal and state governments for their decision, passed in June, to continue the Excellence Initiative as well as the Higher Education Pact for Research and Innovation, and the Higher Education Pact, providing approximately 18 billion euros between now and 2018. Of this total, about five billion euros will be administered by the DFG and used for basic research, Kleiner highlighted. "In taking this decision, our politicians have proven their courage and far-sightedness. They have recognised the fact, which we have mentioned repeatedly in recent months, that it is especially important to increase investment in science and research now, in times of crisis, as this is the best basis for innovation as well as for knowledge, growth and prosperity," Kleiner continued.

The President of the DFG drew a positive interim balance on the topic of equal opportunities in research. It was at last year's General Assembly that the DFG passed a motion on the introduction of research-oriented equal opportunities standards". By accepting these standards, the members of the DFG committed themselves to significantly increasing the proportion of women at every stage of the academic career ladder. As Kleiner explained, all of the member universities and also many of its non-university members have already adopted the equal opportunities standards and presented "the first ambitious reports on the implementation of the standards". From now on they will be able to use a new toolbox, launched at the General Assembly in Leipzig, which lists numerous exemplary equal opportunities measures in scientific practice, in the form of an online encyclopaedia. A working group led by Professor Ferdi Schüth, Vice President of the DFG, will assess the reports submitted by the DFG's member institutions.

At its General Assembly the DFG also presented a position paper on its strategy on Europe. The "Europe Paper" aims to develop the European Research Area and a European Research Grant Union, in which funding awards granted by all of the participating organisations in Europe enjoy reciprocal recognition and can be used in whichever country a research project is conducted in. The first steps towards such a union have already been taken, Kleiner pointed out. For instance, researchers can already take their funding with them if they move to another European country or accept an appointment abroad. "With this and other measures we aim to make transnational research in Europe easier and ensure the greatest possible degree of mobility. Only in this way can we boost Europe's global competitiveness," he said.

Kleiner also announced that the DFG plans to increase the flexibility and modularity of its funding programmes in the years ahead, with the intention of enabling its funding to be tailored to suit the individual needs of each applicant and project more easily.

At its General Assembly the DFG also presented its Annual Report 2008, containing key data on its funding activities. According to this report, last year was the first time that Germany's largest research funding organisation had more than 2 billion euros at its disposal. In total, over 20,500 funding awards were granted in 2008, accounting for a sum total of 2.6 billion euros in funding, including funding for multi-year projects. For individual grants the DFG approved 967 million euros, and for its coordinated programmes over 1.4 billion euros. Broken down by scientific discipline, the largest share of the funding went to the life sciences (37.3%), followed by the natural sciences (25.9%), the engineering sciences (21.4%) and humanities and social sciences (15.4%).