# What is the Excellence Initiative? In launching the Excellence Initiative, politics and science jpined together to promote outstanding research projects and institutions at Germany’s uiversities. Their aim is to strengthen cutting-edge research and to make German science and research more visible in the scientific community. Thus, a competition was organised to select outstanding projects in three areas: * 39 Graduate Schools to promote young scientists and researchers * 37 Clusters of Excellence to promote cuttingedge research * 9 Institutional Strategies on projects to promote top-level research DThe competition was run by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities. A total of 1.9 billion euros was made available by the Federal and State Governments to fund the selected projects. This unique competition has already ha a sustained effect on changing the academic landscape – that also shines across the whole country, ist economy and society.

The Excellence Initiative – A Success Story

This video portal presents a success story that has achieved much in so little time – and will do so in the coming years. When German politics and science joined together in 2005 to launch the Excellence Initiative, they set themselves a formidable goal. Their aim was to organise a competition to sustainably strengthen research at Germany’s universities and to raise the visibility of German science and research vis-à-vis our international competitors. These were ambitious goals indeed, especially since it meant a departure from a long-cherished – and fatally wrong – conception that all universities are equal and hence should be treated equally. Instead, the Excellence Initiative pursued a path of inequality and of funding elites. What happened then admittedly exceeded even the most daring expectations, including those of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) and of the Wissenschaftsrat (German Council of Science and Humanities), both of which had run the competition. The first round of the Excellence Initiative in 2005/2006 already shook up the German science system and continued to do so in the second round in 2006/2007. Germany’s universities submitted a wealth of forward-looking research concepts extending across all areas of science and covering all the country’s regions. This not only showed their inventiveness and imagination – but also demonstrated that the universities, which had often and especially been seen as notorious for their inflexibility, actually also have a particularly innovative side to them. Which of the 600 and more proposals were to be selected and funded – this decision proved to be extraordinarily difficult. “Excellent” and “outstanding” were both heard time and time again, when the reviewers, of whom a large proportion came from abroad, reached their verdict, and then consulted with political representatives. Often enough, the crux of the matter was solely the difference between “very good” and “even better”. At the end of the two rounds, in October 2006 and October 2007, science and politics together selected 85 institutions: 39 Graduate Schools for the training of young, topflight scientists and researchers; 37 Clusters of Excellence, in which universities, nonuniversity research institutions, and often business and industry work on particularly promising topics of the future; finally, nine so-called Institutional Strategies that universities draw up to advance their development as a whole. All these institutions will now be funded with a total of 1.9 billion euros spread over a period of five years. However, the success and distinction achieved under the Excellence Initiative are at least as important to them, as is the greater self-confidence and the enhanced reputation at home and abroad. But the Excellence Initiative is not only changing the German science and research system – it is actually driving the country as a whole forward. It is creating thousands of high-quality jobs, it is promoting our specialists, experts and executives of tomorrow, and it is contributing to innovation in business and industry. And it shows how science supports society. And it is for all these reasons that the Excellence Initiative must be continued – and driven forward. Science aims to set the course for this development as soon as possible, working together with politics. Those who have gained an inside impression of the Excellence Initiative at this video portal will know that it really is worth it. Professor Dr.-Ing Matthias Kleiner, President of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) German Research Foundation ![Portrait of Professor Dr.-Ing Matthias Kleiner](/sites/all/themes/dfg/img/portrait-kleiner.jpg) (Photo: Frenz/DFG)

The Graduate Schools

Graduate Schools aim to combine and improve the promotion of young scientists and researchers and to raise the profile of research. Highly qualified doctoral students are trained in these Schools that offer an excellent research environment. Graduate Schools are grounded in a broad scientific environment, build on innovative questions, and are headed by proven scientists. Hence, they provide the ideal conditions for a doctorate, inspire the doctoral students’ to identify with the respective campus, and altogether contribute to forming internationally competitive centres of science. Under the Excellence Initiative, 39 Graduate Schools were selected to receive five years of funding, with each School receiving an average of one million euros per year. [The Graduate Schools: Films and news](#)

The Clusters of Excellence

Clusters of Excellence concentrate and focus the research potential at university locations in Germany and, hence, strengthen their international visibility and competitiveness. Their policy is to engage in scientific networking and collaboration in research fields of particular promise for the future. Besides various university institutions, non-university research institutions and industrial partners also play a important role throughout the Clusters. Clusters of Excellence have been conceived to contribute importantly to the respective university’s strategic planning and to accelerate the process of setting thematic priorities at universities. Under the Excellence Initiative, a total of 37 Clusters of Excellence receive funding over a period of five years, with each Cluster of Excellence receiving an average of 6.5 million euros per year. [The Clusters of Excellence: Films and news](#)

The Institutional Strategies

Institutional Strategies aim to strengthen an university as a whole, so that it can compete successfully with the leading players in the international science market. An Institutional Strategy calls for a university to develop a long-term strategy on how it can consistently expand and enhance its cutting-edge research and improve the promotion of young scientists and researchers. This means identifying existing strengths and sharpening profiles in all fields. To qualify for the third funding line, universities have to develop an exceptional Institutional Strategy and must, additionally, each have at least one Graduate School and one Cluster of Excellence. Under the Excellence Initiative, a total of nine universities and their Institutional Strategies are funded for of five years, with each receiving up to 13.5 million euros per year. [The Institutional Strategies: Films and news](#)

The Competition

The Excellence Initiative was held in two rounds: 2005/2006 and 2006/2007. Each round had a preliminary and a final round. In the preliminary round universities submitted Draft Proposals. These were reviewed by internationally appointed panels of experts. The reviews for the Graduate Schools and the Clusters were discussed in the “Expert Commission” appointed by DFG; those for the Institutional Strategies in the “Strategic Commission” appointed by the German Council of Science and Humanities. Both formed a “Joint Commission” for the preliminary selection. The universities chosen from this stage subsequently presented their full proposals. These were assessed in an identical procedure. The “Grants Committee” made up of Joint Commission and the Federal and State Ministers of Science and Research then selected the projects for funding.

The Decisions

The first round saw 319 Draft Proposals submitted by 74 universities. 90 drafts (39 Graduate Schools, 41 Clusters of Excellence, ten Institutional Strategies) were nominated for the final round. Of these 38 projects at 22 universities were selected for funding on 13 October 2006: 18 Graduate Schools, 17 Clusters of Excellence and three Institutional Strategies.They will be funded up to November 2011 with a total of 873 million euros. 305 Draft Proposals were received in the second round, of which 92 (44 Graduate Schools, 40 Clusters of Excellence, eight Institutional Strategies) reached the final round. A total of 47 projects at 28 universities were selected for funding on 19 October 2007: 21 Graduate Schools, 20 Clusters of Excellence and six Institutional Strategies. They will have received a good one billion euros in total by November 2012.
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