Press Release No. 7 | 16 February 2012
Core Facilities: Promoting Outstanding Research Infrastructure
Joint Committee Approves Initial Funding Period for Eleven Projects
While most of the programmes funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) focus on scientific projects, the DFG’s “Gerätezentren – Core Facilities” initiative was developed to improve research frameworks. Many German universities and research institutions have outstanding and often unique scientific instrumentation and research infrastructure. Access to these advanced technologies plays an important role in many branches of science. However, establishing instrumentation centres and networks for shared use often fails due to extensive structuring processes. A call for funding proposals issued by the DFG in March 2011 sought to address this issue by providing support to pilot projects dedicated to professionalising the use and management of infrastructure at suitable facilities.
The initiative, which provides successful projects with funding for a three-year period, attracted more than 120 inquiries and 57 funding proposals, confirming a widespread interest in the development of capacities in this area. In addition to descriptions of their planned activities and measures to strengthen links between instrumentation centres and the scientific community, universities applying for funding were required to show that the DFG’s support would also be used to create sustainable infrastructure.
Eleven projects were selected in the multi-tiered review process, and each will receive a total of 450,000 euros over the next three years. The “Good Manufacturing Practice Facility” in Dresden is a centre for cutting-edge technology in the field of regenerative therapy, while the “NeuroImaging Core Facility” in Magdeburg specialises in medical imaging technology for neuro-scientific research. Three other projects are based in the field of optical imaging: “JIMI” – a network for intravital microscopy based in Berlin and Jena, the “Biopolis Dresden Imaging Platform”, and a nationwide network for microscopy and imaging – “German BioImaging” – which will be coordinated from Constance and Freiburg.
Another nationwide network, specialising in NMR spectroscopy, is coordinated by researchers in Frankfurt and Munich. The “Quantitative Biology Center Tübingen (QBiC)” combines a range of “omics” technologies with expertise in the field of bioinformatics. In Berlin, the “BioSupraMol” instrumentation centre and competence network specialises in chemical analysis for supramolecular chemistry. Targeted analyses are also the focal point at the “Münster Isotope Research Center”, which has an extensive range of facilities for geoscientific research. The last two projects are in the fields of materials science and structural physics: the “Ernst Ruska-Centre (ER-C)” in Aachen/Jülich, which manages a collection of unique electron-microscopy technologies; and the “Center for Nanoanalysis and Electron Microscopy (CENEM)” in Erlangen, which specialises in nano-characterisation with electrons, x-rays and scanning probe microscopy.
The DFG hopes that the initiative and its funded measures will serve as a signal to universities, providing impetus for enhancing structures with regard to infrastructure resources. The responsibility for implementing these measures will continue to lie with the universities and research institutions. “Universities are rethinking their approaches on how to manage and utilise their instrumentation infrastructure. The response to the DFG’s call for funding proposals demonstrates the need for support in this area,” emphasised DFG President Matthias Kleiner following the announcement of the funding decision at a session of the DFG’s Joint Committee. The DFG now plans to issue another call for funding proposals in this area later this year.