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Background Information

Excellence Initiative: What’s that?

To enable visible cutting edge research and to strengthen research in Germany – these were the stated goals of the Prime Ministers and the Chancellor when launching the federal excellence initiative in 2005. Under the auspices of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities, a competition for the best research projects at German universities came into being.

The Excellence Initiative initially consisted of two rounds with a multistage process; the first round was approved in 2006, followed by the second round in 2007. German federal and state governments granted DFG additional funds to the amount of 1.9 billion euro until 2011, spread over the following three funding lines: clusters of excellence, graduate schools and future concepts.

In view of the successful beginning, the federal and state governments decided in 2009 to extend the excellence initiative beyond the year 2012 and granted the total amount of 2.7 billion euros for another five years.  Mid-2012 the funding decisions of this second phase were made: Until 2017, 45 graduate schools, 43 clusters of excellence, and 11 future concepts at 44 universities were funded by the federal government (75 percent) and by the states (25 percent). Further information: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung.

On 27. September 2018 the new clusters of excellence were announced. Read more about the Excellence Strategy (in German).


Clusters of Excellence

By merging outstanding groups and institutions, internationally visible and competitive research institutions have been established at German universities. The clusters of excellence enable scientific networking as well as co-operations with non-university partners. Thus the clusters of excellence are meant to be important parts of the strategic and the thematic planning at German universities. At the same time, excellent support and career conditions for young scientists will be developed.


Graduate School (the funding line will not be continued)

Graduate schools qualify extraordinary postgraduates within their respective research area. As an instrument for promoting young scientists, they are significantly contributing to the development and to the profiling of excellent locations.


Future Concepts/Universities of Excellence

The aim of this funding line is to deepen cutting edge research at German universities and thus make them internationally more competitive. Funds are given to projects that support universities in developing their internationally outstanding areas persistently and in strengthening their international position as a leading institution.