DFG funds 20 new Collaborative Research Centers

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is setting up 20 new Collaborative Research Centers (SFB) to further strengthen top-level research at universities. This was decided by the responsible approval committee, which met via video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic. From January 1, 2021, the new SFBs will initially be funded for four years with a total of around 254 million euros. This includes a 22 percent program fee for indirect costs from the projects. Three of the new networks are SFB / Transregio (TRR), which are spread across several applicant universities.

In addition to the 20 institutions, the Approval Committee voted to extend 25 SFBs by one further funding period each, including ten SFBs / Transregio. Collaborative Research Centers enable the processing of innovative, demanding and long-term research projects in a network and are thus intended to serve as a focus and structure at the applicant universities. SFBs are funded for a maximum of twelve years. From January 2021 the DFG will fund a total of 283 SFBs.

The 20 new Collaborative Research Centers in detail
(in alphabetical order of their host universities and naming the speakers and the other applicant universities):

A lack of exercise and weight gain, but also sport in the elderly, are increasingly leading to musculoskeletal disorders, the chance of recovery of which varies greatly in the various patient groups. Why this is so is a question that has yet to be clarified for the success of regenerative therapies. The aim of the Collaborative Research Center “Directed Cellular Self-Organization to Promote Bone Regeneration” is to decipher the fundamental mechanisms of bone regeneration that lead to the success or failure of healing processes. (Charité – FU Berlin and HU Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing.Georg Duda)

Hydrogels consist of water-insoluble polymers that can bind a high proportion of water and swell in the process. The collaborative research center “Dynamic hydrogels at biological interfaces” aims to determine and investigate the most important physico-chemical factors that characterize the protective functions of hydrogels at biological interfaces based on the respiratory tract and the intestine. He also wants to define the requirements for the development of new therapeutic strategies for lung and gastrointestinal diseases. (FU Berlin, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Rainer Haag)

The human organism and its immune defense are evolutionarily adapted to constant microbial dangers from the environment. In today’s environment, however, certain properties of the human organism become a burden; It is becoming increasingly clear that the human immune and metabolic system reacts to the modern lifestyle and can trigger a low-threshold, chronic inflammatory condition called metaflammation. The Collaborative Research Center “Metaflammation and Cellular Programming” wants to investigate exactly how this chronic inflammatory condition develops. (University of Bonn, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Eicke Latz)

The Collaborative Research Center “Degradation and recovery of river ecosystems under multiple pressures” traces the mechanisms of rivers that are affected by “multiple stressors” such as temperature increases, salinization or interventions in the natural course of the river. To this end, he combines mesocosm experiments and field studies with statistical and mechanistic modeling and syntheses. Overall, the investigation aims at all components of the food web from viruses to fish as well as various functions of the ecosystem. (University of Duisburg-Essen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Bernd Sures)

The Collaborative Research Center “Catalysis at Liquid Interfaces (CLINT)” is pursuing a fundamentally new approach in chemical reaction engineering : It wants to use the highly dynamic, anisotropic environment of gaseous-liquid or liquid-solid interfaces to produce technical catalysts with novel properties and a previously unattained productivity, To generate stability and manageability. The aim is to combine the understanding of catalytic processes with targeted material development, which is why the investigations range from model systems to real catalysts and also include in-situ methods. (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Wasserscheid)

Cooperative behavior is known, for example, from the dynamics of flocks of birds. However, the description of cooperativity in quantum mechanics is sketchy. The Collaborative Research Center / Transregio “Quantum Cooperativity of Light and Matter (QuCoLiMa)” untersucht die Kooperativität auf der Quantenebene. Damit will der Verbund langfristig zu einem systematischen Verständnis vom Aufbau räumlicher und zeitlicher Quantenkorrelationen in mesoskopischen Systemen beitragen, in denen Licht und Materie sehr starke Wechselbeziehungen haben. Seine Ergebnisse könnten in Zukunft die Nutzung von Quantenkooperativität für Anwendungen in den Bereichen Sensorik, Kommunikation und Quantencomputing ermöglichen. (Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Sprecher: Professor Dr. Joachim von Zanthier; ebenfalls antragstellend: Universität Mainz und Universität Saarbrücken)

Worldwide, 10 to 15 percent of adults suffer from chronic kidney disease; in addition there are cancers of the kidneys. Kidney diseases often have genetic causes. However, the mechanisms underlying diseases are not sufficiently understood. This is where the Collaborative Research Center “Nephrogenetics (NephGen)”at. He examines the relevant genes and proteins in order to explain what role they play in the development of the disease. Molecular biological methods, imaging and statistical processes are combined. On the basis of extensive patient and population studies and with the help of targeted animal models, the network aims to contribute to the development of new therapeutic approaches for prevention and treatment. (University of Freiburg, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Anna Köttgen)

In basic scientific research, huge amounts of experimental data are obtained with the help of modern measurement techniques. The interdisciplinary collaborative research center “Mathematics of Experiments: The Challenge of Indirect Measurements in the Natural Sciences” aims to efficiently and optimally filter out the relevant information content from such highly complex data volumes. Appropriate methods based on mathematical-statistical analysis and modeling are developed based on various scientific experimental and observation situations. (University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thorsten Hohage)

Scientists from the field of geodesy – the science of measuring and mapping the earth – and physics work together in the collaborative research center “Relativistic and Quantum-Based Geodesy (TerraQ)” to develop fundamentally new sensors, measurement techniques, analysis methods and modeling approaches . In this way, the latest findings, especially from quantum and gravitational physics, should help to significantly increase the accuracy of geodetic measurements. For example, climate-relevant processes can be better researched. (University of Hanover, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing.Jürgen Müller)

The Collaborative Research Center “Integrated Design and Operating Methodology for Offshore Megastructures” focuses on the energy transition and future energy supply in Germany, which can be achieved primarily with the help of so-called mega offshore wind turbines. The SFB wants to bring together construction-related processes such as design, manufacture, operation and dismantling of wind turbines that were previously thought of as separate and link them by means of a digitization concept that grows step by step. In the long term, the association wants to provide new knowledge on the design and operation of structures with complex load-bearing behavior. (University of Hanover, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing.Raimund Rolfes)

The Collaborative Research Center / Transregio “Structural Change in Property” aims to contribute to a better sociological understanding of the change in property systems. To this end, the association wants to redevelop the historical and conceptual foundations of western property systems, empirically investigate current conflicts over private property in the global North, but also in Asia and Latin America, and analyze alternatives to (private) property that are currently being debated or tried out in practice. (University of Jena, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hartmut Rosa; also applying: University of Erfurt)

Heterogeneous catalysts made from precious metal clusters and particles play a key role in emissions control. Many of the effects that occur between the elements in actual use are not yet fully understood. New perspectives are currently opening up in this area in the field of characterization and simulation. This is where the interdisciplinary Collaborative Research Center “Tracking the active centers in heterogeneous catalysts for emission control (TrackAct)” comes in, which aims to achieve a holistic understanding of the catalytic processes on various length scales and levels of complexity. (KIT Karlsruhe, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jan-Dierk Grunwaldt)

Complex information processing systems can be found not only in technology, but above all in nature. Especially when it comes to image recognition using energy-efficient signal processing, biology offers established mechanisms from which engineering can learn. Therefore, the focus of the Collaborative Research Center “Neuroelectronics: Biologically Inspired Information Processing” lies in the interdisciplinary cooperation of the fields of neurosciences, biology, psychology, physics, electrical engineering, materials science and systems theory in order to explore basic properties in selected nervous systems and to transfer them to new technical storage architectures. (University of Kiel, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hermann Kohlstedt)

In the Collaborative Research Center “Key Mechanisms of Normal and Disease-Related Disorders of Motor Control” , scientists from the neurosciences and other disciplines work together to investigate the genetic factors, cellular, synaptic and neural processes that underlie motor control in animals and humans. In this way, they want to expand knowledge about motor control both in a healthy state and in neuropsychiatric diseases and make it useful for more targeted therapy strategies. (University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Gereon Rudolf Fink)

Fluctuations are essential to many natural phenomena, such as weather, and have an impact on our daily lives. Only if the influence of fluctuations on physical systems is understood can the underlying principles and working mechanisms be used as resources for technical applications. Against this background, the Collaborative Research Center “Fluctuations and nonlinearities in classical and quantum matter beyond equilibrium” wants to analyze how fluctuations arise and how they influence the dynamics of classical and quantum mechanical systems. (University of Konstanz, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Wolfgang Belzig)

Which neurobiological principles limit perceptual and cognitive processes? And which ones prevent people from fully utilizing their own cognitive abilities? The Collaborative Research Center “Neural Resources of Cognition” is investigating this question . In this way, he wants to help develop overarching theories on neural capacities in younger and older adults. Another goal is a comprehensive concept of cognitive medicine that includes individually tailored measures to protect or improve specific cognitive functions. (University of Magdeburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Emrah Düzel)

How does intelligent behavior arise in a system of nanoscale building blocks that work together? The Collaborative Research Center “Intelligent Matter: From Responsive to Adaptive Nanosystems” aims to answer this question in order to use intelligent matter, for example, to produce artificial skin that regulates temperature and absorption itself. The intelligent matter to be developed should receive information from the environment and respond with signals to the environment, distribute signals and feedback in embedded networks and store information in order to learn. (University of Münster, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Bart Jan Ravoo)

Inflammation can heal, but – in chronic cases, for example – can also be destructive. The Collaborative Research Center “Representation of Organ-Specific Inflammation Using Multi-Scale Imaging”looks at the organ-specific regulation of inflammation, particularly with regard to the dynamics, activity and interactions of inflammatory cells in various organs. In particular, the leukocytes involved in inflammation, their transfer from the blood to the tissue, the sequence of their activation at the inflammation focus and their contribution to tissue damage in the living organism are to be analyzed. The methods used should make it possible to track cells and processes using whole-body imaging, among other things, and thus to collect new data spanning time and space for a better understanding of inflammation. (University of Münster, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michael Schäfers)

The metastasis of tumors is still poorly understood. The Collaborative Research Center / Transregio “On the Analysis of Metastatic Colony Formation for New Systemic Cancer Therapies” is dedicated to the early phase of the incipient “colonization” of organs by scattered tumor cells. The group wants to deepen the existing knowledge about the mechanisms of colonization and develop starting points for therapeutic concepts with which metastasis can be stopped at this early stage. (University of Regensburg, spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christoph Klein; also applying: Erlangen-Nürnberg)

What’s popular? What is noticed by many and measured in rankings and charts? Or can the “unpopular” also be popular? The Collaborative Research Center “Transformations of the Popular”seeks answers to these questions by examining evaluations and modifications of the popular in the areas of pop (aesthetic forms and practices), popularization (strategies of dissemination) and populisms (conflict communication within the dissolving popular), assuming two decisive changes: Around 1950 methods of measuring attentiveness emerged which made the popular “measurable” for the first time; Since 2000, what is popular has been increasingly decided in social media, less by gatekeepers of the established mass media, educational institutions and cultural elites. (University of Siegen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Niels Werber)

The 25 SFBs extended for a further funding period
(in alphabetical order of their host universities, naming the speakers and the other applicant universities and with references to the project descriptions in the DFG Internet database GEPRIS for ongoing funding):