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Press Release No. 52 | 10 December 2021
DFG to Fund Eight New Research Units

Subjects from brain development to dental implants and obesity therapy / Total of approximately €34.3 million for first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing eight new Research Units. This was decided by the DFG Joint Committee at its virtual meeting on 9 December 2021 at the recommendation of the Senate. The new Research Units will receive total funding of approximately €34.3 million, including a 22-percent programme allowance for indirect project costs.

The funding duration for these consortia is based on the date on which the first draft of a funding proposal was submitted. Research Units which submitted their draft proposals after 1 October 2018 will be funded for a maximum of two four-year periods; this applies to all of the newly established Research Units. In addition to these eight institutions, a decision was made to extend the funding of eight Research Units for an additional period. The extended consortia will receive funding for a period of three years – in one case four years. Four of the newly established Research Units and one that has been extended for additional period are being funded under the framework of the D-A-CH cooperation together with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) or the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).

Research Units enable scholars to pursue current and pressing issues in their areas of research and take innovative directions in their work. In addition, Centres for Advanced Studies are specifically tailored to the structures required in the humanities and social sciences, while Clinical Research Units are characterised by their close link between research and clinical work. Including these new additions, the DFG is currently funding 177 Research Units, 11 Centres for Advanced Studies and 13 Clinical Research Units.

The eight new consortia in detail
(in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs)

In research on brain development, imprecisions – i.e. inaccuracies – are often associated with the faulty functioning of neuronal mechanisms. However, functional neuronal circuits not only have to be precise, they must also be flexible and fault-tolerant so that the organism can react in the best possible way in a wide variety of situations and changing conditions. The research group “From Imprecision to Robustness in Neural Circuit Assembly” uses the fruit fly as an example to investigate the novel hypothesis that imprecision and “noise” in mechanisms at the level of molecules and single cells are essential to the development of robust interplay between circuits at higher levels – from cell clusters to behaviour. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Robin Hiesinger, FU Berlin)

Even though cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective method for treating mental disorders such as depression, phobias or anxiety disorders, not all patients respond equally well. This has serious consequences both for sufferers and for the healthcare system. The research group “Towards Precision Psychotherapy for Non-Respondent Patients: From Signatures to Predictions to Clinical Utility” aims to contribute to a better understanding of the phenomenon of non-response so as to be able to identify this group of sufferers earlier on and treat them more effectively in the future. One central hypothesis is that non-response can be predicted across varying disorders based on the patients’ differing emotion regulation strategies. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ulrike Lüken, HU Berlin)

The research group “Mechanism-Based Characterization and Modeling of Permanent and Bioresorbable Implants with Tailored Functionality Based on Innovative in Vivo, in Vitro and in Silico Methods” works at the interface of materials engineering and dentistry. It aims to develop a holistic solution for the production, characterisation and simulation-based design of implants individually adapted to the patient in dentistry, oral medicine and maxillofacial surgery. Special additive manufacturing processes can be used to adapt the stiffness of the implants to that of the jawbone, thereby facilitating ingrowth. This allows physiological conditions to be taken into account where the usual standardised procedures do not provide a satisfactory result. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Frank Walther, TU Dortmund)

The research group “QUAntitative Spatio-Temporal model-building for correlated electronic matter”, funded under the D-A-CH cooperation with the Austrian FWF and the SNF, addresses open questions of many-particle theory. It focuses on the problem that spatio-temporal electronic correlations – i.e. the various interactions between electrons – often influence the topological and dynamic properties of materials but cannot be fully taken into account in theoretical description. This often prevents a clear interpretation of experiments and the reliable quantitative prediction of material properties. In order to better control these difficulties, the group is seeking to further develop the theory of the electronic structure of condensed matter. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Maria Roser Valenti, University of Frankfurt/Main)

Direct investments in securities are costly, so investors often pass their money on to intermediaries, i.e. brokers. However, the latter often fail to invest according to their clients’ preferences. As a result, asset prices are influenced by intermediaries and there is a difference between valuation from the investor’s point of view and market valuation. The research group “Financial markets and frictions – an intermediary-based approach to asset pricing”, funded under the D-A-CH cooperation together with the Austrian FWF, is dedicated to this phenomenon, which is not considered in conventional approaches to research. In doing so, it aims to gain new insights into the dynamics and structure of risk pricing of financial assets. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Marliese Uhrig-Homburg, KIT Karlsruhe)

Where and how are floods caused? What factors influence the water quality of flowing waters during such events? In order to better answer these questions, a sound understanding of intermediate discharge is needed – a hitherto under-researched discharge component in the transition between surface discharge and groundwater. For this reason, the research group “Fast and invisible: Conquering Subsurface Stormflow through an Interdisciplinary Multi-Site Approach” focuses on this aspect in order to enable more reliable long-term forecasts of hydrological extreme events and their impacts. The network is funded under the D-A-CH cooperation with the Austrian FWF. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Chifflard, University of Marburg)

Obesity is a widespread disease that can result in such problems as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and lipometabolic disorders. There is currently no effective long-term therapy to achieve weight reduction and to positively influence metabolism. The research group “iMAGO – Personalized diagnostics for the treatment of obesity” aims to improve therapy options by researching and developing novel non-invasive imaging technologies based on optoacoustics and magnetic resonance. In this way, the aim is to enable the physiological and/or metabolic aspects of obesity to be assessed, thereby contributing to ensuring that therapy can be tailored to the individual in the long term. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Martin Klingenspor, TU Munich)

The research group “Controversial Discourses. Language History as Contemporary History since 1990” seeks to examine the most important thematic areas of public political debate since the unification of the two German states and embed these in an overall study of the history of discourse and language. Unlike in historiography, “language history as contemporary history” has so far only been researched in individual studies on climate discourse or in connection with the discourse of economic crises, for example. In terms of methodology, the consortium, which is funded by the SNSF under the D-A-CH cooperation, also aims to develop a common digital infrastructure for discourse history – an urgent desideratum in linguistics. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Martin Wengeler, University of Trier)

The eight research consortia extended for a second funding period
(in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs and with references to the project descriptions in GEPRIS – the DFG internet database for current funding):

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