The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing ten new Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs) to further support top-level research in Germany. This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee during its autumn session in Bonn. The new CRCs will receive a total of approximately €120.3 million in funding for an initial four-year period starting on 1 January 2019. This includes a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs.
Two of the ten networks set up are CRC/Transregios, spread across multiple applicant universities. In addition to the establishment of the ten new centres, the Grants Committee also approved the extension of 13 existing CRCs for an additional funding period. Collaborative Research Centres enable researchers to pursue innovative, challenging, complex and long-term research projects, thereby supporting the further development of core areas and structures at the applicant universities. From January 2019, the DFG will be funding a total of 277 CRCs.
This year the Collaborative Research Centre Programme celebrates its 50th anniversary. It is one of the most sustainable funding formats for research groups in the German research landscape, and also one of the most renowned internationally. Since its introduction in 1968, the CRC Programme has continually been adapted to current developments. For example, since 1996 it has been possible to propose application-oriented CRC projects jointly with industry partners. By introducing the “Transregio” programme variation in 1999, the DFG paved the way for several universities to submit a joint proposal. Since 2005, CRCs can apply for a science communication project. Since 2006, early career researchers can be supported through Integrated Research Training Groups. Lastly, in 2015 the previous practice of concentrating academic potential locally was replaced by bundling expertise at the applicant university/universities, allowing even greater flexibility for the participation of additional universities in a CRC.
The DFG celebrated the 50th anniversary with a formal event as part of the autumn session. The German-language film “50 Jahre Sonderforschungsbereiche” (50 years of Collaborative Research Centres) premièred there. A new animated film depicts the process of submitting a proposal for a CRC. In addition, the DFG magazine “forschung” (3/2018) and the DFG Funding Atlas 2018 both featured a special focus on CRCs. (Links to the above-mentioned films and articles can be found at the end of the press release.)
The ten new Collaborative Research Centres in detail (in alphabetical order by their coordinating universities, including the names of the additional applicant universities):
The environmental problems caused by microplastics are currently the subject of much discussion. However, little is known about the physical, chemical and biological processes to which microplastics are subjected in the environment. The Bayreuth CRC will therefore focus on the question of “MICROPLASTICS – Understanding the Mechanisms and Processes of Biological Effects, Transport and Formation: From Model to Complex Systems as a Basis for New Solutions”. (University of Bayreuth, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch)
Chronic kidney diseases and acute kidney damage are widespread and reduce the life expectancy of those affected. The CRC “Renoprotection” therefore aims to decode specific signalling pathways for kidney damage and develop new approaches to treatment in the long term. (Charité Berlin – FU Berlin and HU Berlin, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Pontus Börje Persson)
The objective of the CRC “Fluorine-Specific Interactions: Fundamentals and Functions” is to understand and control the complex interactions that can originate from fluorinated building blocks in chemical systems. (FU Berlin, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Sebastian Hasenstab-Riedel)
The CRC “Vascular Control of Organ Function” starts with a paradigm shift in biomedical research, because it does not comprehend blood vessels simply as transport routes for nutrients and metabolic products. Instead, it investigates the vascular “watchdog” and control functions of the vessel wall cells, which differ depending on the organ involved, during development and in regeneration processes, in maintaining homoeostasis as well as and in inflammation processes and during the course of tumour progression. (University of Heidelberg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Hellmut G. Augustin)
The discovery of the Higgs-Boson in 2012 completed the standard model of particle physics, which describes nature in all its details. However, some aspects of the model raise the question of whether this theory really is fundamental, or whether an even more fundamental theory is awaiting discovery. The CRC/Transregio “P3H: Particle Physics Phenomenology after the Higgs Discovery” will pursue this question. (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Kirill Melnikov; Additional applicant universities: RWTH Aachen University, University of Siegen)
