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Press Release No. 49 | 27 November 2020
DFG to Fund 20 New Collaborative Research Centres

Topics range from the transformations of the popular and neuroelectronics to quantum cooperativity of light and matter / €254 million in funding for initial four-year period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 20 new Collaborative Research Centres (CRC) to further support top-level research at universities. This was decided by the relevant Grants Committee, which met by video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new CRCs will receive a total of approximately €254 million for an initial period of four years beginning 1 January 2021. This includes a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. Three of the new networks are CRC/Transregios (TRR), which are distributed across multiple applicant universities.

In addition to the 20 new groups, the Grants Committee also approved the extension of 25 existing CRCs for an additional funding period, including 10 CRC/Transregios. Collaborative Research Centres enable researchers to tackle innovative, complex and long-term research projects within the network, thereby supporting the further development of core areas and structures at the applicant universities. Collaborative Research Centres are funded for a maximum of twelve years. From January 2021, the DFG will be funding a total of 283 CRCs.

The 20 new Collaborative Research Centres in detail
(in alphabetical order by host university, including the names of spokespersons and other applicant universities):

Musculoskeletal diseases and disorders are on the rise due to the epidemic of obesity resulting in reduced mobility and to the increased physical activity of the elderly. The healing potential of bone varies greatly in the different patient groups. Understanding why this occurs is relevant for the success of regenerative therapies. The Collaborative Research Centre “Directed Cellular Self-Organisation for Advancing Bone Regeneration” aims to unravel the basic mechanisms that differentiate between success and failure in bone regeneration. (Charité – FU Berlin and HU Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Georg Duda)

Hydrogels consist of water-insoluble polymers, which can absorb large quantities of water and which swell up in the process. The Collaborative Research Centre “Dynamic Hydrogels at Biointerfaces” aims to define and investigate the key physicochemical factors that determine the protective functions of hydrogels at biological interfaces based on airway and intestinal surfaces. Furthermore, it intends to define the requirements for the development of new therapeutic strategies for pulmonary and gastrointestinal diseases. (FU Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Rainer Haag)

Humans and their immune responses are evolutionarily adapted to constant microbial dangers from the environment. In today’s environment though, certain adaptations are becoming a liability. It is becoming increasingly clear that the immune and metabolic systems are responding to modern lifestyles and can trigger chronic, low-grade inflammation – known as metaflammation. The Collaborative Research Centre “Metaflammation and Cellular Programming” seeks to understand the mechanisms leading to this chronic inflammation. (University of Bonn, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Eicke Latz)

The Collaborative Research Centre “Multilevel Response to Stressor Increase and Release in Stream Ecosystems” aims to understand and explain the mechanisms of rivers and streams that are affected by multiple stress factors such as temperature increase, salinisation or alterations in the natural course of the river. To do this, it will implement experimental approaches designed to combine experiments and field studies with statistical and mechanistic modelling and syntheses. Overall, the investigation focuses on a wide array of organisms, ranging from bacteria to fish, and on different ecosystem functions. (University of Duisburg-Essen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Bernd Sures)

The Collaborative Research Centre “Catalysis at Liquid Interfaces (CLINT)” is pursuing a completely new approach in chemical reaction engineering. It will use the highly dynamic anisotropic environment of gas-liquid and liquid-solid interfaces to create catalytic materials with new properties and as yet unattained productivity, robustness and ease of processing. The aim is to combine the understanding of catalytic processes with targeted material development, which is why research will link studies on model systems with kinetic investigations using real catalysts. (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Wasserscheid)

Cooperative behaviour is known, for example, from the dynamics of flocking birds. However, the description of cooperativity in quantum mechanics is not yet complete. The CRC/Transregio “Quantum Cooperativity of Light and Matter – (QuCoLiMa)” will investigate cooperativity at the quantum level. In doing so, the network hopes to make a lasting contribution towards a systematic understanding of the build-up of spatio-temporal quantum correlations in mesoscopic systems in which light and matter have very strong interrelationships. The findings could be used for applications in quantum engineering such as enhanced sensing, secure communication and quantum computing. (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Joachim von Zanthier; Additional applicant university: University of Mainz and University of Saarbrücken)

