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The University of Tübingen excels in Germany's Excellence Competition

18 March 2024
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The first stage of the federal and state Excellence Competition in Germany was mastered by the CIVIS Alliance member, University of Tübingen. Six cluster initiatives were invited to submit full proposals – "location of top-level research both nationally and internationally". 
© University of Tübingen / Heiko Heil

A total of 41 cluster initiatives across Germany were invited to submit a full proposal in this first selection round. Six of them, from Tübingen:

  • The palaeoanthropological cluster initiative HUMAN ORIGINS will integrate both biological and cultural perspectives into human origins research and thus define a new conceptual framework to move away from the piecemeal study of the fossil and archaeological records which is currently prevalent.
  • The cluster initiative TERRA is about the interaction between diversity and stability in the geosphere and the biosphere. It aims to develop an integrated understanding of how geo-biosphere interactions in terrestrial systems induce and respond to environmental changes.
  • The cluster initiative GreenRobust from the field of plant biology will study plant responses to climatic and biotic perturbations. The aim is to understand the organisational principles that provide robustness (i.e. the maintenance of function despite perturbations) to plant life, and thus deliver roadmaps for the sustainable management of plant-based agriculture and ecosystems. The initiative is a joint project of the University of Tübingen and the Universities of Heidelberg and Hohenheim.
  • The neuroscience cluster initiative The Fe/male Brain aims to identify the mechanisms underlying the impact of sex and gender on brain function and behaviour, as well as on mental and neurologic disorders. The goal is to develop individualised, sex- and gender-sensitive therapeutic approaches through basic and translational research.
  • In the planned Bionic Intelligence for Health (BI4H) cluster, an interdisciplinary research team is combining the neural and physical intelligence of the human body with a fundamentally new approach to intelligent technology. The aim is better to recognise neural diseases, treat them adaptively and thus improve the quality of life of those affected. To achieve this, the researchers aim intelligently to integrate innovative technical systems in the body. The planned cluster is a joint initiative of the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen.
  • The Critical Proximities initiative examines various forms of coexistence and cooperation, using the innovative concept of critical proximity. The aim is to answer the question of how, and under what conditions, proximity is 'critical’; why coexistence sometimes takes the form of peaceful coexistence, cooperation and a willingness to compromise - but can also lead to conflict and confrontation. This approach also enables a rethinking of the content and theory of the fundamental notions of difference that have long dominated the humanities and social sciences.

This result makes Tübingen once again one of the most successful universities in Germany and underlines its position as a location of top-level research both nationally and internationally," said University President Professor Karla Pollmann.

This is not the first time when the University of Tübingen is awarded excellence funding for its research clusters. In 2018, another 3 initiatives were on the table:

  • "Controlling Microbes to Fight Infections" (CMFI),
  • "Image-guided and Functionally Instructed Tumour Therapies" (iFIT),
  • "Machine Learning: New Perspectives for Science".

Existing clusters also continue to compete for excellence funding

University's President emphasised that all the existing Tübingen research clusters will also submit a follow-up application in order to secure funding for a further seven years:

Thanks to the successful work of the researchers involved, I am sure that all three clusters in the fields of infection research, cancer research and machine learning have excellent chances of receiving future funding", says Pollmann. 

If this were confirmed by the international reviewers, the University of Tübingen would also be able to apply for further funding as a University of Excellence.

The funding currently runs until 2025 and could be extended until 2032. Each university needs at least two clusters in the future funding phase in order to be able to apply for institutional funding as a University of Excellence. The final decision on the clusters will be announced in May 2025, while the decision on the Universities of Excellence will be made in September 2026.

Find out all the details from the original story, in German.