In order to further strengthen top-level university research, the federal and state governments in Germany set up a successor program to the Excellence Initiative (2005 through 2017): the Excellence Strategy. The German Excellence Strategy is an open-ended program to promote outstanding research clusters and universities.
It is initially endowed with a total of 533 million euros annually. Of this money, 75 percent comes from the federal government and 25 percent from the states where the universities are located. Universities and associations of universities in Germany are eligible to apply within the Excellence Strategy. The German Research Foundation and the German Council of Science and Humanities (only in German) carry out the academic assessment and selection process.
Two funding lines form the core of the Excellence Strategy: In the first funding line , international competitive research fields are funded on a project basis. These are called Clusters of Excellence. 57 Clusters of Excellence throughout Germany have been receiving this project-based funding since 1 January 2019. Each Cluster is funded with three to ten million euros annually and has a funding duration of seven years with the possibility to extend for a further seven years. Approval and re-approval are dependent on external reviews. Technische Universität Berlin had three successful proposals in this funding line and is also a member of another Cluster of Excellence. There are a total of seven Clusters of Excellence in Berlin.
The second funding line aims to strengthen a university or association of universities as an institution long term and facilitate the expansion of the international leading position in research on the basis of the Clusters of Excellence. Depending on the proposal, such Universities of Excellence receive ten to 15 million euros annually with Excellence Alliances receiving up to 28 million euros annually. Subject to a positive review every seven years, funding is permanent. To submit a proposal as a University of Excellence, universities must have secured funding for at least two Clusters of Excellence and university alliances for at least three.
As of 1 November 2019, ten Universities of Excellence and one Excellence Alliance are being funded by the Excellence Strategy, Technische Universität Berlin among them. Together with its alliance partners, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, it gained the title “University of Excellence” as part of the Berlin University Alliance.
In September 2018, TU Berlin achieved major success in the first round of the Excellence Strategy with three Clusters of Excellence achieved either as sole applicant or as applicant university as part of a consortium proposal.
Beginning 2019, the three interdisciplinary research projects “Unifying Systems in Catalysis” (UniSysCat), “Science of Intelligence” (SCIoI), and “MATH+” will be funded for a period of seven years with up to ten million euros annually. It will then be decided by means of a renewal proposal whether to extend funding for a further seven years. Technische Universität Berlin is also part of the Cluster of Excellence “Matters of Activity: Image Space Material" hosted by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
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The good news arrived at 16:13 on 19 July 2019. Federal Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek announced the results of the Excellence Strategy competition of the federal government and states. This was the first year Technische Universität Berlin was awarded the title of excellence – in a consortium together with Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.
As the Berlin University Alliance, the four partners have been implementing their concept “Crossing Boundaries toward an Integrated Research Environment” since 1 November 2019. Their goal: to shape and develop the science hub of Berlin into an integrated research area. Their collaboration centers on joint research into grand social challenges, strengthening exchange with society, advancement of junior scholars, questions regarding the quality and value of research, and comprehensive projects in the areas of research infrastructure, teaching, diversity, equality of opportunity, and internationalization.
The Berlin University Alliance is one of a kind in Germany.
By forming the Berlin University Alliance, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin have set themselves the long-term goal of jointly creating and shaping an integrated research area in Berlin.
Across individual networks, institutions, and disciplines, the Alliance aims to become the heart and driving force of an excellent Berlin "ecosystem" made up of universities and non-university research institutions, scientific collections, museums, cultural and political institutions, and start-ups and partners from industry.
The Berlin University Alliance has set itself five goals:
The foundation of the Berlin University Alliance was driven by three significant factors:
Grand Challenge Initiatives form the thematic framework for the development of research agendas within the Berlin University Alliance. The topics are based on the research focuses of the Alliance and the potential resulting from the establishment of these scientifically excellent areas in the integrated research area of Berlin. Flexible Exploration Projects and the Office for Grand Challenge Initiatives will develop new tailor-made formats to support research networks and projects.
Additionally, Grand Challenge Initiatives will receive substantial funding for project development within Einstein Research Units and for the appointment of top international researchers, Einstein Strategic Professorships, which will be funded by the State of Berlin through the Einstein Foundation Berlin. The overarching goal of all the projects is the establishment of dynamic, cross-institutional research platforms that systematically stimulate and advance exchange between scientists from different institutions and disciplines.
