News Release

DFG to fund 13 new research units

Topics range from deformation analysis and local xenocracy to urban expansion in times of re-urbanisation / A total of approximately €48.6 million granted for the first funding period

Grant and Award Announcement

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 13 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 approximately €48.6 million, including a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. The new networks will be funded for a maximum of two four-year periods. In addition to the 13 newly created groups, it was decided to extend four Research Units, two Clinical Research Units and one Centre for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences for a second funding period. Two of the newly established Research Units and one that has been extended for an additional period receive funding under the framework of the D-A-CH cooperation together with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) or the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).


Research Units enable researchers to pursue current and pressing issues in their areas of research and take innovative directions in their work. In total, the DFG is currently funding 182 Research Units, 12 Clinical Research Units and 17 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 work in the humanities and social sciences.


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


Process mining is a technique for the systematic evaluation and analysis of processes (often relating to business) in areas such as logistics and healthcare, for example. In conventional process mining, the event data usually comes from a single source and is stored locally in one place. However, it is now the case that the data often comes from distributed, sensor-based systems such as sensors that measure temperature, speed or time, and it is stored in a distributed manner, too. The objective of the Research Unit SOURCED – Process Mining on Distributed Event Sources is therefore to develop the methodological foundations for novel process mining techniques for distributed event data. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Agnes Koschmider, University of Bayreuth)


The concept of aetiology as established in ancient studies research refers to a narrative principle that creates a causal link between the present-day period of a society – at a specific historical point in time – and narratives of the beginning, reasons and causes. The Research Unit Aetiologies: Founding Narratives in Literary, Scholarly, and Scientific Discourses seeks to tap into this concept on an interdisciplinary basis by examining creation narratives, primordial scenarios in literature and research, and also political founding narratives with a view to their respective rhetoric over time. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Susanne Gödde, FU Berlin)


The Research Unit Deformation analysis based on terrestrial laser scanner measurements (TLS-Defo) aims to enable more accurate estimation of changes in building structures so as to significantly improve the monitoring of infrastructure. This is particularly important in view of the increasing age of existing buildings. Jointly funded with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) under the D-A-CH cooperation, the network will focus on the analysis of uncertainties in the measurement of buildings using terrestrial laser scanners (TLS). This is important in order to be able to specifically incorporate the data in the deformation analysis. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Heiner Kuhlmann, University of Bonn)


The increasing need for sustainable cooling and air conditioning is driving demand for refrigerants worldwide. One result of this is that the safety requirements for the use of natural or synthetic refrigerants are becoming more rigorous. The Research Unit ExRef: Explosion hazards of low global warming potential refrigerants is dedicated to this topic. It aims to develop a mathematical model for anticipating ignition and flame propagation and also work on both physico-chemical and methodological issues that are potentially of great interest in connection with different classes of refrigerants. (Spokesperson: Dr.-Ing. Detlev Markus, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig)


In order to create comprehensive climate models, it is vital to link the atmosphere, ocean and sea ice, while also considering the geophysical effects associated with these fluids. The objective of the Research Unit Mathematical Study of Geophysical Flow Models: Analysis and Computation is to develop a consistent and mathematically validated model for the atmosphere-ocean-sea ice system consisting of hierarchical sub-models. This will include the consideration of various scales, multiphysical and smoothing effects as well as fluid-structure interaction. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Matthias Hieber, TU Darmstadt)

Today’s technologies are capable of converting solar energy into electricity directly via photovoltaics or indirectly by means of wind energy or hydroelectric power. However, their availability varies greatly, both regionally and over time. For this reason, energy storage is a major challenge. Novel molecular materials can offer solutions here. For this reason, the Research Unit Molecular Solar Energy Management – Chemistry of MOST Systems will investigate the potential of photoswitchable molecules that are capable of individually handling both the conversion and the storage/release of solar energy in so-called molecular solar thermal energy storage systems (MOST). (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hermann A. Wegner, University Giessen)


Working in the field of statistical physics, the Research Unit Quantum thermalization, localization, and constrained dynamics with interacting ultracold atoms will seek to investigate fundamental questions of thermalisation – i.e. the process by which physical bodies interact with each other to achieve thermal equilibrium – in closed multi-particle quantum systems. In the long term, the Research Unit aims to advance the understanding of non-equilibrium dynamics, contributing to novel concepts for controlling thermalisation and non-ergodicity. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Fabian Heidrich-Meisner, University of Göttingen)


