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Press Release No. 55 | 20 November 2015
DFG to Fund Fifteen New Collaborative Research Centres

Topics range from Arctic amplification and data privacy to collaborative media and the physics of atomic nuclei / Approximately 128 million euros in funding for an initial four-year period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has approved the establishment of fifteen new Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs). This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee during its autumn session in Bonn. The new CRCs will receive a total of 128 million euros in funding. There will also be a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. Four of the fifteen networks set up are CRC/Transregios, spread across multiple applicant universities. All of the new CRCs will be funded for an initial four-year period starting on 1 January 2016.

In addition to the fifteen new Collaborative Research Centres, the Grants Committee also approved the extension of thirteen existing CRCs for an additional funding period. As a result, the DFG will be funding a total of 249 Collaborative Research Centres from January 2016.

The new Collaborative Research Centres in detail (in alphabetical order by their host universities, including the name of the applicant universities)

The late accretion history of the terrestrial planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars – is critical in order to understand early element separation processes and the development of the terrestrial planets. The CRC/Transregio entitled "Late Accretion onto Terrestrial Planets" plans to improve the understanding of the late accretion history of the Earth, the Moon and other terrestrial planets that took place between 3.8 and 4.5 billion years ago. To do this, research will be conducted into certain processes such as the role of planetary collisions in the loss of volatile elements and nucleation or the formation and development of magma oceans.
(Host University: Free University of Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Harry Becker, also applying: University of Münster)

Researchers investigating nuclear structure physics and nuclear astrophysics are working together in the "Nuclei: From Fundamental Interactions to Structure and Stars" Collaborative Research Centre. Their aim is to advance the understanding of nuclei and nuclear physics in stars to a new level. To do this, the researchers will focus on the systematic description of atomic nuclei based on effective field theories (EFTs) of the strong interaction. EFTs pave the way for a consistent and systematic description of nuclear forces and of the electroweak interaction in nuclei and nuclear matter. This understanding is being explored in experiments, including those carried out on the superconducting Darmstadt electron linear accelerator (S-DALINAC), which is leading in the energy field of the chiral EFT.
(Host University: Technical University of Darmstadt, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Achim Schwenk)

There is a state of non-equilibrium in biological membranes between the interior and exterior of a cell or a sub-cellular compartment and between the cells of multi-cell organisms. As a result, a further prerequisite for life is that membranes are not static entities, but constantly changing boundaries that react to internal and external stimuli. What determines the identity of membranes and how do they control their dynamic processes in space and time? What role do their components play here, in particular their membrane proteins and membrane protein complexes? The answers to these questions will be investigated in the "Identity and Dynamics of Membrane Systems – from Molecules to Cellular Functions" Collaborative Research Centre in order to better understand the principles of a number of essential biological processes.
(Host University: University of Düsseldorf, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Lutz Schmitt)

Selective autophagy is a process that specifically removes potentially harmful intracellular pathogens. It acts as a quality control system in cells, enables the organism to adapt to stressful conditions and provides the essentials for synthesising new cellular components when there is a limited supply of nutrients. The extensive influence of autophagic processes was only identified within the past ten years, so there are many unanswered questions yet to be explored. The Collaborative Research Centre "Molecular and Functional Characterisation of Selective Autophagy" will aim to decipher the molecular and cellular mechanisms that ensure that autophagy runs smoothly throughout the entire organism. How the autophagic network contributes to the emergence and progression of diseases, and how this knowledge can be used for new approaches to treatment, will also be investigated based on various disease models for cancer, Parkinson's disease, infection and inflammation.
(Host University: University of Frankfurt am Main, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ivan Dikic)

Dividing cells into various spaces – so-called compartments – ensures specific distribution and division of nucleic acids, proteins and metabolites. Yet intracellular compartments must still be able to communicate with each other and exchange molecules. Two different systems facilitate this exchange in living cells: compartmental gates and contact sites. The Collaborative Research Centre entitled "Compartmental Gates and Contact Sites in Cells" will research how the combination of these systems facilitates the specific distribution of molecules within the cell and how it succeeds in combining the functions of cellular compartments to create a superordinate whole.
(Host University: University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Rehling)

The Collaborative Research Centre entitled "Immune-Mediated Glomerular Diseases – Basic Concepts and Clinical Implications" deals with the causes of a group of diseases that are among the most common triggers of end-stage renal failure in the Western world. Immune-mediated glomerular diseases are a heterogeneous group of diseases that primarily cause a harmful inflammatory response in the glomeruli, tiny clusters of looping blood vessels in the renal tissue, with a secondary impact also seen in other sections of the kidneys. Researchers plan to investigate underlying pathomechanisms with a view to developing effective and safe treatments.
(Host University: University of Hamburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Rolf A. K. Stahl)

Cross-modal learning describes the integration of complex perceptions from various sensory organs, whereby learning within one sense is influenced by the information from one or more other senses. As a result, cross-modal learning forms the basis for human understanding of the world, e.g. when grasping and handling objects, learning to read and write, or acquiring language. The German-Chinese CRC/Transregio "Cross-Modal Learning: Adaptivity, Prediction and Interaction" aims to describe the neural, cognitive and computer-aided mechanisms of cross-modal learning. Researchers working in artificial intelligence, psychology and neuroscience will participate in the collaboration.
(Host University: University of Hamburg, Tsinghua University, Beijing, Spokespersons: Professor Dr. Jianwei Zhang, Professor Dr. Fuchun Sun)