The Berlin University Alliance defines Knowledge Exchange as a multidirectional process through which ideas and research results are communicated to the outside and external perspectives and experiences are integrated back into research. By bringing together areas which are particularly strong in research beyond institutional boundaries and jointly using existing cooperations in politics and with cultural institutions, companies, and other areas of society, the Alliance partners aim to improve both the quality and quantity of this process of exchange.
An Expertise and Knowledge Exchange Office will support the establishment of new formats to help jointly promote innovation processes through exchange between scientists and experts in different social areas beyond the university . Transdisciplinary working groups will address topic areas in top-level research in Berlin together in Research Forums. Interactive events, targeted use of new media and (media) trainings for scientists will strengthen joint Science Communication and public interest in science and research.
The Berlin University Alliance is pursuing a joint strategy to develop and facilitate the value, quality, integrity, and credibility of science. To achieve its goal, the Berlin University Alliance will establish a Center for Open and Responsible Research (CORe), in which the different scientific expertise of the Alliance partners will be combined to create elements and guidelines for the development and construction of a research governance based on value. This will be supplemented with research activities within the topic area Research and Reflection on Research Quality (R3Q).
In R3Q, research groups will address questions on the quality and value of research as well as test the implementation of new measures, thus creating a new platform for scientists beyond their subject fields. The Berlin OpenX Initiative will create and support incentives for openness and transparency in research to contribute to the development of a new error culture in science.
The future success of the Berlin University Alliance will significantly depend on its ability to attract the best researchers at all career stages and to provide them with optimal support so as to retain them. For this purpose, the Alliance partners will create an integrated career and recruitment measure. Berlin Graduate Studies Support will unify training for doctoral candidates. Furthermore, the Alliance wishes to particularly support and promote postdocs (Postdoctoral Career Development), for instance by awarding Career Development Awards and establishing joint Junior Research Groups. In order to support promising researchers, the Alliance partners will also establish attractive joint tenure track professorships (W2).
Berlin Recruitment Services will optimize recruitment standards and processes while taking diversity and equality of opportunity into consideration. A joint Berlin Leadership Academy will enable experienced researchers and science managers to strengthen their management skills and prepare them for management responsibilities.
Access to excellent infrastructure is a critical competitive factor for supporting research and recruiting outstanding scientists. In order to optimally use existing resources and more efficiently plan new projects together, the Shared Resources Center (SOURCE) will provide transparent information and access to the complex research infrastructure and information services of the four Alliance partners.
SOURCE offers scientists “one-stop” access to large equipment and IT resources as well as support in the areas of research data management and open access publications. The accompanying Research Infrastructure-related Community Building will improve access to modern research infrastructure and increase support services to strengthen interdisciplinary research groups within the excellent research infrastructure.
The Berlin University Alliance is developing a systematic strategy to promote and implement diversity and diversity research among all Alliance partners. For this purpose, the Diversity and Gender Equality Network (DiGENet) unifies existing and defines new standards, thus driving a cultural change and transition to a more diverse and gender-sensitive research environment long term.
Additionally, the partners will expand their ProFiL program, which supports researchers on the path to a professorship, thus continuing their joint efforts to strengthen gender equality. The long-term goals of these cross-sectional topics are already established in the Berlin universities’ leading positions in the fields of equal opportunities, increased promotion of diversity, and the establishment of sustainable, diversity-oriented, and internationally competitive standards within the Alliance.
The Berlin University Alliance plans to strengthen the link between top-level research and teaching and drive exchange between excellent researchers and students. Berlin University Alliance Joint Courses and Programs aim at developing new joint degree programs as part of the Alliance’s integrated research area. The Berlin Student Research Opportunities Programx (StuROPX) promotes students with a particularly strong interest in research, thus strengthening the connection between top-level research and teaching.
Both instruments offer students greater access to existing courses at all four institutions, participation in new courses offered in the field of research, knowledge exchange, and research quality, as well as active participation in research projects conducted as part of the Grand Challenge Initiatives.
Each of the Alliance’s five Objectives relies intrinsically on international input, inspiration, and resources. Building on prior achievements, the Alliance will implement a joint internationalization strategy focused on three core initiatives: The Berlin Center for Global Engagement will initiate new research connections with partners in emerging science regions, create a Berlin-wide platform for global expertise, and act as an advisory unit for the Alliance in science diplomacy.
The Joint Partnership Strategy will set up a network of joint strategic partnerships with leading universities worldwide. The Global Advancement Strategy increase the Alliance’ Engagement with the EU through a joint liaison office in Brussels and with major foundations, multilateral organizations, and public funding organizations in countries outside of Germany.