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Press Release No. 16 | 27 May 2022
DFG to Fund Nine New Collaborative Research Centres

Topics range from virtual environments to cell membranes and forest ecosystems / €111 million in funding, initially for four years

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing nine 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. The new CRCs will initially receive a total of approximately €111 million over a period of four years from 1 July 2022 onwards. This includes a 22-percent programme allowance for indirect project-related costs. Two of the new consortia are CRC/Transregios (TRR) and are distributed across multiple applicant universities.

In addition to the nine new institutions, the Grants Committee agreed to an additional funding period for another 19 CRCs, including six 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 2022 onwards there will be a total of 276 CRCs receiving DFG funding.

The 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 recent years, computer processing capacity has grown increasingly. Yet computing capacity alone is not enough to adequately cope with the current flood of data and the complexity of models that describe scientific and technical phenomena. Even established methods of signal processing, machine learning and the numerical solution of partial differential equations are reaching their limits. For this reason, structures hidden in the data need to be analysed and understood in order to be able to work with better adapted methods in the future. Specifically, algorithms are to be developed that identify simple substructures (sparsity) contained in high-dimension data and that use these to solve otherwise unsolvable problems. The Collaborative Research Centre Sparsity and Singular Structures seeks to apply these algorithms in particular to models that are singular in certain areas, i.e. that do not reliably describe physical reality everywhere due to their underlying principles. (RWTH Aachen, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Holger Rauhut)

Understanding virtuality no longer as the exception but as the norm – this is the starting point for the research work to be done by the Collaborative Research Centre Virtual Living Environments. Consideration will be given to a range of different aspects such as infrastructures, emotions and physicality, knowledge, spatiality, sociality and interaction. Which social subsystems implement virtuality and how? And what consequences does this have for individual subjects and their constitution, for material and aesthetic practices, and for social organisations and operations? Researchers in the fields of media studies, philology and literary studies as well as education, history, art history, social psychology and social anthropology will seek to answer these questions together. (University of Bochum, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Stefan Rieger)

The stroma-vascular compartment (or stromal vascular fraction – SVF) is an essential component of every organ. It is composed of blood and lymph vessels as well as fibroblasts, among other things, and forms the structure in which immune cells from the blood enter the damaged tissue after organ damage. The aim of the Collaborative Research Centre Damage Control by the Stroma-Vascular Compartment is to understand the contribution made by different SVF cell populations in tissue repair in the heart, brain and blood vessels. The focus is particularly on the analysis of the mechanisms and the molecular players that orchestrate the response to injury in a multicellular context. This approach aims to shed light on mechanisms that can be used in the future to optimise the SVF response to damage, improve tissue recovery and thereby increase resilience to damage. (University of Frankfurt/Main, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ralf P. Brandes)

Dynamic protein assemblies and molecular machines in cell membranes are essential to vital life processes. They keep the functionally different spaces within a cell in balance, convert energy, shift nutrients and metabolites, control communication within and between cells and mediate interactions with pathogens. Yet they are particularly difficult to research, so despite the vital role they play, little is known about them. The overarching goal of the Collaborative Research Centre Protein Assemblies and Machinery in Cell Membranes is to elucidate the organisational principles and functional mechanisms involved, with the aim of laying the basis for a deeper analysis of cellular processes. (University of Frankfurt/Main, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Robert Tampé)

As carbon reservoirs, forest ecosystems perform an important regulatory function in the climate system. However, climate extremes such as heat, drought and flooding, even endanger forests in Central Europe, impairing their capacity as carbon sinks and their resilience to drought. In order to be able to predict the impacts of climate change on our forests as accurately as possible, we need an improved process understanding of a wide range of material cycles – yet there is a lack of suitable measurement, data and modelling tools. For this reason, the Collaborative Research Centre ECOSENSE – Multiscale Quantification of Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Ecosystem Processes by Smart Autonomous Sensor Networks brings together engineering and life sciences in an interdisciplinary approach which seeks to draw on newly developed sensor techniques to collect data for the first time at all relevant scales for the assessment of forest ecosystems and use these for the purpose of making short- and medium-term predictions. (University of Freiburg, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christiane Werner)

The Collaborative Research Centre Molecular Circuits of Heart Disease addresses questions about the development and progression of different types of heart failure. The researchers involved aim to be able to offer individual, tailor-made treatments for various heart diseases. To this end, they will integrate knowledge of specific causes, signalling pathways and phenotypes by linking experimental and patient data with systems biology and mathematical modelling approaches. By doing so, they hope to decipher the underlying “molecular circuits” of heart disease. (University of Heidelberg, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Johannes Backs)

Magnetic resonance (MR) is the most chemically specific and at the same time most versatile measurement method for gaining detailed information about the structure and function of molecular matter and therefore the fundamental method for carrying out chemical, biological and material science characterisations. Nonetheless, the low sensitivity and relatively high degree of specialisation required for its application stand in the way of widespread use. The Collaborative Research Centre High Performance Compact Magnetic Resonance – HyPERiON aims to challenge conventional concepts along the entire MR signal processing chain in order to improve the sensitivity, resilience and applicability of the method in equal measure. Ultimately, the goal will be to explore new and exciting applications in chemistry and biology, even extending to the field of chemical engineering. (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jan Gerrit Korvink)

Ecosystems worldwide are threatened by such phenomena as human activity and rapid climate change. Plants are crucial to almost all food webs and therefore to the functioning of ecosystems, so they are forced to adapt to these phenomena. But what is the genetic basis for this? In order to answer this question, the CRC/Transregio Plant Ecological Genetics will investigate the different abilities of selected plant species to adapt to limited resources, abiotic stress and competition with other plants. Field studies and controlled environmental manipulation will be used to clarify whether the functions of genes for adaptation are species-specific or conserved across species. (University of Cologne, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Juliette de Meaux; also applying: University of Düsseldorf)

So-called neutrophil granulocytes are the most abundant circulating white blood cells in human beings and have had mainly antimicrobial functions attributed to them. However, recent findings show that they also have multiple functions in chronic inflammation and tumour development that have not been fully appreciated. The CRC/Transregio Neutrophils: Origin, Fate and Function seeks to understand the role of neutrophils in physiological and pathological immune processes and tap into their potential for therapeutic applications. To this end, investigation will be carried out into how signals in the tissue influence the production and function of neutrophils and how the intracellular processing of signals regulates neutrophil function. In the long term, the aim is to build a bridge to clinical application. (University of Münster, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Oliver Söhnlein; also applying: University of Duisburg-Essen, LMU Munich)

In November 2021, the DFG had already approved funding for the first German-Austrian CRC/Transregio Computational Electric Machine Laboratory: Thermal Modelling, Transient Analysis, Geometry Handling and Robust Design. The decision of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) was initially pending, but was then made at the beginning of 2022. Since 1 March 2022, the CRC/Transregio has been dedicated to research into a new integrated simulation and design approach for the development of modern electric drives. The aim is to consider all key aspects of a machine from the outset, such as shape and topology, time-dependent operating cycles, complex material behaviour, uncertainties and robustness, new cooling techniques to push thermal limits, noise and vibration, and key performance indicators. (TU Darmstadt, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Sebastian Schöps; also applying: TU Graz, Austria, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Annette Mütze)

The CRCs which will have 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: