DFG funds 15 new collaborative research centers

Topics range from the adrenal gland to data assimilation, €128 million in funding for an initial four-year period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has approved the establishment of 15 new Collaborative Research Centres. This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee during its spring session in Bonn. The new centres will receive a total of €128 million in funding. They will also receive a 22% programme allowance for indirect project costs. Three of the 15 centres are CRC/Transregios, spread across multiple applicant research sites. The new centres will be funded for an initial four-year period, starting on 1 July 2017. 

In addition to the 15 new Collaborative Research Centres, the Grants Committee also approved the extension of 17 existing centres for an additional funding period. As a result, the DFG will be funding a total of 267 Collaborative Research Centres from July 2017.

The new Collaborative Research Centres in detail (in alphabetical order by their host universities, including the name of applicant universities):

Many models in economics and the natural sciences are characterised by the omnipresence of randomness and statistical noise. The aim of the Collaborative Research Centre "Taming Uncertainty and Profiting from Randomness and Low Regularity in Analysis, Stochastics and Their Applications" is to analyse the disruptive and advantageous aspects of randomness and noise to answer questions in basic mathematical research and application-related questions, for example in the modelling of financial markets. The centre is collaborating with universities in Beijing, Shandong and Wuhan, China. (Host university: University of Bielefeld, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Michael Röckner

A great deal of research has been done to explore how the brain absorbs and stores new information. But how we learn to classify previously learned knowledge as no longer relevant and adapt our behaviour accordingly is not fully understood. The mechanisms of this "Extinction Learning", which is very important in the treatment of anxiety and pain disorders, will be studied in a Collaborative Research Centre of the same name. The researchers intend to investigate the psychological, neural, ontogenetic and clinical processes of extinction learning in animals and humans. (Host university: University of Bochum, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Onur Güntürkün)

Everyday activities like loading a dishwasher can already be performed autonomously by robots, but this requires a specifically defined set of conditions. Robots are still a long way from achieving a general mastery of day-to-day activities. The Collaborative Research Centre "EASE - Everyday Activity Science and Engineering" therefore intends to develop information-processing models that enable autonomous robots to fully master everyday activities. To do this, the researchers will use so-called narratives of day-to-day activities - the observed, recorded or described performance of an activity - as the knowledge basis for the control of the robot. (Host university: University of Bielefeld, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Michael Beetz)

The CRC/Transregio "The Adrenal: Central Relay in Health and Disease" aims to understand the complex interactions within the adrenal gland and with other organ systems. The adrenal gland plays a vital role in the production of two hormone classes and is therefore crucial to the regulation of stress responses. As a result of our modern lifestyles, it has grown enormously in importance. Functional disorders or tumours of the adrenal gland can also influence processes essential to survival. The researchers aim to answer basic and translational questions relating to the adrenal gland, for which they can draw on a large number of specimens in biobanks. (Host university: Technical University of Dresden, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Stefan R. Bornstein; Additional applicant university: University of Munich [LMU])

All aspects of communication - whether verbal or non-verbal, oral, written, or through gestures or pictures - with the ability to disparage, offend or exclude can be categorised as "invectivity". The Collaborative Research Centre "Invectivity. Constellations and Dynamics of Disparagement" intends to investigate these aspects and manifestations of communication. The group will study forms of vilification and revilement in a wide range of contexts from the ancient world to the present day, including phenomena which only acquire their invective character through acts of follow-on communication or the interpretations of third parties. The long-term objective is to develop a theory of invectivity. (Host university: Technical University of Dresden; Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Gerd Schwerhoff)

"Strong-Interaction Matter under Extreme Conditions" is the title of a CRC/Transregio in which the researchers intend to reach reliable conclusions about the properties of hot and dense QCD matter. Quantum chromodynamics or QCD is a theory that describes the strong interaction of quarks and gluons, the fundamental building blocks of atomic nuclei. Calculations relating to hot and dense QCD matter are difficult with current theoretical methods. To improve this situation is the aim of this Transregio. (Host university: University of Frankfurt/Main, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Dirk H. Rischke; Additional applicant universities: University of Bielefeld, Technical University of Darmstadt) 

Synapses process information in the brain. Their function, efficiency and plasticity - in other words, the ability to modify their activity and interconnection to optimise ongoing processes - are essential to all brain functions and the resulting behaviour. If the synapses do not perform their task properly, this can result in neurological and psychiatric disorders. The Collaborative Research Centre "Quantitative Synaptology" therefore aims to create a virtual model of a fully functional synapse. It is hoped that this will allow synaptic function to be predicted and certain disease models to be simulated and better understood. (Host university: University of Göttingen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Silvio-Olivier Rizzoli)

Wnt signal pathways play a crucial role in cell development as well as the formation of tumours. The Collaborative Research Centre "Mechanisms and Functions of Wnt Signaling" aims to study in more detail the molecular processes involved in Wnt signaling. The participating researchers will use a wide range of model organisms, including cnidarians, flies, fish, frogs, mice and human cell cultures. In this way they hope to contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of these fundamental signal pathways. (Host university: University of Heidelberg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Thomas W. Holstein)

Liver cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer globally, with one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers. It is still unknown how liver cancer develops from the known risk factors - infection or cirrhosis of the liver and metabolic diseases. The CRC/Transregio "Liver Cancer - New Mechanistic and Therapeutic Concepts in a Solid Tumor Model" intends to close gaps in current knowledge by combining basic research and clinical projects. (Host university: University of Heidelberg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Peter Schirmacher; Additional applicant universities: University of Tübingen, Hannover Medical School)

The study of nanoparticle-based therapies for inflammatory internal diseases is the focus of the Collaborative Research Centre "Polymer-Based Nanoparticle Libraries for Targeted Anti-Inflammatory Strategies". The idea is to develop nanoparticles from new polymers that are tailored to the anti-inflammatory agent and the desired type of release. The group aims to systematically create what are known as particle libraries to allow the appropriate nanoparticles to be assigned to a given agent. (Host university: University of Jena, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Ulrich S. Schubert)

The seamless integration of large amounts of data in complex supercomputer models is a major challenge in mathematics. This merging of data and models is known as data assimilation. Until now it has primarily been used in meteorology, hydrology and the search for raw materials. The Collaborative Research Centre "Data Assimilation - The Seamless Integration of Data and Models" intends firstly to theoretically deepen existing algorithms of data assimilation and secondly to develop new assimilation techniques for new applications in biology, medicine, cognitive science and neuroscience. (Host university: University of Potsdam, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sebastian Reich)

Language is highly variable. Individuals can produce very different linguistic structures and interpret utterances differently. But the variability of language is also subject to certain limits. This is what the Collaborative Research Centre "Limits of Variability in Language: Cognitive, Grammatical, and Social Aspects" intends to analyse. The researchers understand variability as a space of possible, partly unconscious linguistic decisions available to an individual or a language community. Limits become evident when certain linguistic behaviours occur relatively consistently across languages and communities of speakers. Through its work, the group aims to acquire insights into the structure of the language system. (Host university: University of Potsdam, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Isabell Wartenburger)

The Collaborative Research Centre "Emergent Relativistic Effects in Condensed Matter: From Fundamental Aspects to Electronic Functionality" will investigate new topological materials and heterostructures based on them. The participating researchers will focus on electronic, magnetic, optical and transport properties. In this way they aim to find out how relativistic effects, for example the spin-orbit interaction, can be exploited to develop future concepts in electronics, optoelectronics and spin electronics. (Host university: University of Regensburg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Klaus Richter)

Implants to support or restore body functions are commonplace in modern medicine. According to forecasts, by 2060 one in three individuals in Germany will be over 65 years of age and many of these people will require implants. The Collaborative Research Centre "Electrically Active Implants - Elaine" intends to study various implant concepts and shed light on their fundamental functionalities. The centre is interested in electrically active implants and aims to use mathematical models and empirical studies to understand how these implants work. The focus is on implants used for the regeneration of bone and cartilage and implants for deep brain stimulation used to treat diseases such as Parkinson's. (Host university: University of Rostock, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Ursula van Rienen)

Peptides are molecules made from amino acids and linked by peptide bonds. There are millions of such bonds in the human body, controlling numerous physiological and pathological processes. The complete set of peptides in an individual is referred to as the peptidome. Due to its complexity, it has not yet been sufficiently researched. The aim of the Collaborative Research Centre "Exploiting the Human Peptidome for Novel Antimicrobial and Anticancer Agents" is to catalogue individual peptides and thus identify which peptides are important in fighting infectious diseases and cancers. It is hoped that this will enable, firstly, the identification of diagnostic biomarkers and, secondly, the development of new peptide-based therapies for infections and cancer. (Host university: University of Ulm, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Frank Kirchhoff)

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