November 27, 2017, Nr. Press Release No. 48

The DFG Funds 15 New Collaborative Research Centres

Topics range from predictability in evolution to ultra-fast spin dynamics and the future of rural Africa / €133 million in funding for initial four-year period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has approved the establishment of 15 new Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs). This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee during its autumn session in Bonn. The new CRCs will receive a total of €133 million in funding. There will also be a 22% programme allowance for indirect project costs. Seven of the 15 new centres are CRC/Transregios, spread across multiple applicant research sites. All of the new CRCs will be funded for an initial four-year period, starting on 1 January 2018.

In addition to the 15 new Collaborative Research Centres, the Grants Committee also approved the extension of 21 existing CRCs for an additional funding period (see link at the end of this press release). As a result, the DFG will be funding a total of 269 Collaborative Research Centres as of January 2018.

The new Collaborative Research Centres in detail (in alphabetical order by their host universities, including the name of applicant universities):

The spin of the electron is a central quantum property which has a major influence on the structure and dynamics of matter. Due to their fast reaction, spins also have a wide range of potential applications, for example in future magnetic devices. The aim of the CRC/Transregio ‘Ultrafast Spin Dynamics’ is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental principles of ultra-fast spin dynamics and thus lay the foundations for much faster, spin-based information technology.

(Host university: Free University of Berlin, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Martin Weinelt; Additional applicant university: University of Halle-Wittenberg)

The transformation of our world through increasingly transnational forms of economic activity, the development and spread of digital communication technologies, and geopolitical upheaval is commonly referred to as ‘globalisation’. However, this Collaborative Research Centre – representing six engineering and social science disciplines – is based on the assumption that these conflict-laden transformation processes can be most clearly recognised when they are understood as the ‘Re-Figuration of Spaces’. To identify the characteristics of re-figuration in empirical investigations, the researchers will study both the level of subjective experience and knowledge of spaces and that of the spatial interrelationsbetween circulation and order. Finally, they aim to illuminate the level of communicative actions, interactions and practices that link the first two levels.

(Host university: Technical University of Berlin; Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Martina Löw)

A CRC/Transregio based in Bielefeld, Münster and Jena intends to produce ‘A Novel Synthesis of Individualisation across Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution: Niche Choice, Niche Conformance, Niche Construction (NC3)’. The observation that there are differences between individuals has resulted in experimental approaches in behavioural biology, ecology and evolutionary biology that place a stronger focus on the individual than on average values for a population or species. However, there is currently no integrative approach that brings together insights from different disciplines and places them in a comprehensive conceptual context. The CRC/Transregio therefore seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the interaction of individual phenotypes with the environment and of the ecological and evolutionary consequences of this interaction.

(Host university: University of Bielefeld, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Oliver Krüger, Ph.D.; Additional applicant university: University of Münster)

Atmospheric pressure plasma is a special type of plasma in which the pressure approximately matches that of the surrounding atmosphere – the so-called normal pressure. The Collaborative Research Centre ‘Transient Atmospheric Plasmas – from Plasmas to Liquids to Solids’ will study atmospheric pressure plasmas in a state of non-equilibrium, as these can be readily coupled with solids and liquids. The CRC will focus on transient plasmas with extreme spatial and temporal scales for use in catalysis, for nanostructuring of solids and for interaction with fluids for biocatalysis. The group is made up of researchers in plasma physics, surface physics and surface chemistry, electrical engineering and biology.

(Host university: University of Bochum, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Achim von Keudell)

Amid social-ecological change in rural Africa, what is the impact of the seemingly contradictory but often interconnected processes of increased land use by people and the enlargement of nature reserves? This question is the focus of the CRC/Transregio ‘Future Rural Africa: Future-making and Social-ecological Transformation’. The research team, comprised of experts in geography, ethnology, agricultural science and other disciplines, will analyse how different conceptions of the future impact the ongoing change in land use. They are especially interested in unpredictable developments such as crop failure, which are characteristic of rural Africa. The research will focus on regions in eastern and southern Africa.

(Host university: University of Bonn; Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Detlef Müller-Mahn; Additional applicant university: University of Cologne)

The CRC/Transregio ‘Economic Perspectives on Societal Challenges: Equality of Opportunity, Market Regulation and Financial Stability’ will focus on three key societal questions: How can equal opportunity be promoted, how can markets be regulated in view of the internationalisation and digitalisation of economic activity, and how can a stable financial system be designed? To answer these questions, the researchers will analyse the economic impacts of specific family and education policies, product market regulation and financial market regulation as well as develop new institutional solutions and policy measures.

