Blick auf die Universität Konstanz aus der Luft
Blick auf die Universität Konstanz aus der Luft

Headed for excellence

Three of the University of Konstanz’s cluster initiatives enter the next round of the German Excellence Strategy competition

The University of Konstanz will compete for funding in the context of the Excellence Strategy of the German Federal and State Governments with three cluster initiatives. The German Research Foundation (DFG) announced on 29 September 2017 that the three cluster initiatives “ChemLife”, “Collective Behaviour” and “The Politics of Inequality” have been invited to submit full proposals for funding. This means that the University of Konstanz is also in the running for recognition and funding as a University of Excellence. The minimum requirement for participation is two successfully funded Clusters of Excellence. Final decisions about the cluster applications will be made in September 2018.

“We are delighted about this outcome. The invitation to submit full proposals for three cluster initiatives shows that we are well on our way towards achieving some of our most ambitious goals. The fact that our university, as a young reform university, is able to compete with much larger and older universities, confirms our strategy for generating cutting-edge research of international calibre by creating well-connected structures and fostering close research collaboration across disciplinary boundaries”, affirms Professor Ulrich Rüdiger, rector of the University of Konstanz. The University of Konstanz submitted a total of four draft proposals for Clusters of Excellence in April 2017.

“All three cluster initiatives were formed to be concentrated research areas that thrive on the expertise from many of the university's fields of study. These key research areas will strive to answer some of the most pressing scientific as well as social questions of our time and will further advance the University of Konstanz’s research objectives over the next few years”, Rüdiger elaborates.

The Konstanz cluster initiatives and their research areas:

The cluster initiative “ChemLife: Molecules in Functional Systems” combines expertise from the fields of chemistry, biology and computer science in an interdisciplinary research initiative that aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of biological processes. One paramount question the cluster will seek to answer is how biological systems adapt to changing conditions on the molecular and network levels and how this capacity for adaptation can be applied to new materials. The cluster initiative builds upon pioneering research carried out at the University of Konstanz in chemical biology, nanoscience and bioinformatics, combining existing research priorities in “Life Sciences: Chemical Biology” with those in “Molecular Nanoscience and Materials Science”. With its focus on molecules in functional, biological or synthetic systems, “ChemLife” addresses research topics that are highly relevant to society, ranging from physiological and pathophysiological processes all the way to the development of new materials.

The “Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour” is a collaboration between the University of Konstanz and the two units of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology based at the University of Konstanz and in Radolfzell respectively. It is dedicated to data-based research on collective behaviour, from swarm intelligence of animal groups and human decision-making processes to economic networks. How do thousands of swarming individual animals manage to make collective split-second decisions? How can technology facilitate the recording and analysis of such complex collective processes? The research initiative “Collective Behaviour” utilises state-of-the-art sensor systems such as the space-based ICARUS module on the International Space Station ISS to accurately record and analyse movement and environmental data of animal groups to the nearest second. “Collective Behaviour” will be able to take advantage of a new and unique research facility to be constructed in Konstanz, the cutting-edge “Centre for Visual Computing of Collectives” (VCC). The cluster initiative draws upon expertise from the fields of biology, social psychology, behavioural finance as well as computer and information science, combining the University of Konstanz’s research priorities “Life Sciences: Ecology” and “Decision Sciences” and the research area “Quantitative Methods of Visual Computing”.

“The Politics of Inequality: Perceptions, Participation and Policies” investigates the links between inequality and political processes. What are the political causes and consequences of inequality at different levels, from economics and education to ethnic conflicts? When is unequal distribution perceived as inequality, and under which circumstances does inequality lead to political consequences? How do policy-makers react to inequality and to calls for policy change? To answer these questions, the interdisciplinary cluster initiative draws upon political science, sociology, economics, empirical educational research and linguistics. “The Politics of Inequality” is closely linked to the University of Konstanz’s research priority “Decision Sciences”.

The Excellence Strategy is a funding programme of the German federal and state governments designed to promote Germany as a research location. The Excellence Strategy will succeed the Excellence Initiative, which consisted of two funding phases. The University of Konstanz was successful in both, having received funding for its Centre of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Social Integration” (since 2006), the Konstanz Research School Chemical Biology (KoRS-CB) (since 2007), the Graduate School of Decision Sciences (since 2012) and the Institutional Strategy to Promote Top-Level Research, “Modell Konstanz – Towards a Culture of Creativity” (since 2007).

Facts:

  • The University of Konstanz’s cluster initiatives: “ChemLife: Molecules in Functional Systems”, “Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour”, “The Politics of Inequality: Perceptions, Participation and Policies”.
  • About the Clusters of Excellence: Clusters of Excellence are large interdisciplinary joint research initiatives that investigate topics of particular relevance.
  • Applicant universities must receive funding for at least two Clusters of Excellence in the Excellence Strategy of the German Federal and State Governments to apply for long-term funding through the second Universities of Excellence funding line.

Schedule:

Submission of full proposals for new Clusters of Excellence by 21 February 2018

Decision regarding funding for new Clusters of Excellence: 27 September 2018
Submission of applications for the second funding line “Universities of Excellence” (minimum requirement: two successful Clusters of Excellence): 10 December 2018

Decision regarding funding in the “Universities of Excellence” funding line: 19 July 2019