The support of top professionals has a long tradition at Heidelberg University. In order to succeed in the competition for top international professionals, it is important to create resources that help increase the appeal of the university for national and international top-notch researchers. The Top Researchers Fund wants to make a contribution to this.

Means of the Top Researchers Fund offer flexibility during appointment and retention negotiations, e.g. in order to have a greater scope of action when setting up a professorship. To be able to offer highly qualified researchers from Germany and abroad the best possible conditions, the University must be in a position to present top researchers with career and research prospects in order to attract and retain them.

The Top Researchers Fund is a vehicle for supporting a specific field of interest or for setting up a fund in your name, by prior agreement. You would like to support the Top Researchers Fund? Then please contact us.


The Top Researchers Fund enabled the University to acquire a terrestrial 3D laser scanner of the latest generation for Professor Bernhard Höfle. Using this new scanner, the GIScience and 3D Geospatial Data Processing Department of Prof. Höfle is able to not only develop cutting-edge Earth observation but it also helps the researchers to establish a new field of research in geography – “Autonomous Earth observation”. With its broad range of up to 4 km, its millimetre precision as well as its ability to take up to 1.2 million measurements per second, the laser scanner is perfect for terrain campaigns.

The research in Heidelberg focuses on the effects of climate change (e.g. melting of glaciers, changes regarding permaforst and coasts), natural hazards (e.g. landslides, floods) and applications in agriculture and forestry.


Thanks to the 3D laser scanner, we will be able to test our new computer-based methods of autonomous Earth observation in the terrain and to further develop our methodology, in the years to come.

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Höfle, GIScience and 3D Geospatial Data Processing, Institute of Geography

First campaigns in the service of science

The 3D laser scanner has already been used successfully in two terrain campaigns by observing two important geographical phenomena and helping to better understand them:

  • The temporal dynamics of snow surfaces
  • The changes in permafrost in the Alps due to climate changes

In April 2018, the warmest April since the beginning of weather records, the scanner was set up at the Schneeferner (Zugspitze) for a continuous measurement. The measurement aimed at capturing a unique highly temporal time series (landscape was captured at hourly intervals over the period of one week) of the snow cover and the occurring changes (e.g. melting, wind transport of snow, snow avalanches).The time series is an important data basis to further develop scientific methods for an autonomous Earth observation of snow covers. Besides, the data has also practical benefits for the ski run management of the skiing area of the Zugspitze.

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At beginning of July 2018, the tongue of the rock glacier (Äußeres Hochebenkar) in the Ötztal valley was captured in 3D with the help of the scanner. A rock glacier is a kind of permafrost composed of rocks and a certain amount of iron. However, it cannot be compared to a typical ice glacier. The data of 2018 can now be compared to data from previous years in order to quantify the dynamics of the rock glacier and to be able to come up, if possible, with improved monitoring strategies. The long-term goal is to find out how rock glaciers react to climate change.

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Your contact for the Top Researchers Fund

Division for Foundations and Assets
T: +49 6221 54-12801
F: +49 6221 54-12980

Postal address
Division for Foundations and Assets
Universität Heidelberg
Seminarstr. 2
69117 Heidelberg