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Press Release No. 45 | 8 November 2021
DFG to Fund 14 New Research Training Groups

Topics range from pancreatic cancer and urban development to the movement of the Earth’s crust / A total of approximately €76 million approved for the first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 14 new Research Training Groups (RTGs) to further bolster the support offered to early career researchers. This was announced by the relevant Grants Committee, which met by video conference. The new RTGs will be given a total of roughly €76 million over a period of four and a half years from spring 2022 onwards. This includes a 22-percent programme allowance for indirect project-related costs. The new consortia include one International Research Training Group (IGK) with a partner university in the UK.

In addition to the 14 new groups, the Grants Committee agreed to extend funding for another 12 RTGs for an additional funding period. Research Training Groups offer doctoral researchers an opportunity to complete their doctorates in a structured research and training programme at a high level of expertise. The DFG currently funds a total of 218 RTGs, including 35 IRTGs.

The 14 new Research Training Groups in detail
(in alphabetical order of host university, with information on the spokesperson as well as the other applicant universities and cooperation partners):

The Research Training Group “Contradiction Studies: Constellations, Heuristics, and Concepts of the Contradictory” explores the emergence, negotiation and explanatory limits of contradiction. In doing so, constellations of contradiction, avoidance of contradiction, contradictory phenomena and practices of contradiction are to be systematically analysed and established as objects of investigation in the humanities, social sciences and law. The consortium is also seeking to contribute to the appreciation of complexity and diversity in modern-day conflicts, which often become excessively polarised. (University of Bremen, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michi Knecht)

In medicine, leg prostheses and exoskeletons are referred to as “assistance systems”. But new technological possibilities of active leg prostheses and orthoses are currently seeing rather hesitant acceptance among those who suffer mobility restrictions. For this reason the Research Training Group “Seamless integration of assistance systems for natural locomotion of humans (LokoAssist)” aims to adapt such assistance systems more closely to users’ needs. The aim is to link new technological developments with aspects of the human experience and interaction with the assistance system. (TU Darmstadt, spokesperson: Professor Dr. André Seyfarth; also applying: University of Heidelberg)

The International Research Training Group “Risks and Pathomechanisms of Affective Disorders” looks into how affective disorders develop, including bipolar disorders, ADHD and depression. Until now, it has been a challenge to make reliable diagnoses for these psychiatric disorders and treatment options are limited. For this reason, the researchers involved in Dresden and London seek to contribute to a better understanding of affective disorders. (TU Dresden, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michael Bauer; cooperation partner: King’s College London, UK)

Nanoparticles are now used in numerous optical and electronic components. Most recently, research has focused on using not only individual nanoparticles, but larger structures built from different nanoparticles. Such supracolloidal structures have properties that go beyond those of individual building blocks. However, the structure-property relationships of the joined particles are not yet sufficiently understood. The Research Training Group “Supracolloidal Structures: From Materials to Optical and Electronic Devices” aims to close this research gap. (TU Dresden, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andreas Fery)

What are the forms and functions of sentimentality? And how does their use depend on historical and cultural contexts, both now and in the past? The Research Training Group “The Sentimental in Literature, Culture and Politics” defines the sentimental as a communicative code that is able to activate a capacity for empathy. The research group aims to examine how this code is so effective in the way it combines the supposedly private emotional sphere with the public display of emotion in the fields of literature, culture and politics. (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Heike Paul)

Chronic inflammation is a risk factor in connection with numerous tumour diseases, including pancreatic carcinoma. Yet while the effects of the inflammatory microenvironment on existing pancreatic tumours have been well researched, little is known about the actual development of the carcinomas and which factors are responsible. The Research Training Group “Inflammatory cues as modulators of early pancreatic carcinogenesis (InCuPanC)” therefore seeks to systematically decipher the influence of various inflammatory signals in the early phase of cancer development. The aim is to find novel points of reference for the early detection of pancreatic cancer. (University of Halle-Wittenberg, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Patrick Michl)

The Research Training Group “Urban Future-Making: Professional agency across time and scale” is dedicated to questions regarding the design of urban space in the face of currently pressing challenges such as population growth, climate change and scarcity of resources. These are most evident in urban areas and have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The consortium will focus specifically on individual groups of actors and will look at the extent to which those in administration, planning and science – the so-called “urban future-makers” – are capable of shaping urban developments in a way that meets these challenges. (HafenCity University Hamburg, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Monika Grubbauer; also applying: TU Hamburg, University of Hamburg)