(Host university: University of Bonn; Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Sven Rady; Additional applicant university: University of Mannheim)

Social policy aims to protect social rights and create social security. A Collaborative Research Centre in political science will address the issue of ‘Global Dynamics of Social Policy’. The group aims to fill in gaps in existing social policy research: To break with the conventional OECD-centric approach, the CRC will systematically incorporate countries of the Global South in its investigation. It will also draw on a broader understanding of social policy by including education policy, among others, in its analysis. The CRC will open up social policy research’s conventional domestic orientation towards the nation state by investigating the interaction of transnational links – such as trade relations, migration flows and international organisations – and national frameworks. The aim is to explain social policy development processes from a global and historical perspective.

(Host university: University of Bremen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Herbert Obinger)

An object is chiral if it cannot be superimposed on its mirror image no matter how it is turned or moved. One example would be the hand. The aim of the Collaborative Research Centre ‘Extreme Light for Sensing and Driving Molecular Chirality (ELCH)’ is to understand the chirality of individual molecules and the reaction of chiral molecules to electromagnetic fields. This is essential to the control of chirality at the level of the individual molecule. Furthermore, the CRC intends to develop advanced light-based methods that allow chiral molecules to be analysed, separated, cooled, trapped, manipulated and controlled.

(Host university: University of Kassel, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Thomas Baumert)

Evolutionary biology is traditionally concerned with the reconstruction of past processes and with relationships between species over long periods of time. But is it possible to predict the paths and results of future evolutionary processes, at least over short periods? This question is the focus of the Collaborative Research Centre ‘Predictability in Evolution’. The CRC will investigate fast-developing systems including microbes in the laboratory, viruses, immune systems and cancer cells. The researchers aim to develop prediction methods for important processes within these systems, including the evolution of drug resistances, the evolution of antibodies in immune systems and the coevolution of pathogens and their host organisms.

(Host university: University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Michael Lässig)

The Collaborative Research Centre ‘Targeting Convergent Mechanisms of Inefficient Immunity in Tumours and Chronic Infections’ aims to identify which molecular checkpoints are responsible for the failure of the immune system when fighting tumours and chronic infections. In the longer term, the researchers hope that their findings will contribute to the development of personalised therapeutic strategies with reduced side effects.

(Host university: University of Mainz; Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Schild)

Information and signals are exchanged between cells at so-called cellular interfaces. These dynamic cell-cell contacts are fundamental to the coordination and regulation of the various processes that occur in and between cells, for example enabling appropriate reactions for wound healing and inflammation. The Collaborative Research Centre ‘Dynamic Cellular Interfaces: Formation and Function’ intends to study the mechanisms that drive membrane compartmentalization and functional specification at cellular interfaces. It also aims to determine the properties of cellular interfaces in cell differentiation and organ function. Finally, the researchers seek to better understand how specific characteristics of cellular interfaces can be used to build and regulate complex tissue structures.

(Host university: University of Münster; Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Christian Klämbt)

The transplantation of blood stem cells is a treatment option for certain forms of blood and lymph node cancer. However, following transplantation many patients experience an immunological reaction of the transplanted cells against healthy body tissue, often causing damage to the skin, liver and intestine. The CRC/Transregio ‘Modulation of Graft-versus-Host and Graft-versus-Leukaemia Immune Responses after Allogenic Stem Cell Transplantation’ will therefore investigate the immunological mechanisms of blood stem cell transplantation. The long-term objective is to reduce the side-effects of treatment and suppress undesired immune responses.

(Host university: University of Regensburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Herr; Additional applicant universities: University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, University of Würzburg)

The final stage of chronic kidney disease is known as chronic renal failure. About half of patients with chronic renal failure experience cardiovascular complications such as heart attack or stroke, which are fatal in 40% to 50% of cases. The CRC/Transregio ‘Mechanisms of Cardiovascular Complications in Chronic Kidney Disease’ will use a combination of experimental and clinical studies to determine the reasons for the greater susceptibility of affected patients to these complications and for the higher mortality rate.

(Host university: Saarland University, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Danilo Fliser; Additional applicant university: RWTH Aachen University)

The aim of the Collaborative Research Centre ‘Interface-Driven Multi-Field Processes in Porous Media – Flow, Transport and Deformation’ is to develop a fundamental understanding of how interfaces influence flow, transport and deformation in porous materials. To achieve this, the researchers intend to quantify the influence of pore geometry, heterogeneity and cracks in porous material on the dynamics of fluid-fluid and fluid-solid interfaces. They will also develop mathematical and numerical models that integrate the impacts of processes on very small spatial and temporal scales.

(Host university: University of Stuttgart, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Helmig)

The CRC/Transregio ‘From Principles of Biofabrication to Functional Tissue Models’ is concerned with what is still a young area of research, which uses 3D printing to produce constructs in which cells and materials are arranged in tissue-like structures. In the long term this technology could be used to manufacture tissue models that could provide an alternative to animal experimentation, to give one example. The CRC/Transregio will study the basic principles of biofabrication and investigate cell behaviour during and after the printing process. The researchers also aim to develop new materials and techniques for 3D tissue printing.

(Host university: University of Würzburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Groll; Additional applicant universities: University of Bayreuth, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)


Press Release, DFG

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