Heidelberg Remains Excellent
Heidelberg University has successfully competed for the title of “University of Excellence” with its concept of a Comprehensive Research University. It is therefore one of ten individual universities and one university consortium that will receive funding as Universities of Excellence within the framework of the Excellence Strategy of the Federal and State Governments. The Excellence Commission, which consists of a panel of experts and the ministers of science at federal and state level, announced the competition results on 19 July 2019. Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, Rector of Ruperto Carola, called the decision a great and well-deserved success and thanked all those involved, who displayed extraordinary dedication and commitment in preparing the proposal and were instrumental to its success. Heidelberg University already competed successfully with its Institutional Strategies in the two predecessor programmes of the Excellence Initiative in 2007 and 2012.
In times of increasing specialisation and fragmentation, Heidelberg University with its future-oriented strategy commits decisively to its profile as a Comprehensive Research University. Based on a cross-disciplinary dialogue, it has over the past ten years successfully established numerous structures designed to ensure its continuous self-renewal. The funding from the Excellence Strategy will go towards maintaining and expanding these efforts. The university’s Fields of Focus – four profile-forming research areas in the life sciences, natural sciences, humanities as well as social and behavioural sciences – explore the full complexity and the challenges of a rapidly changing world. They range from the molecular bases of life and the patterns and structures of the material world to cultural dynamics in globalised worlds and questions of social and individual self-regulation and regulation. Beyond these research fields, all areas of the university are connected by three interdisciplinary incubators – the Marsilius Kolleg, which builds bridges between different academic cultures, the Heidelberg Center for the Environment with its focus on the environmental sciences and the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing – that create a fertile environment for new research initiatives.
As a new instrument within the framework of the Excellence Strategy, the university will establish two new Flagship Initiatives that will investigate innovative and socially relevant research topics while strengthening the links between the Fields of Focus: The “Engineering Molecular Systems” initiative will pioneer the development of carbon-based technologies and systems at the nanoscale. The “Transforming Cultural Heritage” initiative aims to redefine cultural heritage as the result of dynamically changing social and political negotiations. The transfer of knowledge and research findings to society will be supported through a Transfer Agency headed by a new Vice-Rector that will coordinate the previously decentralised activities in this area. “By carefully balancing continuity and change, Ruperto Carola aims at distinguishing itself even further among the world’s best research and teaching universities, educate future generations of top scientists and scholars as well as decision-makers and play a key role in shaping important future fields of action”, emphasised the Rector.
A total of 19 proposals, two of them by a consortium of universities, were submitted by 10 December of last year. Applicants in the University of Excellence funding line needed two successful cluster initiatives, three for university consortia, to be eligible. At Heidelberg University, the two Clusters of Excellence 3D Matter Made to Order – together with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology – and STRUCTURES have now begun their work. They will be funded over a period of seven years. Universities of Excellence receive continuous funding, subject to re-evaluation every seven years. In addition, they must submit new proposals every seven years and compete successfully for the number of Clusters of Excellence required for funding.