History of the Zukunftskolleg

Ex-director of the University of Konstanz, Gerhat von Graevenitz

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.

Logo of the Zukunftskolleg

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.

Zukunftskolleg building 2010

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.

a picture of a group of people from above, that forms the silhouette of the earth
© tai111-fotolia.de

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.

"2020 - today"

In 2019, the University of Konstanz could defend its status as Excellence University within the Excellence Strategy (follow-up project of the Excellence Initiative) - with the Zukunftskolleg as one of three light house projects.
Also in 2019, the Zukunftskolleg introduced a new Fellowship for early career researchers from Africa, Asia and Latin America: ZUKOnnect Fellowships.

In 2023, the Zukunftskolleg launched a new group fellowship format, ZENiT, which bridges short postdoctoral and tenure track positions. ZENiT offers postdoctoral researchers at the University of Konstanz the possibility to create a group of scientists and prominent people from the non-academic world and work on projects on the fringes of their research.

And by now, in 2024, after 18 calls for applications for 2-year Postdoctoral and 5-year Research Fellowships, 5 calls for ZUKOnnect Fellowships as well as the first call for ZENiT Fellowships, 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.