The first stage of the selection process for new Clusters of Excellence in Germany's Excellence Strategy can now get underway. By the deadline on 3 April 2017, 195 draft proposals for Clusters of Excellence had been received by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) in Bonn, which is managing the competitive application process in this funding line in accordance with the administrative agreement between the federal and state governments. This is three more than were announced by the universities in non-binding letters of intent in December 2016. In total, 63 universities from all 16 federal states are represented by one or more draft proposals in the preliminary round.
Of the 195 draft proposals, 47 were submitted by a consortium of multiple universities, including six proposals submitted by three institutions. Approximately two-thirds of the proposals envisage the participation of non-university partners. The majority of the drafts are multidisciplinary in nature. A total of 27% percent of the proposals are thematically based in the natural sciences, 25% in the humanities and social sciences, 24% in the engineering sciences and another 24% in the life sciences.
Over the coming weeks and months, the draft proposals will be reviewed by 21 international panels in accordance with research quality criteria. On 28 September 2017, the Committee of Experts for the Excellence Strategy, made up of 39 researchers mainly based abroad, will then use these reviews to decide which drafts will be invited to submit full proposals. In September 2018 the Excellence Commission, composed of the members of the Committee of Experts and research ministers of the federal and state governments, will then reach a final decision as to which Clusters of Excellence will be funded. The start date for funding is 1 January 2019; an annual sum of around €385 million will be made available for the 45 to 50 Clusters of Excellence as envisaged in the administrative agreement. The decision on the Clusters of Excellence is also one of the most important factors in the competitive process for the second funding line, Universities of Excellence, implemented by the German Council of Science and Humanities. Universities with a sufficient number of Clusters of Excellence can submit proposals for Universities of Excellence in December 2018, which, after review, will be decided on in summer 2019.
The end of the submission period for draft proposals for Clusters of Excellence coincides with the second meeting of the Committee of Experts on 5-6 April in Bonn. The committee will hold concluding discussions on detailed questions relating to the Clusters of Excellence funding line, but above all decide on further key aspects of the design of the Universities of Excellence funding line. The German Council of Science and Humanities, which is primarily responsible for the Universities of Excellence funding line, and the DFG will announce the results after the meeting and the preparation of the decisions.
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