Worldwide, 10 to 15 percent of adults suffer from chronic kidney diseases in addition to those suffering from kidney cancer. Kidney diseases often have genetic causes. However, the mechanisms underlying the diseases are not sufficiently understood. This is the objective of the Collaborative Research Centre “Nephrogenetics (NephGen)”. Researchers will investigate the relevant genes and proteins to identify the role they play in the development of the disease. They will do this by combining molecular biological methods, imaging and statistical procedures. Based on extensive patient and population studies as well as with the help of targeted animal models, the network aims to contribute towards the development of new therapeutic approaches for prevention and treatment. (University of Freiburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Anna Köttgen)

In natural sciences research, vast amounts of experimental data are obtained with the help of modern measurement techniques. The interdisciplinary Collaborative Research Centre “Mathematics of Experiment: The Challenge of Indirect Measurements in the Natural Sciences” aims to efficiently and optimally extract the relevant information from such highly complex data volumes. Using various experimental and observational situations, mathematical modelling and analysis-based approaches will be developed. (University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thorsten Hohage)

Scientists from the field of geodesy – the science of measuring and mapping the earth – and physics will work together in the Collaborative Research Centre “Relativistic and Quantum-Based Geodesy (TerraQ)” to develop fundamentally new sensors, measurement techniques, analysis methods and modelling approaches. In this way, the latest findings, especially from quantum and gravitational physics, should help to significantly increase the accuracy of geodetic measurements. For example, climate change processes can be better researched. (University of Hanover, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Müller)

The Collaborative Research Centre “Integrated Design and Operation Methodology for Offshore Megastructures” focuses on the energy transition and future energy supply in Germany, which can be achieved primarily with the help of so-called mega offshore wind turbines. Researchers seek to bring together construction-related processes, such as the design, manufacturing, operation and decommissioning of wind turbines, that were previously thought of as separate, and link them by means of an adaptable digital concept. In the long term, the network aims to provide new knowledge on the design and operation of structures with complex load-bearing behaviour. (University of Hanover, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Raimund Rolfes)

The CRC/Transregio “Structural Change of Property” aims to contribute towards a better sociological understanding of the change in the system of property ownership. To this end, the network wants to revisit the historical and conceptual foundations of Western systems of ownership, empirically investigate current conflicts over private property in the global North, Asia and Latin America, and analyse alternatives to (private) ownership that are currently being debated. (University of Jena, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hartmut Rosa; Additional applicant university: University of Erfurt)

Heterogeneous catalysts made from precious metal clusters and particles play a key role in emissions control. Many of the effects that occur between the elements in actual use are not yet fully understood. New perspectives are currently opening up in this area in the field of characterisation and simulation. This is the starting point of the interdisciplinary Collaborative Research Centre “Tracking the Active Site in Heterogeneous Catalysis for Emission Control (TrackAct)”, which aims to achieve a holistic understanding of the catalytic processes by linking different length scales and levels of complexity. (KIT Karlsruhe, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jan-Dierk Grunwaldt)

Complex information processing systems can be found not only in technology, but above all in nature. Biology offers established mechanisms which engineering can learn from, especially when it comes to image recognition using energy-efficient signal processing. Therefore, the focus of the Collaborative Research Centre “Neurotronics: Bio-Inspired Information Pathways” lies in the interdisciplinary cooperation of participating scientists from the fields of neuroscience, biology, psychology, physics, electrical engineering, materials science and systems theory in order to explore basic properties in selected nervous systems and to transfer them to new technical storage architectures. (University of Kiel, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hermann Kohlstedt)

