German U15 welcomes the continuation of the Excellence Initiative. Following the first and second funding periods, securing sustainable funding for top-level research remains indispensable, especially in terms of offering long-term future perspectives for German science and academia. At the same time, we must pave ways to support new and promising initiatives.
Temporary and Long-Term Excellence Centers
For this reason, we support the idea of having two funding schemes for excellence centers. As research groups under the leadership of one or more universities, Excellence Centers should combine with existing Excellence Clusters or be established as new major projects. We particularly welcome the option of converting existing Excellence Clusters into Excellence Centers on a competitive basis. Excellence Centers that were established for the long-term could then take on stable dual-funding from the federal government and the states, according to Article 91b of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany. Furthermore, we welcome that eligibility to file funding applications is reserved for universities as organizational centers of German science and academia, and that competition for funding will be based on scientific criteria.
Funding Time Frames
All new funding schemes must be invested in longer time intervals. The competition thus far in the years 2006/2007 and in 2012 has made much use of the university system, binding it into diverse, often multi-level application processes in valuable scientific resources. New funding tools should therefore be connected with longer funding intervals.
Support from Innovative Governance Models at Top Locations
Top-level research is dependent upon instrumental institutional arrangements, as well as scientifically suitable decision-making structures and organizational forms. Therefore, a funding path within the framework of a new Excellence Initiative should be integrated at top locations for the development of an innovative governance model. Alternatively, a second overhead funding approach can be planned for successful proposals in the funding line “Excellence Centers”, which should be used for the development of university governance and the expansion of relevant infrastructures.
In total, top locations should be afforded 10 applications per funding line. The number of Excellence Centers (with minimal financial support) should be significantly greater than this. The call for tenders should be formulated openly enough, such that research groups as well as individual universities may apply. Through the recommended funding lines, the support of top-level universities as well as outstanding regions would be possible.