Emotions are highly influential factors in connection with learning and memory processes. This influence can contribute to various mental disorders, although the connection is not yet fully understood. For this reason, the Research Training Group “Emotional Learning and Memory” will focus its research on those psychological and neuronal mechanisms that underlie emotional learning and memory processes. The researchers involved seek to focus mainly on negative emotions and aim to transfer their fundamental research findings to clinical application as quickly as possible. (University of Hamburg, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Lars Schwabe)

A wide variety of stress factors such as heat and high salt concentrations trigger astonishingly similar reactions in cells. Yet no indepth research has been carried out to date into how these reactions are combined and coordinated to selectively protect cells against specific stress situations. The aim of the Research Training Group “STRESSistance: Molecular Mechanisms to Preserve the Functionality of Membranes and Compartments during Stress Conditions” is therefore to investigate such response “routines” observed in cells. The main focus will be on the level of organelles and in particular their membranes. (TU Kaiserslautern, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Johannes M. Herrmann)

Life on Earth is shaped by natural rhythms that are defined by the rotation of the Earth around itself and the Sun. The evolution of biological clocks allows adaptation to these rhythms, such as day and night, summer and winter. These clocks are detectable at the level of individual cells. The Research Training Group “Biological Clocks on Multiple Time Scales” will be studying plasma membranes and cell nuclei of algae, yeasts and insects in order to understand their biological clocks on a comparative basis. Researchers from the fields of biology and zoology are involved, as well as from mathematics, physics and systems theory. (University of Kassel, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Monika Stengl)

The Earth’s crust moves horizontally and vertically. But while the horizontal movements are already very well understood, many questions remain unanswered about the vertical movement processes, such as what causes them. The Research Training Group “Geophysical modelling of vertical motion processes constrained by geodetic and geological observations (UPLIFT)” therefore aims to collate the observational data mentioned in its title. In this way, the goal will be to conduct more detailed research into the various so-called uplift mechanisms which are caused by the vertical movement of the Earth's crust. This should enable conclusions to be drawn with regard to landscape development and earthquake events. (TU Munich, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Roland Pail; also applying: LMU Munich)

The Research Training Group “Urban Green Infrastructure – Training Next Generation Professionals for Integrated Urban Planning Research” will focus on the reconstruction of cities with sustainable urban infrastructures that are in harmony with the natural world and adapted to the new climate conditions. Experts from the fields of urban planning, water research, architecture, ecology and environmental medicine will join forces for this purpose. In addition to the transformation of urban spaces, they also aim to focus on climate resilience and energy efficiency as well as sustainable rainwater management. (TU Munich, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Stephan Pauleit)

Digital platform ecosystems involve cooperation between companies and individuals who are independent of each other but expect to gain a mutual advantage from participating. Digital ecosystems of this kind include platforms such as AirBnB, Delivery Hero and ImmoScout24. What is the significance of these platforms in terms of overarching socio-economic and regulatory developments? The Research Training Group “Digital Platform Ecosystems (DPE) – Digital platform-based value creation and its implications for data sharing, organization, and socioeconomic development” aims to answer this question by analysing such aspects as relationships within the digital platform ecosystem – whether between platform and affiliated companies or between platform and individuals. (University of Passau, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jan Krämer)

“Transformations of science and technology since 1800: topics, processes, institutions” is the title of a Research Training Group which will seek to investigate a classic science research topic from a historical, philosophical and sociological perspective – but applying a new approach. This is because while previous forms of description are plausible in themselves, they do not do justice to the complexity of developments. For this reason, the Research Training Group will be developing a comprehensive view of the dynamics of science and technology and to this end seek to examine the extent to which diagnoses of transformations are themselves constructions that shape a particular view of historical reality. (University of Wuppertal, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Volker Remmert)

The twelve RTGs 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 cooperation partners, and with references to the project descriptions in GEPRIS – the DFG internet database for current funding):

Further Information

Media contact:

The Research Training Groups spokesperson can also provide additional information.

Programme contact at the DFG Head Office:

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