In the Collaborative Research Centre “Key Mechanisms of Motor Control in Health and Disease”, scientists from the neurosciences and other disciplines will work together to investigate the genetic factors and the cellular, synaptic and neural processes that underlie motor control in animals and humans. In this way, they want to expand knowledge about motor control both in a healthy state and in neuropsychiatric diseases, and make it useful for more targeted therapy strategies. (University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Gereon Rudolf Fink)

Fluctuations are essential to many natural phenomena such as weather, and have a major impact on our daily lives. The underlying principles and working mechanisms may only be used as resources for technical applications if the influence of fluctuations on physical systems is understood. As a result of this, the Collaborative Research Centre “Fluctuations and Nonlinearities in Classical and Quantum Matter beyond Equilibrium” aims to analyse how fluctuations arise and how they influence the dynamics of classical and quantum mechanical systems. (University of Konstanz, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Wolfgang Belzig)

What neurobiological principles limit perceptual and cognitive processes? And which ones prevent people from fully utilising their own cognitive abilities? This is the question being investigated by the Collaborative Research Centre “Neural Resources of Cognition”. In this way, it wants to help develop overarching theories on the neural capacities of younger and older adults. Another objective is a comprehensive concept of cognitive medicine that includes individually tailored measures to protect or enhance specific cognitive functions. (University of Magdeburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Emrah Düzel)

How does intelligent behaviour emerge in a system of nanoscale building blocks that work together? The Collaborative Research Centre “Intelligent Matter: From Responsive to Adaptive Nanosystems” aims to answer this question in order to use intelligent matter, for example, to produce artificial skin that self-regulates temperature and absorption. The intelligent matter to be developed should receive input from the environment and respond with signals to the environment, distribute signals and feedback in embedded networks and provide memory as a route for signal storage and learning. (University of Münster, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Bart Jan Ravoo)

Inflammation can heal but it can also be destructive, for example in chronic cases. The Collaborative Research Centre “Multiscale Imaging of Organ-Specific Inflammation” will examine the organ-specific regulation of inflammation, particularly with regard to the dynamics, activity and interactions of inflammatory cells in various organs. In particular, the leukocytes involved in inflammation, their transfer from the blood to the tissue, the sequence of their activation at the site of the inflammation and their contribution to tissue damage in the living organism are to be analysed. The methods used should make it possible to track cells and processes using whole-body imaging, among other things, and thus to collect new data across spatial and temporal scales for a better understanding of inflammation. (University of Münster, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michael Schäfers)

The metastasis of tumours is still poorly understood. The CRC/Transregio “Striking a Moving Target: From Mechanisms of Metastatic Colonization to Novel Systemic Therapies” will focus on the early phase of the incipient “colonisation” of organs by scattered tumour cells. The network seeks to deepen existing knowledge about the mechanisms of colonisation, and develop starting points for therapeutic approaches with which metastasis can be stopped at this early stage. (University of Regensburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christoph Klein; Additional applicant university: University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

What does being popular mean? Something that attracts the attention of many people and can be measured in rankings and charts? Or can something that is “unpopular” also be popular? The Collaborative Research Centre “Transformations of the Popular” seeks answers to these questions by examining evaluations and modifications of the popular in the fields of pop culture (aesthetic forms and practices), popularisation (strategies of dissemination) and populisms (conflict communication within the dissemination of the popular). In the process, it will take two decisive changes into consideration. Around 1950, methods of measuring the amount of attention paid to something emerged which made the popular “measurable” for the first time. Since 2000, what is popular has increasingly been decided on social media, which partially limits the ability of established media institutions to act as gatekeepers. (University of Siegen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Niels Werber)

The 25 CRCs extended for an additional period
(in alphabetical order by host university, including the names of spokespersons and additional applicant universities, and with reference to the project descriptions in the DFG online database GEPRIS):

Further Information

Media contact:

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

Contact at the DFG Head Office:

More detailed information on the funding programme and the funded Collaborative Research Centres can be found here: