News Release

DFG to fund four new research units

Topics range from feedback effects between land and atmosphere to gene therapies to treat eye diseases / A total of approximately €19.4 million for the first funding period

Grant and Award Announcement

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing four new Research Units. This was decided by the DFG Joint Committee on the recommendation of the Senate. The new Research Units will receive total funding of around €19.4 million, including a 22-percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. In addition to establishing these four new Research Units, it was decided to extend three Research Units and a Centre for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences for an additional funding period. Three of the newly established Research Units receive funding under the framework of the D-A-CH cooperation together with the Luxembourg Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR), the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).


Research Units enable researchers to pursue current and pressing issues within their research areas, and to establish innovative directions in relation to their work. They are funded for up to eight years. In total, the DFG is currently funding 189 Research Units, 12 Clinical Research Units and 16 Centres for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. Clinical Research Units are also characterised by the close connection between research and clinical work, while Centres for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences are specifically tailored to forms of work in the humanities and social sciences.


The new research networks in detail
(in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs):


Digital production enables the manufacture of highly complex components. “Polytope meshes” are often used to model the geometry of a component: these are geometric figures that can be used to represent surfaces in 3D computer graphics, even in curved form. One difficulty is that as a general reference model, the polytope meshes have to fulfil the differing requirements of the respective work step. This is where the Research Unit Polytope Mesh Generation and Finite Element Analysis Methods for Problems in Solid Mechanics comes in: using innovative methods, it aims to design polytope

meshes flexibly and adapt them specifically to the requirements of the analysis. The aim is to create a continuous mesh model for the entire production process. The network is being jointly funded with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Sven Klinkel, RWTH Aachen University)


Materials and substances are subject to fatigue after a certain time – especially if they are exposed to cyclical loads. The consequences of these slow but constant degradation processes caused by environmental impact often only become apparent at a late stage, but at this point result in very sudden failure. How is it possible to counteract material fatigue? This will be the subject of investigations to be carried out by the Research Unit

Bioinspired anti-fatigue: enhancing materials structural properties by abstracting naturally-grown fatigue resistance. To this end, the team will be taking a closer look at nature itself: corals, tooth enamel, fish bones and wood – all structures that can withstand mechanical stress over a prolonged period of time. The Research Unit will be looking for ways to incorporate the characteristics of biological models into technical material structures. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Claudia Fleck, TU Berlin)


In Earth system research, it is important to have a precise understanding of the interactions between land and atmosphere; one of the things that depends on this knowledge is the quality of weather forecasts. Information about the interaction between land and atmosphere is also a key factor when researchers create long-term climate models and predict extreme weather events. For this reason, the Research Unit Land-Atmosphere Feedback Initiative (LAFI), to be jointly funded with the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), will be looking to find out more about the feedback effect between the two systems and the underlying processes involved. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Volker Wulfmeyer, University of Hohenheim)


The eye is one of the few organs that can already be successfully treated using gene therapies. Yet the potential of therapy is far from exhausted. For this reason, the Research Unit OCU-GT: Addressing the Unmet Needs in Ocular Gene Therapy will be seeking out new approaches. The researchers will be focussing on both inherited and acquired retinal diseases, including those that are currently only treatable to a limited extent or not at all. In order to develop new approaches and technologies, the team will use organoids of the retina, i.e. organ-like structures produced in the laboratory, as well as animal models. The network will be jointly funded with the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Stylianos Michalakis, LMU Munich)



The research networks extended for a second funding period (in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs and with references to the project descriptions in the DFG’s online database GEPRIS):


RU Integrating insect immunity, microbiota and pathogens (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jens Rolff, FU Berlin)


Centre for Advanced Studies  Human Abilities (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Dominik Perler, HU Berlin)


RU Severity assessment in animal-based research (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. André Bleich, Hannover Medical School)


RU Health literacy in early childhood allergy prevention: parental competencies and public health context in a shifting evidence landscape (HELICAP) (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christian Apfelbacher, University of Magdeburg)




Further information


Media contact:

DFG Press and Public Relations, Tel. +49 228 885-2109,


Further information is also available from the network spokespersons.


Contact at DFG Head Office:

Julie Martin, Quality and Programme Management, Tel. +49 228 885-2577,


Links to DFG Research Units:




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