“Clusters of Excellence” are innovative, world-class research projects funded under the Excellence Initiative. The researchers involved explore overarching scientific problems from a variety of perspectives. The Clusters bring researchers from different disciplines and institutions together with partners from industry. After 2006, a total of 37 internationally prominent cutting-edge research centers have been set up across Germany. In the funding period 2012-2017 there are 43 of these projects, 11 of which are new.
The TUM contributes to five Clusters of Excellence as a leading partner:
Origin and Structure of the Universe (Universe)
The Universe Cluster of Excellence was created at TUM in 2006. Since then, it has grown to become one of the world’s largest and most active research hubs spanning the disciplines of physics, astrophysics and cosmology – a unique combination. The participating scientists are investigating questions like the origin and structure of the universe (matter, space, time) and the nature of fundamental forces. The research is being led by physicists from TUM and LMU München, with other partners drawn from the Max Planck Institutes of Physics, Astrophysics, Extraterrestrial Physics and Plasma Physics and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The first phase of the program yielded some important findings, such as a better understanding of how supernova explosions occur and new insights into how the chemical elements came into being. The Cluster’s links to international research projects give it access to the most modern telescopes, particle accelerators and supercomputers. The plan for the next five years is to focus on evaluating the valuable data already collected. In cooperation with the Leibniz Data Center in Garching, TUM is setting up the Computational Center for Particle and Astrophysics for this purpose. At this data center – the only one of its kind in the world – data from each discipline will be collected and evaluated with a view to unlocking some of the universe’s remaining secrets.
Center for Integrated Protein Science Munich (CIPSM)
Scientists at the CIPSM Cluster take a holistic approach to studying the properties of proteins and their networks using methods drawn from genetics, (bio)chemistry and (bio)physics. By gaining a greater understanding of the properties and functions of proteins, scientists can learn more about their biological role and the causes of serious diseases, and find new forms of treatment and therapy. Having pioneered numerous findings in the areas of synthesis, the three-dimensional structure of proteins and interaction dynamics, this Cluster has become one of the world’s leading centers for protein research. Going forward, extra emphasis will be placed on the interactions of proteins within their networks and potential therapeutic applications. The center’s research partners are LMU München, TUM, the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and the Helmholtz Zentrum München.
Munich-Centre for Advanced Photonics (MAP)
New coherent light sources and laser-driven particle sources with unique properties form the basis of research at the MAP Cluster of Excellence. The new light sources will have ultra-short pulses, high intensities and high energy. They open up new possibilities for use in physics, chemistry, biology and medical applications. For example, they will help medical scientists and biologists investigate the structure of biomolecules and monitor the tiniest alterations in tissue. By enabling early tumor detection, they will help in the development of new and more targeted therapies.
During the first period of funding, the research conducted at MAP attracted a large number of highly qualified scientists from Germany and abroad. The center’s infrastructure is unmatched. At the Center for Advanced Laser Applications (CALA), which is currently being constructed at the Garching research campus, scientists will investigate the possibilities of laser-driven beam sources. Electrons accelerated with laser light should help in the advancement of novel x-ray sources for (bio)medical imaging, while laser-accelerated ions could form the basis of new, accurately targeted tumor treatments.
CALA is a joint project of Munich’s LMU and TUM universities. The German Research Foundation has allocated €64 million in funding for the center independently of the Excellence Initiative. The Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Helmholtz Zentrum München are the center’s other main partners.
Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM)
The goal of this Cluster of Excellence is to design, fabricate and achieve control of multi-functional nanosystems for applications in information technology, energy conversion and medical technologies. The integration of such nanosystems into real environments will be a key future focus of research. NIM brings together scientists from the Munich area specialized in physics, biophysics, physical chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacy, biology, electrical engineering and medicine.
Today, the NIM Cluster is one of the world’s leading nanoscience research centers. The Cluster has the following research areas: Quantum Nanophysics, Hybrid Nanosystems, Nanosystems for Energy Conversion, Biomolecular Nanosystems and Biomedical Nanotechnologies. The NIM Cluster of Excellence is a joint project of LMU, TUM, the University of Augsburg, the Walther Meißner Institute (Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities), the Max Planck Institutes of Biochemistry and Quantum Optics, the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Deutsches Museum.
Munich Cluster for Systems Neurology (SyNergy)
Systems neurology is a new field of science that seeks to explain the mechanisms behind the development of neurological disorders. The scientists participating in the SyNergy Cluster (2012) are working in an area that blurs the traditional boundaries between neurodegenerative, inflammatory and vascular diseases. It is hoped that SyNergy will establish Munich as Europe’s leading research hub for systems neurology.
The scientists involved in SyNergy investigate how inflammatory reactions affect neurodegenerative processes, how microvascular and degenerative damage mechanisms influence each other, and how immune cells interact with the blood-brain barrier. SyNergy is a joint project of LMU, TUM, the Max Planck Institutes of Biochemistry, Neurobiology and Psychiatry, the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE).
Cognition for Technical Systems (CoTeSys)
The CoTeSys Cluster of Excellence developed intelligent machines capable of acting as service robots – whether for household tasks or industrial manufacturing processes. Selected for Excellence Initiative funding in the first program phase (2006-2012), CoTeSys explored how cognitive skills like perception, logical thinking, learning and planning can be integrated into technical systems. This research initiative advanced the aim of developing machines and robots that can interact with humans autonomously and “intelligently," i.e., with the ability to react flexibly to different situations. The CoTeSys Cluster was coordinated by TUM and comprised some 100 researchers from three Munich universities, one Max Planck Institute and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen. Scientists from the fields of neurology, computer science, biophysics, psychology and mechanical engineering came together to solve fundamental problems and incorporate their discoveries into technical systems. CoTeSys developed sophisticated experimental systems for kitchen and factory robots as well as intelligent solutions for man-machine communication.