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Press Release No. 29 | 2 July 2009
Boldly Opening up New Horizons

Reinhart Koselleck Projects, the Continued Development of the Excellence Initiative, a Strategy on Europe: The DFG's Annual Report 2008 Highlights its Strategic Activities and Reorientation

On the road to knowledge, science sometimes needs to follow unconventional paths, a fact that the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) took into account in a wide variety of ways in 2008. This becomes apparent in the 280-page annual report published by Germany's largest research funding organisation, which the DFG presented at its annual press conference in Berlin on 2 July 2009.

Descriptively written and even more richly illustrated than before, the 2008 annual report presents numerous highlights from the world of research funding in the humanities and social sciences, life sciences, natural sciences and engineering sciences. First and foremost, however, it shows new strategic directions in the organisation's funding portfolio - thus demonstrating how the DFG has once again opened up new horizons for research in 2008.

The funding of especially bold and higher-risk approaches formed the focal point of its activities: "This is particularly necessary if researchers and scientists want to be successful against the competition. It takes personal courage to ask questions that dare to look beyond the horizon and entail many years of research," writes Matthias Kleiner, President of the DFG, in his preface to the report. In order to create opportunities to conduct such innovative research, the DFG introduced the Reinhart Koselleck Projects in 2008. These projects give researchers who are especially renowned in their field up to 1.25 million euros over a period of five years for their research. The first six Koselleck projects were approved by the end of 2008.

The Excellence Initiative also opened up new horizons in the German research landscape. The Institute for Research Information and Quality Assurance (iFQ) conducted an in-depth study of the initiative's impact in 2008. This study found that the open competition brought a broad range of innovative concepts to light and helped a lot of universities enhance their profile. In addition, some 330 professorships, over 4,000 jobs for scientists and researchers and about 150 posts in science management for highly qualified individuals have been created. However, even the universities that did not receive funding were found to have benefited from the various activities introduced in connection with the Excellence Initiative.

Another aspect that was also at the focal point of much of the work by the DFG in 2008 was the continuation of the Excellence Initiative - work that was rewarded by the decision, taken in June 2009 by the heads of the federal and state governments, to continue the Excellence Initiative and significantly increase its funding.

In order to expand the horizons for research funding across borders, the DFG passed a "Europe Paper" in 2008, which clearly sets out its position on the European Research Area and presents the strategic background to it transnational funding activities. The Europe Paper focuses on the expansion of binational and multinational activities in German research funding; other key topics featured are global recruitment of outstanding researchers and scientists and the DFG's efforts to enhance the strength of the European Science Foundation (ESF). As the main funding body for university research in Germany, the DFG also intends to represent the interests of its members in the EU more strongly than in the past, play a key role in designing EU programmes for basic research, and capitalise upon the competitive impetus of the European Research Council.

The DFG's annual report has existed in its present form since 2005. "A breath of fresh air," "easily comprehensible," "graphically appealing" were the words used by the German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to describe the articles and presentation. From 2009 onwards the annual report, like all other DFG publications, will feature its new corporate design, which was presented at the funding organisation's General Assembly in Leipzig.

Facts and Figures 2008
The DFG's income in 2008 amounted to 2.038 billion euros, 65% of which was provided by the federal government and 34.7% by the state governments. The remaining 0.3% came from foundations and private donations.

In its funding programmes, a total of 20,557 research projects were granted funding, amounting to a sum total of 2.646 billion euros (including funding for multi-year projects). Of this total, 967.2 million euros went to the individual grants programme. A total of 1.464 billion euros went for its coordinated programmes, a total of which 537.6 million euros went to 278 Collaborative Research Centres; 118.4 million euros for 252 Research Training Groups; 188.2 million euros for 116 Priority Programmes; 162.7 million euros for 228 Research Units (including Clinical Research Units); and 39.4 million euros for 6 DFG Research Centres. Approximately 417.5 million euros went to Excellence Initiative programmes.

Broken down by scientific discipline, 37.3% of the funding went to the life sciences, 25.9% to the natural sciences, 21.4% to the engineering sciences and 15.4% to the humanities and social sciences.

Further Information

The Annual Report 2008 is available online from the DFG website at

The report includes a section entitled "Programmes and Projects", which provides a summary of the funding measures approved, and a wealth of additional information.

The Annual Report 2008 is also available in print as well as on DVD, both of which may be ordered from the DFG's Press and Public Relations Office. Contact:

  • Michael Hönscheid,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2109,
    Fax +49 228 885-2180,
    Michael.Hoenscheid@dfg.de