In shaping the knowledge-based society, the Federal Government and the Federal States of Germany have set the course to master the challenges that arise from an intense global competition for innovation.
Among the various funding programs initiated, the Excellence Strategy aimed at strengthening cutting-edge research at universities is of special importance.
Two funding lines must be differentiated: Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence.
The Clusters of Excellence funding line provides project-based funding in internationally competitive fields of research at individual universities or university alliances. The Clusters of Excellence involve researchers from various disciplines and institutions working in a collaborative project. The funding provides them with the opportunity of focusing intensively on their research objective, training young scientists and recruiting highly qualified international researchers. Clusters of Excellence receive funding for a period of seven years. A second funding period of another seven years is possible.
The Universities of Excellence funding line sets out to strengthen universities or university alliances as institutions and to expand their leading international position in research on the basis of successful Clusters of Excellence. Universities must therefore already have at least two Clusters of Excellence – and in the case of university alliances at least three Clusters of Excellence – in order to be eligible to apply for the status of University of Excellence. Universities of Excellence receive permanent funding but have to submit to a review of the prerequisites for funding every seven years. This means that Universities of Excellence have to regularly participate in the competition for the funding of the necessary number of Clusters of Excellence by submitting new applications every seven years.
Besides, two other programs must be mentioned: the Pact for Innovation and Research, aimed at strengthening major non-university research institutions as well as the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), and the Teaching Quality Pact, concerned with improving the quality of education at higher training institutions.