What is the Excellence Strategy?
Under the Excellence Strategy, the German government and the federal states promote outstanding scientific work, foster research cooperations and strengthen university profiles. Starting in 2019, this is the first such funding initiative of its kind with a long-term planning horizon. This new program will further strengthen Germany as a science hub in the face of stiff international competition. The Excellence Strategy has evolved from the Excellence Initiative, which established the Technical University of Munich (TUM) as one of Germany’s first Universities of Excellence back in 2006 – providing valuable momentum to TUM’s current successful trajectory.
Clusters of Excellence are interdisciplinary and internationally competitive research projects focused on particularly topical scientific challenges. They often involve collaboration across universities and institutes.
TUM was successful in the latest round of funding with four clusters selected by a special committee on September 27, 2018. In all of these clusters, TUM is cooperating with Ludwig Maximilian University as well as with other Munich-based institutes – including several Max Planck Institutes.
In all, 88 applications were submitted to the German Research Foundation (DFG), which evaluates the projects according to competitive and science-driven criteria.
The funding for the successful clusters will commence on January 1, 2019 for a seven-year period, which can be extended for a further term of seven years. The money allocated to the clusters by the German government and the federal states will amount to around EUR 385 million per annum.
This line of funding supports universities and university partnerships as a whole, thus strengthening their leading international roles in research. At least two Clusters of Excellence are required in order to apply for the designation “University of Excellence”. Successful applicants then receive long-term funding.
TUM has held the title “University of Excellence” ever since its success in the first round of the Excellence Initiative in 2006. Its aim now is to “defend” its title and bolster its first-rate position among Germany’s top universities.
The German Council of Science and Humanities (WR) is responsible for developing and organizing the funding process. It also conducts the evaluations which take place at seven-year intervals. In July 2019, WR will decide which Universities of Excellence will receive funding under this round. Approximately EUR 148 million is earmarked for this line of funding every year.
From 2019, the German government and the federal states will allocate an annual budget of EUR 553 million for the Excellence Strategy. The German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities (WR) are responsible for strategy execution. They oversee the selection and regular evaluation of the universities and research projects that have been granted funding. The new Excellence Strategy is open-ended, which means that Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence can potentially look forward to long-term funding.
The predecessor program: The Excellence Initiative
In 2005, the German government and the federal states introduced the Excellence Initiative with a view to future-proofing the research landscape in Germany. This program had two fixed-term phases, during which the selected universities received total funding of EUR 4.6 billion. In 2019, the Excellence Initiative will be replaced by the Excellence Strategy, which will have no time limits for the funding allocated.
The Excellence Initiative focused on three lines of funding: “Graduate Schools”, “Clusters of Excellence” and “Institutional Strategies”. The latter encouraged universities to push cutting-edge research projects. The title “University of Excellence” was awarded to universities that successfully established at least one Cluster of Excellence, at least one Graduate School, and a promising “Institutional Strategy”.
In 2006, TUM was one of the first three universities to have its institutional strategy recognized.