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Press Release No. 6 | 28 March 2022
DFG to Fund Nine New Research Units

Subjects range from polytrauma research and bioinspired oxidation catalysis to the humus layer of forest soil / Total of approximately €38 million for first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing nine new Research Units. This was decided by the DFG Joint Committee at its virtual meeting on 25 March 2022 at the recommendation of the Senate. The new Research Units will receive total funding of approximately €38 million, including a 22-percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. In addition to these nine Research Units, a decision was made to extend the funding of seven Research Units for an additional period. One Research Unit for which funding has been extended for an additional period is being funded under the framework of the D-A-CH cooperation together with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano – South Tyrol.

Research Units enable scholars to pursue current and pressing issues in their areas of research and take innovative directions in their work. They are funded for up to eight years. 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. All in all, the DFG is currently funding 174 Research Units, 14 Centres for Advanced Studies and 14 Clinical Research Units.

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

The Research Unit “Structure-preserving numerical methods for volume and transition coupling of heterogeneous models” is dedicated to the modelling and simulation of coupled systems for the description of magnetised plasmas, complex fluids and electrochemical processes. In coupled systems, several processes are considered in the same region of a selected physical area (volume coupling) or mathematical models used in different parts of an area are joined together at common boundaries (transition coupling). The aim is to develop efficient numerical methods that guarantee the important structural properties of the underlying continuous models and implement them on high-performance computers. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Manuel Torrilhon, RWTH Aachen)

One of the requirements for meeting global climate targets will be to enable the efficient use of non-renewable hydrocarbon resources from oil, natural gas and coal. This requires new concepts for the application of environment-friendly and commonly occurring oxidants such as oxygen and hydrogen peroxide in mild conditions for the production of industrially relevant chemicals. For this reason, the Research Unit “Bioinspired oxidation catalysis with iron complexes” is dedicated to the development of bioinspired homogeneous catalysts with improved efficiency for the oxidation of simple hydrocarbons as well as more complex organic substrates. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thorsten Glaser, University of Bielefeld)

A polytrauma is an injury to several body regions or organ systems at the same time, for example caused by a serious accident. The severe injuries can lead to secondary diseases and increased mortality. Despite all the progress made to date, it is not yet possible to fully explain or predict these interactions. The Research Unit “Translational polytrauma research to provide diagnostic and therapeutic tools to improve outcome” is dedicated to this problem, involving five major German trauma centres. The consortium aims to identify new mechanisms, potential biomarkers and treatment strategies in polytrauma patients. These are to be used for early and routine detection in post-traumatic care and tested for their suitability in clinical routine. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ingo Marzi, University of Frankfurt/Main)

The humus layer forms the interface between the above-ground and below-ground parts of forest ecosystems and provides habitat for a variety of organisms. It also serves as a seedbed and rooting space for vegetation and acts as a hub of the ecosystem where organic matter, nutrients, water and climate gases are stored, absorbed and transformed. The Research Unit “Humus layer: changes in functionality, dynamics and vulnerability” aims to analyse the as yet unexplored functions of this layer of the earth at twelve sites in European mixed beech forests and how it is modified as a result of climate change. The central thesis is that the soil properties of European forests are shaped by adaptations of organisms to the nutrient content of the soils – and that the influence of climate warming depends on interactions with these adaptations. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Friederike Lang, University of Freiburg)

In societies characterised by immigration or emigration processes, actors today often draw on human rights norms to define and articulate their self-understanding and their interests: this is the assumption of the Research Unit “Human rights discourses in the migration society (MeDiMi)”, which is investigating the scope, forms and consequences of this phenomenon known as the “human rights turn”. The phenomenon is examined from a legal perspective as well as in the political and socio-cultural action context. The analysis of ten selected fields of study is intended to provide a new understanding of the role of human rights in contemporary – especially European – societies. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jürgen Bast, University of Giessen)

Adopting the perspective of fundamental research, the Research Unit “The next generation of functional self-healing materials – restoration of optoelectronic and transport properties in soft materials for energy storage and conversion (FuncHeal)” focuses on new approaches to flexible and self-healing energy storage and conversion materials. At the same time, however, the consortium will look at pathways and challenges relating to fields of application, for example in organic solar cells or batteries, thereby making this research technologically significant in the medium term. In contrast with previous approaches, the aim is not only to “heal” cracks and damage, but also to restore functions and properties in complex material systems. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ulrich S. Schubert, University of Jena)

Photon-photon interactions play a central role in the so-called Standard Model of particle physics, which brings together all known elementary particles and the important interactions between them. However, a precise calculation of these effects is not always possible directly due to the peculiarities of the quantum world. The Research Unit “Photon-photon interactions within and beyond the Standard Model – full exploitation of the discovery potential from MESA to the LHC” aims to improve the understanding of these interactions, thereby achieving significant advances in hadron and particle physics as a whole. The basis will be provided by measurements carried out on the new MESA accelerator in Mainz and at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Achim Denig, University of Mainz)

The Research Unit “Quantum spin systems with long-range interactions: experiment, theory and mathematics” looks into questions relating to quantum many-particle systems with long-range interactions, where the elements can influence each other not only at a very small distance. The consortium aims to gain a better understanding of such systems and, in the long term, enable them to be selectively manufactured and controlled and their properties to be used in quantum technology applications, such as metrology and sensor technology. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Igor Lesanovsky, University of Tübingen)

In recent times, regional diversity – i.e. the varying species diversity of the biotic communities distributed within a landscape in ecosystems – is increasingly converging due to increasing land use. The Research Unit “Increasing structural diversity between forest stands to increase multidiversity and multifunctionality in production forests” aims to assess the effects of this homogenisation while at the same time developing strategies to reverse its negative effects. Specifically, the question to be addressed is whether improving structural complexity can increase biodiversity and multifunctionality in formerly homogeneous production forests. Forest stands have been selected for this purpose at eleven sites in Germany. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jörg Müller, University of Würzburg)

The seven 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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