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Press Release No. 16 | 25 May 2021
DFG to Fund Eleven New Collaborative Research Centres

Topics range from constructing explainability to the tropopause region and human categorisation / €138 million in funding for an initial period of four years

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing eleven new Collaborative Research Centres (CRC) to promote world-class research at universities. This was announced by the relevant Grants Committee, which met by video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new CRCs will initially receive a total of approximately €138 million over a period of four years from 1 July 2021 onwards. This includes a 22-percent programme allowance for indirect project-related costs. Seven of the new consortia are CRC/Transregios (TRR) distributed across multiple applicant universities.

As well as the eleven new groups, the Grants Committee agreed to extend the funding of another 27 CRCs for an additional funding period, including four CRC/Transregios. Collaborative Research Centres allow researchers to tackle innovative, challenging and long-term research projects within the network and should enable institutional priority area development and structural development at the applicant universities. CRCs are awarded funding for a maximum of twelve years. From July 2021 onwards there will be a total of 282 CRCs receiving DFG funding.

The eleven new Collaborative Research Centres in detail
(in alphabetical order of host university, with information on the spokesperson as well as the other applicant universities):

In order to ensure the development and regeneration of the organism, cells have to proliferate in a highly regulated manner. The CRC “Molecular Mechanisms of Cell State Transitions” investigates the interplay between molecular signals and the regulatory switches that jointly trigger transitions between defined cell states. Still poorly understood, this interaction performs a crucial function in the division and growth of cells, so it can be a key factor in the development of cancer, too. (University of Duisburg-Essen, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hemmo Meyer)

New methods for recording and evaluating biomedical processes and human movement parameters are the focus of the CRC “Empathokinaesthetic Sensor Technology – Sensor Techniques and Data Analysis Methods for Empathokinaesthetic Modeling and Condition monitoring”. By means of wireless high-frequency sensors, the consortium seeks to use con-tact-free methods to determine data on relevant vital parameters such as heart and respiratory rate based on the movement of the chest and investigate the processes this involves in the body. The externally recorded information is to be linked to internal biomechanical, biomedical and (psycho-)physiological processes. The long-term goal is to design novel sensor technologies capable of capturing human body movement data. (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Martin Vossiek)

The CRC/Transregio “Geometry and Arithmetic of Uniformized Structures (GAUS)” is working in the field of theoretical mathematics with the aim of answering structural questions in geometry and arithmetic. The fundamental idea of uniformisation is to replace complicated geometric objects with simpler ones without changing the local structure. The complexity of the original objects is thereby encoded in calculations of associated symmetry groups, which it is then possible to draw on for the purpose of investigation. By translating the complexity into a different “language”, the consortium aims to open up new perspectives on the original objects in that new perspectives are created on the original objects, thereby making them accessible to central geometric and arithmetic questions. (University of Frankfurt/Main, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jakob Stix; also applying: University of Darmstadt, University of Heidelberg)

There is still much that is not understood about the mechanisms by which tumour cells bypass the immune system. In developing new treatments for tumour diseases, it is therefore crucial to carry out research into intracellular signal transduction – which is important in the emergence of cancer – and into immune escape mechanisms. The CRC “Oncogene-Driven Immune Escape (OncoEscape)” is dedicated to these two fields of research, which are often studied separately. In the long term, this CRC hopes to gain new insights into the regulation of immune responses by oncogenes and will seek to transfer these findings to clinical application. (University of Freiburg, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Robert Zeiser)

The CRC/Transregio “Safety Integrated and Infection Reactive Implants” transfers concepts for monitoring stress and damage from the area of manufacturing and materials technology to medical implants. The research done by this CRC/Transregio aims to increase implant safety and therefore also patient safety in the long term. To this end, the group is developing systems that can be used to determine impairments in the functionality of an implant: this can then be used to respond to a wide range of complications, such as wear and tear or inflammation. The new systems will be tested for use in the human body under a variety of biological, chemical and mechanical conditions. (MHH Hannover, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Meike Stiesch; also applying: University of Hanover)

RNA modifications are changes in the chemical structure of RNA building blocks. They play a role in the stability of RNA, as well as its transport and localisation within the cell. The CRC/Transregio “RMaP: RNA Modification and Processing” aims to contribute to a comprehensive understanding of RNA biology by investigating how modification and processing together determine RNA maturation. Among other things, the consortium will look into the effect of modified RNA on gene expression and therefore also on protein production, for example. (University of Mainz, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Mark Helm; also applying: University of Heidelberg)

It is a fundamental cultural and social phenomenon that people continuously categorise each other based on such characteristics as nationality, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, performance or sexual orientation. This phenomenon is becoming increasingly relevant in the context of advancing globalisation. The CRC “Studies in Human Categorization” compares and analyses forms of human categorisation in order to develop a general theory of the underlying processes. In doing so, it also considers the historical dimensions of the subject, integrating the analysis of a wide variety of social and cultural practices of human categorisation as reflected in such elements as language, artefacts and the processes of social organisation. (University of Mainz, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Stefan Hirschauer)

Precise climate models provide the basis for reliable climate change forecasts. The predictions depend on such factors as the exact description of the atmosphere in the altitude range from 10 to 20 kilometres – referred to as the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. The CRC/Transregio “The Tropopause Region in a Changing Atmosphere” is dedicated to this area of the atmosphere. Based on measurement flights, laboratory experiments and insitu observations, the group is seeking to develop new data sets and explore the complex interactions that occur at this altitude of the atmosphere. (University of Mainz, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Hoor; also applying: University of Frankfurt/Main)

The production of a large number of everyday goods is based on the synthesis of basic substances by catalysts. Here, photocatalysis provides groundbreaking options that are virtually impossible to achieve using conventional methods. The CRC/Transregio “Assembly Controlled Chemical Photocatalysis” aims to develop a new generation of photocatalytic systems for organic synthesis by controlling the interactions between the catalyst and its reaction partners. In the long term, it seeks to contribute to achieving greater savings of energy and resources in light-driven reactions. (TU Munich, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thorsten Bach; also applying: University of Regensburg)

The modification of lymphocytes to combat infections and tumour diseases is being researched by the CRC/Transregio “LETSIMMUN – Lymphocyte Engineering for Therapeutic Synthetic Immunity”. Based on its findings, the consortium aims to contribute to establishing immunotherapies with modified lymphocytes as a medically safe and effective treatment that is accessible to all patients who require it, for application in a variety of clinical settings. (TU Munich, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Dirk Busch; also applying: LMU Munich, University of Würzburg)

Intelligent systems can interact with other systems – but also with people, through textual, visual, acoustic or even haptic signals. In connection with such forms of interaction – such as collaboration with interactive robots or computer-assisted decision-making in medical therapies – it is important to make algorithm-based decisions comprehensible and transparent so that they are acceptable to humans. The CRC/Transregio “Constructing Explainability” is dedicated to the topic of explainability as one of the urgent questions in research on human-machine interaction. The group is approaching the topic with a novel theory of explanation as a form of social practice. In this way, it aims to contribute to a contextual and situational understanding of explaining and understanding that includes man and machine, society and context. (University of Paderborn, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Katharina Rohlfing; also applying: University of Bielefeld)

The 27 CRCs with their funding extended for an additional period
(in alphabetical order of host university, with information on the spokesperson as well as the other applicant universities and with references to the project descriptions in GEPRIS – the DFG internet database for current funding):

Further Information

Media contact:

The respective spokesperson of each Collaborative Research Centre can also provide additional information.

Contact at the DFG Head Office:

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