Second huge success for three major Berlin universities and Charité in the German Excellence Strategy competition
Credit: Matthias Heyde
Major award for Berlin: The Berlin University Alliance has won funding as a group in the Universities of Excellence funding line of the German federal and state governments’ Excellence Strategy. The German Council of Science and Humanities announced the decision on July 19, 2019, in Bonn. The four Berlin partners – Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin – submitted a joint proposal entitled Crossing Boundaries toward an Integrated Research Environment and in a highly competitive process were able to convince the reviewers of its feasibility. As of November 1, 2019, they will receive up to 196 million euros at first over a seven-year period. The Berlin Senate will contribute an additional 6 million euros annually through the Einstein Foundation Berlin to support top-level appointments and research projects.
A total of 17 universities and two university consortia had applied for the special grants, which include funding and enhanced reputation. Today 11 of these coveted grants were awarded. The Berlin alliance, consisting of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, won one of them, and is the first and only consortium with excellence status in Germany. Following the funding approval for seven Clusters of Excellence in the first funding line in September 2018, this is the second major success for Berlin in the German Excellence Strategy.
The presidents of the participating Berlin universities, Prof. Dr. Günter M. Ziegler, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. Sabine Kunst, and Prof. Dr. Christian Thomsen, and the chief executive officer of Charité, Prof. Dr. Karl Max Einhäupl, were all very excited about the results and issued this joint statement: “Today is a very special day for our four institutions, our researchers, our students, and all of the citizens of Berlin. We are very happy to have an opportunity to work even more closely together and to further develop our cooperation, which has steadily evolved over the past three decades. Crossing boundaries together – with this motto we intend to usher in a new era of cooperation and establish a unique alliance with international appeal. We are extremely proud of our researchers and staff members and all of the many individuals who contributed to this stupendous success – we wish to thank them all for their dedication!”
With the funding awarded today, the four partners within the Berlin University Alliance aim to overcome institutional and disciplinary boundaries in order to create an integrated research environment. They want to use their combined strength to be a driving force to further develop Berlin into a leading research hub in Europe. Many issues that concern society and scholarship are so large and complex that they can only be investigated through collaboration of researchers from various disciplines. At the same time, they require the involvement of society and a strengthening of the dialogue with Berlin’s non-university research institutes, politics, business, culture, and civil society as well as international partners. To achieve this, the members of the Berlin University Alliance aim to develop a new quality in their collaboration and to pursue key issues together. They intend to address major social challenges together through interdisciplinary research. Furthermore, they aim to deepen the ongoing exchange between research and society and to better promote academic career paths with shared resources. They would like to set consistent standards in the quality of research and to utilize the scientific infrastructure, such as modern labs and expensive large equipment, together and with less bureaucracy.
For the members of the Berlin University Alliance, diversity and tolerance as well as the education of young researchers are all prerequisites for excellent research and teaching. Accordingly, the partners aim to focus on central cross-cutting issues such as the promotion of diversity and gender equality, research-oriented teaching and learning, and internationalization. As a step in this direction, the Berlin University Alliance already started collaborating with the University of Oxford.
The 10 selected Universities of Excellence and the Berlin University Alliance will each receive up to 105 million euros for a seven-year period for the individual universities and up to 196 million euros for the consortium for that period. Groups of up to three universities with at least three Clusters of Excellence were permitted to apply as consortia. Long-term funding is promised to the winners, provided that they pass a review every seven years and continue to have the required numbers of Clusters of Excellence. Berlin was already very successful in the Excellence Strategy: On September 27, 2018, seven Clusters of Excellence were approved. These interdisciplinary research networks took up their work on January 1, 2019.
The Berlin University Alliance
The Berlin University Alliance is a consortium consisting of three major Berlin universities – Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin – and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, established to shape research and education in Berlin. The four partners joined forces to further develop Berlin as a research hub with international drawing power. Together the partners explore major societal challenges, increase public outreach, promote the training of junior researchers, address issues of quality and standards in research, and share resources in the areas of research infrastructure, teaching, diversity, equal opportunities, and internationalization. Altogether 1,700 professors, 100,000 students, 12,000 doctoral students/researchers, and 26,000 staff members conduct research, teach, study, and work within the Berlin University Alliance. Researchers from at least two of the four partners Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin already work together in all 7 Clusters of Excellence based in Berlin, in 70 percent of the partners’ 30 Collaborative Research Centers funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), and in more than 75 percent of the partners’ 47 doctoral programs. Since 2012, researchers within the Berlin University Alliance have won six Leibniz Prizes (the most important research award in Germany) and 55 ERC Grants from the European Research Council.