There is enormous housing pressure in German cities which is leading to urban regions being expanded with the addition of new “neighbourhoods”. The Research Unit Urban expansion in times of re-urbanization – new suburbanism? analyses strategies for urban expansion against the backdrop of changing social and planning ideals, economic demands and individual housing preferences. In the medium term, new insights are to be gained into the discrepancies between planning and reality, enabling a paradigm shift in planning with regard to the assessment of suburban spaces. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Uwe Altrock, University of Kassel)


Biodiversity loss and climate change: as a result of these and other current developments, ecosystem restoration has become a global challenge. However, we know virtually nothing about the ecological, social and socio-ecological consequences of restoration measures. In order to look into this more closely, the Research Unit A social-ecological systems approach to inform ecosystem restoration in rural Africa aims to develop a social-ecological, location-specific systems perspective based on the example of Rwanda. The newly gained knowledge will be used to restore damaged ecosystems around the world. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jörn Fischer, University Lüneburg)


In the digital age, students use the internet as their main source of learning materials and information. The Research Unit Critical Online Reasoning in Higher Education (CORE) aims to shed light on the effective use of the internet as a learning and information tool by students. To this end, it will look at students’ abilities with regard to critical use of online information, the characteristics and quality of this information, and the effects of information use and quality on learning success at university. The aim will be to improve the understanding and promotion of particularly relevant skills in the digital age. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Olga Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia, University of Mainz)


The common oak (Quercus robur L.) is a key species to be found in European forests with a long life span, a large geographical distribution and a particularly high diversity of organismic interactions. This will be the focus of the work to be done by the Research Unit Using clonal oak phytometers to unravel acclimation and adaptation mechanisms of long-lived forest tree holobionts to ecological variations and climate change, which is jointly funded with the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) under the D-A-CH cooperation. The common oak will be used to study the patterns and mechanisms of acclimatisation and adaptation of trees to changing environmental conditions, especially in the context of climate change. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Lars Opgenoorth, University of Marburg)


Phenomena of domination by foreign powers – as in pre-modern Europe and also in the context of colonial rule – have tended to be viewed in the study of history in terms of epochs and spatial separation. The Research Unit Local Xenocracy. Administration and Cultural Entanglement in Pre-Modernity will take a new approach here: it seeks to develop a comprehensive inventory of forms of foreign domination for the global pre-modern period and identify specific patterns along with how these vary. The objective is to provide a new perspective on the much-discussed phenomenon of colonialism, tailored to the pre-modern era. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ulrike Ludwig, University of Münster)


The Jiangmen Underground Neutrino Observatory (JUNO) is a neutrino experiment in southern China that is used for precision measurement of the oscillations of neutrinos from several nearby nuclear reactors as well as for geophysical and astrophysical observations by measuring neutrinos from these sources. Researchers working in Germany have contributed significantly to the development of the detector and the construction of the hardware. The first data is expected to be available in 2024. The Research Unit Precision Neutrino Physics in JUNO will evaluate this data – and will seek to help clarify the important question of the hierarchy of the masses of the different neutrino generations. Another long-term objective is to detect for the first time the diffuse supernova neutrino background from the superposition of the neutrino emission of all supernovae in the universe. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Tobias Lachenmaier, University of Tübingen)


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):


CRU Food Allergy and Tolerance (Food@) (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Margitta Worm, Charité – FU Berlin and HU Berlin; Clinical Director: Professor Dr. Kirsten Beyer, Charité)


RU UNODE – Unusual Anode Reactions (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Wolfgang Schuhmann, University of Bochum)


RU Transformation of Sacred Space: Function and Use of Religious Places in Germany (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Albert Gerhards, University of Bonn)


RU Multifunctional, coarse grain Refractory Composite Materials for Key-Components in High temperature applications (Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Christos G. Aneziris, TU Freiberg)


Centre for Advanced Studies Futures of Sustainability: Modernization, Transformation, Control (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Frank Adloff, University of Hamburg)


RU Synaptic pathology in autoimmune encephalitis – SYNABS (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christian Geis, University of Jena)

The Research Unit is jointly funded under the D-A-CH cooperation with the Austrian Fund for the Promotion of Scientific Research (FWF).


CRU Organ Dysfunction During Systemic Inflammation (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Alexander Zarbock, University of Münster; Clinical Director: Professor Dr. Jan Rossaint, Münster University Hospital)




Further information


Media contact:

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


Further information will be provided by the spokespersons of the networks.


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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