Gerhart von Graevenitz, rector of the University of Konstanz from 2000 until 2009, was a visionary who understood that the future of academia lies in the young generations. Starting small, he created the Zentrum für den Wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchs (ZWN, Centre for Junior Research Fellows) at the University of Konstanz that was open to junior researchers who had already shown their independence by successfully applying for extramural grants. From the very beginning, this institution welcomed researchers from all departments. It provided them with small funds and fostered interdisciplinary exchange.
The German federal and state governments initiated the Excellence Initiative. The initiative aimed at promoting top level research at German universities and strengthening Germany as an internationally competitive research location. In the framework of the initiative, the University of Konstanz developed an institutional strategy to promote independent junior researchers. A crucial asset within the application was the ZWN, which was transformed into the Zukunftskolleg. The University of Konstanz was successful in the Excellence Initiative and founded the Zukunftskolleg with substantial resources to establish fellowships. 27 ZWN Fellows became its first members.
In 2010, all the Fellows and the central office of the Zukunftskolleg moved together into a new building onsite the campus of the University of Konstanz. The so far virtual community of Fellows now had an own, real space to meet and talk science across the disciplines.
The Zukunftskolleg was again a central component of the renewal application for the Excellence Initiative and contributed to the success of the University of Konstanz.
With funds from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme the Zukunftskolleg started its Marie Curie Incoming Fellowship Programme. This programme was open to researchers having spent at least two of the past three years abroad, and considerably strengthened the international diversity of our institution.
After twelve calls for applications, we can look back on a remarkable success story. The career paths of our former fellows confirm that the Zukunftskolleg is successful: Of our former 5-year Research Fellows, 80% hold tenured positions in academia today. Take a moment to indulge in our Alumni Career Paths Series, where we present career stories of former fellows.