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Press Release No. 56 | 9 December 2016
Excellence Strategy: 192 Letters of Intent Received for Clusters of Excellence

DFG President Strohschneider: “Universities take this competition and their responsibility as applicants very seriously” / Draft proposals to be submitted by 3 April 2017

In Germany’s Excellence Strategy, the successor programme to the Excellence Initiative for the funding of top-level university research, there is now an initial indicator of the universities’ interest in the programme and the scale of the upcoming competitive process. By the deadline of 1 December 2016, a total of 192 letters of intent to submit draft proposals for Clusters of Excellence had been received by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). DFG President Professor Dr. Peter Strohschneider announced this figure to members of the DFG Senate and Joint Committee during their winter session in Bonn. The DFG will conduct the competitive process in the Clusters of Excellence funding line according to the administrative agreement reached by the federal and state governments in June of this year.

Of the 192 letters of intent, 44 were submitted jointly by university consortia, including 7 from groups of three institutions, the maximum number of applicant universities permitted as per funding call published at the end of September 2016.

Following the letters of intent, universities can now submit detailed draft proposals for Clusters of Excellence to the DFG between now and 3 April 2017. The letters will help the DFG prepare the review process. Because they are not binding, the letters of intent only give an indication of the number of draft proposals that may be received. Following submission, the draft proposals will be evaluated by international review panels, after which the Committee of Experts, made up of 39 researchers mostly based abroad, will decide at the end of September 2017 which projects will be invited to submit full proposals. The final funding decision for Clusters of Excellence will be made in September 2018 by the Excellence Commission, which includes the Committee of Experts and the research ministers of the federal and state governments. Funding will commence on 1 January 2019. Universities that are successful in the first funding line and meet a minimum number of Clusters of Excellence are then eligible to submit proposals in the Universities of Excellence funding line, which will be conducted by the German Council of Science and Humanities. Proposals may be submitted until December 2018. The proposals will undergo review, with final funding decisions for Universities of Excellence to be made in 2019.

When informing the Senate and Joint Committee of the number of letters received, DFG President Professor Dr. Peter Strohschneider said: “Although the letters of intent do not provide final figures on participation, they do give us a good indication. They also demonstrate two things: the competition for Clusters of Excellence is still very attractive to the universities – and the universities take this competition and their responsibility as applicants very seriously.”

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