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Press Release No. 41 | 29 September 2017
Initial Decisions in Germany’s Excellence Strategy

Clusters of Excellence: Committee of Experts selects 88 draft proposals / Full proposals due by 21 February, final decision by the Excellence Commission on 27 September 2018

Initial decisions have now been made in Germany’s Excellence Strategy, a programme designed to strengthen top-level academic research in Germany and make German universities more competitive internationally. The international Committee of Experts for the Excellence Strategy, which was appointed by the Joint Science Conference (GWK) on the basis of recommendations by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Wissenschaftsrat (WR, German Council of Science and Humanities), convened in Bonn on 27 and 28 September 2017 and selected 88 Clusters of Excellence projects to proceed to the full proposal stage.

The selection was made from 195 draft proposals, which were submitted by 63 universities in April of this year. The draft proposals were then reviewed by 21 international panels on the basis of research quality criteria. The DFG is responsible for implementing the Clusters of Excellence funding line in accordance with the administrative agreement between the federal and state governments.

The 88 draft proposals chosen were submitted by 41 universities from 13 German states. Of these, 26 were submitted jointly by at least two universities, including 3 by three universities. Approximately 40 percent of the projects build on Clusters of Excellence that were funded during Germany’s Excellence Initiative, and about 60 percent were designed specifically for the Excellence Strategy.

Around two-thirds of the draft proposals selected envisage cooperation with non-university partners. The majority of the draft proposals are multidisciplinary in nature. A total of 19 percent of the proposals are thematically based in the humanities and social sciences, 24 percent in the life sciences, 26 percent in the engineering sciences, and 31 percent in the natural sciences.

Applicants who were successful in the draft proposal stage are now invited to submit full proposals to the DFG by 21 February 2018. The full proposals will then be reviewed by international panels in spring of next year. The final funding decision for Clusters of Excellence will be made on 27 September 2018 by the Excellence Commission, which is made up of the members of the Committee of Experts and Germany’s federal and state research ministers.

Funding for the new Clusters of Excellence will begin on 1 January 2019. Clusters will be funded for seven years; a second seven-year funding period may be granted upon successful proposal submission and review. The administrative agreement envisages funding for 45 to 50 Clusters of Excellence in the amount of approximately €385 million per year, 75 percent of which will be borne by the federal government and 25 percent by the relevant home state.

Success in the Clusters of Excellence funding line is a prerequisite to applying to the Universities of Excellence funding line, which will be conducted by the German Council of Science and Humanities. Universities must have attained funding for at least two Clusters (or a minimum of three Clusters for university consortia) to compete in the Universities of Excellence funding line. Proposals must be submitted by 10 December 2018. The proposals will then undergo review, with final funding decisions for Universities of Excellence to be made on 19 July 2019.

The Committee of Experts approved the proposal templates for the Universities of Excellence funding line during its meeting in Bonn; the templates will be published on the website of the German Council of Science and Humanities in mid to late October.

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