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20 January 2006

University of Heidelberg Reaches Next Round of the Excellence Initiative

The German Research Foundation and the Science Council have invited the University of Heidelberg to participate in the final round in all three sectors of the Excellence Initiative — Rector Hommelhoff and vice-Rector Tröger: "A milestone"

After today's announcement that the University of Heidelberg had made it into the next round of the German Excellence Initiative, Rector Professor Dr. Peter Hommelhoff and vice-Rector for research, Prof Dr. Jochen Tröger, both spoke of a "milestone" in the strategic planning efforts undertaken by the University. The German Research Foundation and the Science Council have invited the University of Heidelberg to finalise its applications in all three sectors of the Initiative. "There's still a lot of hard work ahead," said Hommelhoff. He thanked all the scholars and scientists of the University who had "gone to very considerable trouble" with their applications. The Rector also praised all the other universities involved in the first leg of the nation-wide contest for large-scale extra funding. "The Excellence Initiative has had a galvanising effect on the entire higher education system in Germany, " he said. "It has created a network of scientific and scholarly activities that did not previously exist in this form."

"The number of successful applications in all three sectors was limited from the outset," said vice-Rector Tröger. "So some really outstanding universities have been left out of account."

According to the German Research Foundation and the Science Council the aim of the Initiative is to "provide equal encouragement for front-edge research and the improvement of quality in higher education, scholarship and science. This will be a sustainable shot in the arm for Germany as a higher-education location, boost its international competitiveness and enhance the visibility of outstanding achievement in university teaching and research." Between 2006 and 2011 there will be extra funding to the tune of 1.9 billion euros for the three sectors involved in the Initiative: Graduate Schools for the encouragement of young scientists and scholars, Clusters of Excellence for the promotion of front-line research, and Institutional Strategies for the project-related enhancement of top-level university research. "We have reached the next round in all three sectors," said Tröger, "and that was the aim of the University of Heidelberg from the word go."

Heidelberg will now be facing direct competition from the universities selected by the relevant commissions of the Research Foundation and the Science Council. "In its Strategy Paper the University of Heidelberg declared its wholehearted support for the competitive approach at a very early stage," said Hommelhoff, adding that the invitation to finalise the applications in all three sectors was "a token of appreciation for our strategic efforts to place the University on an even sounder footing."

"The University will do everything in its power to ensure that the Graduate School and the Cluster of Excellence that have been invited to apply will be successful in the clinching round," said vice-Rector Jochen Tröger. In addition the University will be working on further improvement of the University's institutional strategy for the third sector of the competition. "But there's one thing I'd like to make absolutely clear," Tröger added. "Outstanding research work is also being done outside the confines of the Initiative, both in Heidelberg and elsewhere."

"The fact that we have been invited to submit our final applications is a milestone in the implementation of strategic planning at the University of Heidelberg," said Rector Hommelhoff. "For very good reasons the Excellence Initiative has been one of our pivotal strategic projects from the outset."

Below readers will find more details on the University of Heidelberg's applications for the three sectors of the Initiative (Graduate Schools, Clusters of Excellence, Institutional Strategy).

Graduate School
Fundamental Physics
The headlong development in the exploration of the Universe and its structures, fundamental interrelated effects and quantum-mechanical systems has brought us profound insights into the complexion of matter. Research in this field attracts the best students all over the world. Together with the Max Planck Institutes of Astronomy and Nuclear Physics, the University of Heidelberg's Faculty of Physics and Astronomy intends to further enhance postgraduate education in this field. To this end it is planning the establishment of an international Graduate School. There is to be regular international advertisement of places for doctoral students at the Graduate School. The Graduate School will be divided up into four thematically defined postgraduate research projects. Education will be supplied in a modular form. Doctoral projects are limited to three years and their progress will be regularly discussed with a group of supervisors. The Graduate School is also designed to encourage exchange and communication between the doctoral students via joint events, seminars, workshops and colloquia, both of a research-related and a more general nature. Spokesman: Professor Dr. Matthias Bartelmann

Cluster of Excellence
Cellular Networks: From Molecular Mechanisms to the Quantitative Understanding of Complex Functions
The developments in molecular biology have revolutionised the whole field of biology over the last century. Enormous progress in the understanding both of individual molecules and of complete genomes, as well as of the proteins encoded by them, has put us in a position to address one of the essential biological issues: How can we explain the function, structure and evolution of sub-cellular and supra-cellular networks? The central aim of this Cluster is to analyse such networks, their components and the dynamic changes they are subject to, with a view to achieving a (systemic) understanding of their regulation and the complex interactive processes going in within them. The basis for this is the quantitative analysis of complex biological processes in the framework of intensive interdisciplinary cooperation. Such cooperation calls for new experimental and theoretical approaches involving the use of modern methods applied in mathematics and computer science. Together with its partners EMBL, the German Cancer Research Centre and the Max Planck Institutes, the University of Heidelberg is acknowledged as a leading research stronghold in all these fields. Funding for this Cluster will further enhance its status in this respect. Spokesman: Professor Dr. Hans-Georg Kräusslich

Institutional Strategy
International Top-Level Research: The Heidelberg Roadmap
The aim of the strategic approach set out in "International Top-Level Research: The Heidelberg Roadmap" is (a) to promote research excellence at the University of Heidelberg in dynamic, project-oriented processes and (b) to produce high-quality research results attaining a high degree of international visibility. In this way Heidelberg aspires to establish itself as one of the small group of leading European research universities and to enhance the reputation of the University all over the world. These aims are to be achieved by intensifying cooperation with non-university partners in the Heidelberg Area, concentrating resources on selected research topics, creating new capacities for research fields with outstanding future prospects, and implementing of a catalogue of integrated measures. The measures include the establishment of the Heidelberg Graduate Academy uniting the different Graduate Schools, greater staffing resilience via greater flexibility in the handling of personnel resources and positions, and the improvement of the environment in which research is undertaken. The plans for bringing about such an improvement comprise programmes and provisions supporting young scholars and scientists with children, a dual career service for qualified partners of newly appointed professors, the professionalisation of science management, the establishment of new communication structures and marketing strategies, and not least a higher degree of internationalisation in research.

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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