The CRC “Regulation of DNA Repair and Genome Stability” will investigate how the various DNA repair systems determine the balance between cell death and survival through their decision on repair or mutagenesis and influence genome stability and gene regulation. (University of Mainz, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Helle Doerte Ulrich)
What interactions exist between the composition of the microbiome in the digestive tract and its diseases, such as chronic inflammatory bowel diseases or bowel cancer? This question will be investigated by the CRC “Microbiome Signatures – Functional Relevance in the Digestive Tract” in both basic research projects and clinical projects. (Technical University of Munich, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Dirk Haller)
Migratory animals can find their way over thousands of kilometres with great accuracy. Many sensory systems that play an important role in navigation are quite well researched. In contrast, the magnetic sense is less understood, ranging from the biophysical and cellular mechanisms of perception to central signal processing and behavioural reactions. The CRC “Magnetoreception and Navigation in Vertebrates: From Biophysics to Brain and Behaviour” aims to obtain a comprehensive understanding of these processes. (University of Oldenburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Henrik Mouritsen)
In chronic kidney diseases – independent of the underlying cause – the tubulus (renal tubule) system and the interstitium, the interstitial tissue, are either already involved at the inception of the disease or else in its progression. The CRC “Tubular System and Interstitium of the Kidney: (Patho-) Physiology and Crosstalk” will therefore investigate these cell systems, which are fundamental to the pathogenesis of kidney diseases. (University of Regensburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Richard Warth)
Computer-aided systems are increasingly making decisions that have consequences for people. Therefore, they need to be able to communicate to people how individual decisions are made. The CRC/Transregio “Foundations of Perspicuous Software Systems – Enabling Comprehension in a Cyber-Physical World” will focus its attention on the scientific foundations of comprehensible software. The new findings will feed into the development of software-based systems that act predictably and comprehensibly. (Saarland University, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Holger Hermanns; Additional applicant university: Technical University of Dresden)
The 13 CRCs extended for a further funding period (in alphabetical order by their coordinating universities, including the names of additional applicant universities and with reference to project descriptions in the DFG online database GEPRIS):
CRC “Control of Self-Organizing Nonlinear Systems: Theoretical Methods and Concepts of Application” (Technical University of Berlin, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Sabine Klapp) http://gepris.
CRC/Transregio “Turbulent, Chemically Reactive, Multi-Phase Flows Near Walls” (Technical University of Darmstadt, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Andreas Dreizler; Additional applicant university: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), http://gepris.
CRC/Transregio “Coherent Manipulation of Interacting Spin Excitations in Tailored Semiconductors” (Technical University of Dortmund, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Manfred Bayer; Additional applicant university: Saint Petersburg State University) http://gepris.
CRC “Providing Information by Resource-Constrained Data Analysis” (Technical University of Dortmund, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Katharina Morik) http://gepris.
CRC “Correlated Magnetism: From Frustration to Topology” (Technical University of Dresden, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Matthias Vojta) http://gepris.
CRC “Master Switches in Cardiac Ischemia” (University of Düsseldorf, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Jens W. Fischer) http://gepris.
CRC “Cellular Mechanisms of Sensory Processing” (University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Tobias Moser) http://gepris.
CRC “The Milky Way System” (Heidelberg University, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Eva K. Grebel) http://gepris.
CRC/Transregio “Cooperative Effects in Homo- and Heterometallic Complexes (3MET)” (Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Gereon Niedner-Schatteburg; Additional applicant university: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) http://gepris.
CRC “Conditions and Impact of Star Formation – Astrophysics, Instrumentation and Laboratory Research” (University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Stephan Schlemmer) http://gepris.
CRC “Physiology and Dynamics of Cellular Microcompartments” (University of Osnabrück, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Christian Ungermann) http://gepris.
CRC “Ca2+ Signals: Molecular Mechanisms and Integrative Functions” (Saarland University, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Jens Rettig) http://gepris.
CRC “Danger Response, Disturbance Factors and Regenerative Potential after Acute Trauma” (University of Ulm, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Florian Gebhard) http://gepris.