Scientists from the fields of physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering and process engineering will deal with spin phenomena in the "Spin+X: Spin in its Collective Environment" CRC/Transregio. Even though they are not yet understood in a wider context, these phenomena are already crucial for modern technological applications such as data storage or magnetic sensor technology. The CRC/Transregio will address these spin phenomena, which are the result of collective interactions in larger systems. In this process, it will investigate fundamental aspects and functional phenomena with the medium- to long-term objective of finding practical applications.
(Host University: Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Martin Aeschlimann, also applying: University of Mainz)

Functional materials have better mechanical, thermal and electrical properties than conventional materials. Macromolecules are the most important functional materials, both in natural environments and in our day-to-day surroundings. They are increasingly finding their way into high-tech applications such as screens, displays and data storage devices. Their functional diversity is based on the configuration and character of the individual components within a macromolecule, and on the configuration and conformation of macromolecules in a given area and space. The Collaborative Research Centre entitled "Molecular Structure of Soft Matter" will aim to make it possible to produce polymer material with an as yet unparalleled degree of structural control in one, two and three dimensions.
(Host University: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christopher Barner-Kowollik)

Plants and animals – including humans – host highly specific microbial communities. Microbes associated with a certain host organism can influence the fitness of their respective hosts and ultimately form a metaorganism composed of the multicellular host and a community of associated microorganisms. Disruptions to this partnership have significant consequences for invertebrates and humans. Despite their essential nature, many aspects of the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control the interactions in this type of metaorganism are still not understood. This is where the Collaborative Research Centre "Origin and Function of Metaorganisms" comes in, as it will investigate why and how microbial communities form long-term associations with host organisms. Scientists plan to research the evolutionary and ecological impact on the life cycle and fitness of certain host organisms.
(Host University: University of Kiel, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thomas C. G. Bosch)

Spatialisation is a key dimension of social behaviour because spaces are created by humans. What type of spaces are they and how do they interrelate? Does the globalisation process make the system of spaces created through spatialisation more complex? What are the ordering powers and which principles do they follow? The Collaborative Research Centre entitled "Processes of Spatialisation under the Global Condition" focuses on these questions. In this regard, globalisation is taken to mean a globally effective spatialisation process originating from various world regions. The CRC will take into consideration the period between the late eighteenth century and the present day, various world regions and different groups of actors. In addition to the dissolution of boundaries and interrelations happening faster and becoming more frequent, the focus is placed on creating regulations through respatialisation and its actors.
(Host University: University of Leipzig, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Matthias Middell)

Within the past 25 years, a disproportionate surge has been observed in the ground-level air temperature in the Arctic. This surge is around double the average global warming level. This phenomenon is described as Arctic amplification. It leads to dramatic changes in the Arctic, which also have a dramatic impact on the global climate system. However, it has not yet been possible to correctly reproduce this effect using climate models. As a result, the CRC/Transregio "Arctic Amplification: Climate Relevant Atmospheric and Surface Processes and Feedback Mechanisms (AC)3" has set its sights on identifying, investigating and evaluating the key processes that contribute to Arctic amplification. The aim is to improve the understanding of important feedback mechanisms and to quantify their relative importance for Arctic amplification. Combining observational and model studies should also improve the predictions of future climate change in the Arctic.
(Host University: University of Leipzig, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Manfred Wendisch, also applying: University of Bremen, University of Cologne)

Over the last few decades, many mechanisms have shed light upon tumorigenesis and effective cancer treatments have been developed. Nevertheless, frequent relapses with resistant tumour cells represent an immense clinical challenge. The Collaborative Research Centre entitled "Genetic and Epigenetic Evolution of Haematopoietic Neoplasms" therefore will investigate the underlying processes using an evolutionary biological approach, with the aim of better diagnosing and treating the development of cancer. Representatives from clinical practice, molecular biology, bioinformatics, population genetics and evolutionary biology will work in close collaboration to research tumour diseases of the haematopoietic system, e.g. leukaemias and lymphoma. Carcinogenesis will then be easier to trace based on the findings of this research.
(Host University: University of Munich (LMU), Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Heinrich Leonhardt)

Billions of users are spending a significant part of their life online and leaving their data behind. The widespread distribution, easy access and longevity of this data carry far-reaching risks. In this regard, the issue of online data protection is largely unsolved. The Collaborative Research Centre entitled "Methods and Tools for Understanding and Controlling Privacy" focuses on two aspects for developing a scientific basis for comprehensive online data protection: understanding and controlling privacy. This CRC also aims to create an integral approach for research in this field and to overcome the existing limitations to other relevant sections of informatics.
(Host University: Saarland University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michael Backes)

According to the shared understanding of the researchers involved in the "Collaborative Media" Collaborative Research Centre who work in the humanities, cultural studies, social sciences and engineering sciences, digital media can no longer be seen as individual media. To a greater degree, new analytical and theoretical approaches are necessary: media are based on technologies and media infrastructures, and they are surrounded by public controversies concerning their design and regulation. The group will address the collaborative nature of media and research the role of medial infrastructures in creating public spheres. The Collaborative Research Centre intends to contribute to the understanding of contemporary digital culture with its interdisciplinary research programme.
(Host University: University of Siegen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Erhard Schüttpelz)

Further Information

Media contact:

  • DFG Press and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2443,

Further information will be provided by the spokespersons of the Collaborative Research Centres.

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More details about the funding programme and funded Collaborative Research Centres are available at: