DFG funds 14 new Collaborative Research Centers

Research networks to investigate topics such as practices of comparison, neutrinos, dark matter, and the robustness of vision; around €120 million in funding for an initial 4-year period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) will establish 14 new Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs). This was decided by the responsible Grants Committee during its autumn session in Bonn. The new CRCs will receive a total of 117.4 million euros in funding. There will also be a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. Seven of the 14 networks set up are CRC/Transregios, which will be spread across multiple research sites. All of the new CRCs will be funded for an initial four-year period starting on 1 January 2017.

In addition to the 14 new Collaborative Research Centres, the Grants Committee also approved the extension of 15 existing CRCs for an additional funding period. As a result, the DFG will be funding a total of 268 Collaborative Research Centres from January 2017.

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

Little is currently known about the history, social and cultural causes, functions and impacts of comparison - despite frequent speculation about the increase in comparisons in certain epochs and in modern societies. In the Collaborative Research Centre "Practices of Comparisons: Ordering and Changing the World", researchers from the fields of history, literature studies, philosophy, history of art, political science and law will investigate how the historically variable practices of comparison link to routines, rules, institutions and discourses - and can thus create structures but also trigger medium-range dynamics or overarching change. 
(Host university: Bielefeld University, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Angelika Epple)

Industrial forming processes for metals cause damage within the material. It is not known how the damage caused by forming processes such as rolling or deep-drawing is influenced, how it changes throughout the process chain or what impact it has on subsequent component behaviour. The CRC/Transregio "Damage Controlled Forming Processes" therefore aims to develop new methods and technologies to control and predict damage as well as component characteristics. 
(Host university: Technical University of Dortmund, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. A. Erman Tekkaya; additional applicant university: RWTH Aachen University)

The aim of the CRC/Transregio "Mobile Material Characterisation and Localisation by Electromagnetic Sensing" is to trial new approaches to mobile material detectors. This would enable the material properties of any object to be determined, even if it were concealed behind a wall, making it possible to locate unconscious persons in a building filled with smoke or contaminated with poisonous gases, or to detect burning cables inside walls, for example. To achieve this it is necessary to develop mobile detectors that record data in a frequency range from several gigahertz to terahertz, which can be used to precisely localise and characterise a complex environment. 
(Host university: University of Duisburg-Essen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Thomas Kaiser; additional applicant university: University of Bochum)

Myeloid cells - the immune cells of the brain - play an important role in the function of the central nervous system. They are the focus of the work of the CRC/Transregio "Development, Function and Potential of Myeloid Cells in the Central Nervous System (NeuroMac)". Using some of the latest methods in molecular immunology and neuroscience, such as in-vivo microscopy and genome editing, the researchers will investigate the role of myeloid cells in diseases such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease. 
(Host university: University of Freiburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Marco Prinz; additional applicant universities: Free University of Berlin and Humboldt University of Berlin)

The Collaborative Research Centre "N-Heteropolycycles as Functional Materials" is concerned with the field of organic electronics and will investigate new, entirely organic semiconductors. As the fundamental building blocks for semiconductors, the research network will use what are known as N-heteropolycycles and study their characteristics. The researchers intend to address the complete spectrum of chemical synthesis, method development and the physical and theoretical characterisation of organic semiconductors, including the question of the effects of the material properties of N-heteropolycycles in optoelectronic components, such as solar cells. 
(Host university: University of Heidelberg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Lutz H. Gade)

In algebra, where exact calculations are essential, modern supercomputers with mathematical software have enormous computing potential which so far has not been fully exploited. The researchers in the CRC/Transregio "Symbolic Tools in Mathematics and their Application" plan to further develop existing computer algebra systems which they have largely developed themselves and in doing so, answer fundamental questions in mathematics. They also plan to make the software available as an open-source system. 
(Host university: Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Gunter Malle; additional applicant universities: RWTH Aachen University; Saarland University)

Symplectic geometry has its roots in classical mechanics, where it enables a coordinate-free formulation of the basic equations of motion and therefore a deeper understanding of the underlying dynamics. The CRC/Transregio "Symplectic Structures in Geometry, Algebra and Dynamics" will investigate symplectic structures and the application of symplectic techniques to topics in geometry, algebra, dynamic systems, topology, combinatorics and optimisation. The network will forge links with disciplines in which the potential of a symplectic approach has been little or not fully realised or which themselves can contribute new methodologies to the study of symplectic questions, for example computer science. 
(Host university: University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hansjörg Geiges; additional applicant university: University of Bochum)

How is information organised and structured in language? The factor of 'prominence' plays a central role in the formation of language structures. Through its formulated question, the Collaborative Research Centre "Prominence in Language" will bring together many areas of linguistics, such as phonetics/phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics and discourse. It will also investigate the relationships between linguistic prominence and general cognitive mechanisms such as the accentuation of attention, thus forging links with psychology and clinical linguistics. 
(Host university: University of Cologne, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Klaus von Heusinger)

Contrary to a long-held view, bacteria are highly organised units whose function is guaranteed by the precise positioning of biomolecules inside them. The CRC/Transregio "Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Bacterial Cells" will consider many different aspects of cellular organisation, such as the spatiotemporal regulation of cell division, growth and morphogenesis, the organisation and segregation of chromosomal DNA and the dynamics of the formation of (membrane) protein complexes. In this way, the CRC/Transregio aims to identify the molecular systems responsible for controlling these cellular processes and better understand the spatiotemporal dynamics of bacterial cells. 
(Host university: University of Marburg, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Martin Rudolf Thanbichler; additional applicant university: LMU Munich)

The CRC/Transregio "Rationality and Competition: The Economic Performance of Individuals and Firms" brings together representatives of behavioural economics and neoclassical economics. They aim to explain how distortions and anomalies in the behaviour of individuals and companies are connected and what economic policy measures can effectively protect consumers and employees against poor decisions and exploitation. 
(Host university: LMU Munich, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Klaus Schmidt; additional applicant university: Humboldt University of Berlin)

A Munich-based Collaborative Research Centre will investigate "Neutrinos and Dark Matter in Astro- and Particle Physics (NDM)". The researchers are primarily interested in neutrinos, the most common particles of matter in the universe, and dark matter, which is responsible for cosmic dynamics on galactic and even larger scales. Among the topics they will address is the still unanswered question of whether neutrinos are their own antiparticles and whether they have sterile partners. The answer to this question could explain why our world consists of more matter than antimatter. 
(Host university: Technical University of Munich, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Elisa Resconi)

The high resource demands of construction, a fast-growing world population, especially in urban areas, and the changing needs of inhabitants create a need for fundamentally new architectural concepts. The aim of the Collaborative Research Centre "Adaptive Envelopes and Structures for the Future Built Environment" is therefore to develop concepts for adaptive buildings. The network will investigate the potential of adaptive elements for load-bearing structures, envelope systems and interior fittings, with a view to designing buildings which can actively react to external influences. 
(Host university: University of Stuttgart, Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Werner Sobek)

Our sense of sight enables us to identify objects reliably even under very different conditions; we therefore have robust visual inference. This ability demands complex calculations, which are performed by the nerve cells in the visual system. The aim of the Collaborative Research Centre "Robust Vision - Inference Principles and Neural Mechanisms" is to uncover the principles and algorithms that make robust vision possible. The researchers will also use technical algorithms of human learning and computer vision research to draw conclusions about biological vision. 
(Host university: University of Tübingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Matthias Bethge)

Predicting the extent to which pollutants will remain in and alter our landscapes in the long term is a major challenge in geosciences and environmental research, all the more so as the extremely complex processes are very difficult to measure with laboratory experiments. The Collaborative Research Centre "Catchments as Reactors: Metabolism of Pollutants on the Landscape Scale (CAMPOS)" will therefore investigate the transport and conversion of pollutants in the large-scale and long-term process chains found in nature. The researchers will utilise innovative observation systems and numerical landscape models with a view to laying the foundations for more reliable predictions about future soil and water quality in the face of climate and land use change. 
(Host university: University of Tübingen, Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Grathwohl)

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