Austria’s First Clusters of Excellence

With the initiative excellent=austria, Austria is opening a new chapter in basic research: Starting in summer 2023, five Clusters of Excellence will be kicking off cooperative projects on an unprecedented scale at 11 different locations. The FWF and the participating research institutions are providing a total investment volume of €135 million to finance cutting-edge research on future-oriented topics for the first five years of the planned ten-year duration.

Focus on key issues such as energy, health,and the knowledge crisis

Austria’s new Clusters of Excellence serve to advance basic research on key topics at the highest scientific level: Energy storage, quantum technologies, global health, the future of knowledge, and the cultural heritage of Eurasia. The funding can be used to establish long-term structures and attractive research conditions and boost international visibility at the participating institutions. Clusters of Excellence are characterized by a successful combination of cutting-edge research, research-led education, and the advancement of junior researchers, as well as an exchange of knowledge at national and international levels. Collaborations with the business community and the public to facilitate knowledge and technology transfer are another key element of the Clusters.

Joint funding with participating universities and institutions

The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) provides 60% of the funding volume for the individual Clusters, and the remaining 40% comes from the participating research institutions’ own funds. The FWF alone will be investing between €9 and 21 million per Cluster. In total, the FWF will be providing around €81 million for the first five years, €13 million of which will come from NextGenerationEU funding from the European Union. Around €54 million will be contributed by the participating institutions - a record-breaking amount for basic research projects in Austria.

Austria’s largest collaborative projects in six provinces

Researchers from 11 universities and non-academic research institutions will be working together in the five new Clusters of Excellence. The University of Vienna is involved in all five Clusters, and the University of Innsbruck, TU Wien, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Science and Technology Austria will be contributing to three Clusters each. The University of Linz and the Central European University are involved in two Clusters, while the Austrian Institute of Technology, the Medical University of Graz, the University of Graz, and the University of Salzburg complete the Clusters of Excellence by participating in one Cluster each. Teams of over 100 researchers will be collaborating in each Cluster over a period of five years.

Overview of all Clusters of Excellence

Funding Program


Finanziert von der Europäischen Union

Logo excellent=austria

Clusters of Excellence at a glance

EurAsian Transformations

EurAsian Transformations
Cluster of Excellence Eurasien - Board of Directors
The members of the Board of Directors (left to right): Tijana Krstić, Birgit Kellner, Walther Pohl, Claudia Rapp, Jens Oliver Schmitt, Melanie Malzahn, Robert Rollinger © FWF/Daniel Novotny

The “Eurasian Miracle” (Jack Goody) developed over the course of three millennia, from Central Europe to Asia: historical transformation processes that continue to have an impact even on modern times. The growth and decline of empires, environmental changes, and mobility and migration affected economic developments, resulting in new constructions of identity and strategies of exclusion in societies and religions. Historical sources from this period are preserved in a variety of languages and writings. The cultural heritage of this large region is in many cases still waiting to be processed and analyzed.

A team of 31 Austrian scientists at four institutions will be dedicating themselves to researching these topics in dialog with international partners and training a new generation of doctoral students and junior researchers with broad skills in research-led teaching.

“Political attention is focusing increasingly on the region from Europe to Asia. This Cluster allows us to take a unique approach combining basic research, innovative research methods, and the training of a new generation with broad skills. We want to delve deep into the region’s history and participate in the global discourse," says Claudia Rapp, Director of Research, about the new Cluster of Excellence.

Board of Directors

Claudia Rapp (Director of Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Birgit Kellner (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Tijana Krstić (Central European University)

Melanie Malzahn (University of Vienna)

Walter Pohl (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Robert Rollinger (University of Innsbruck)

Jens Oliver Schmitt (University of Vienna)

FWF funding volume

€9.2 million for five years

Microbiomes Drive Planetary Health

Microbiomes Drive Planetary Health
Board of directors and logos of all research institutions
The members of the Board of Directors (left to right): Leonid Sazanov, Christina Kaiser, Alexander Moschen, Michael Wagner, Bernhard Lendl, Christine Moissl-Eichinger, Andreas Bergthaler, Angela Sessitsch © FWF/Daniel Novotny

Microbiomes - communities of microorganisms that colonize all ecosystems and living organisms - are essential for the health of our planet and all its inhabitants. In this Cluster of Excellence, 30 scientists from a range of disciplines and seven different research institutions are working to decipher common basic principles of environmental microbiomes and human microbiomes. The goal is to understand how microbiomes control the health of our planet. With this knowledge, global change will become more predictable while enabling us to target microbiomes as an innovative solution for a sustainable future.

“In our Cluster of Excellence, we are creating completely new synergies by dissolving the boundaries between red and green microbiome research in Austria and directly linking medicine with environmental research. We want to learn to understand the basic principles of microbiomes in order to then strengthen our planet’s health by modeling and targeting them,” says Michael Wagner, Director of Research of the Cluster of Excellence.

Board of Directors

Michael Wagner (Director of Research, University of Vienna)

Andreas Bergthaler (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Christina Kaiser (University of Vienna)

Bernhard Lendl (TU Wien)

Christine Moissl-Eichinger (Medical University of Graz)

Alexander Moschen (University of Linz)

Leonid Sazanov (Institute of Science and Technology Austria)

Angela Sessitsch (Austrian Institute of Technology)

FWF funding volume

€21 million

Knowledge in Crisis

Knowledge in Crisis
Board of Directors and logos of the research institutions
The members of the Board of Directors (left to right): Katalin Farkas, Marian David, Paulina Sliwa, Max Kölbel, Tim Crane, Hans Bernhard Schmid, Charlotte Werndl © FWF/Daniel Novotny

Today we face a crisis of knowledge. Our claims to knowledge are being threatened by rapid and spectacular developments in technology, and by attacks on the very ideas of knowledge and truth themselves. The flood of information on the internet challenges our ability to tell truth from falsehood, and there is a widespread rejection of the standards of scientific evidence and expertise. The crisis raises deep philosophical questions about knowledge, truth, science, ethics, and politics, and ultimately about our relationship to reality itself. These questions will be addressed in entirely new ways by this Cluster of Excellence, which will work to understand the crisis of knowledge in all its manifestations, and to find ways to combat it and reshape our relationship to knowledge.

“This Cluster of Excellence will address fundamental questions about knowledge, many of which have deep social, ethical, and political relevance, by linking many different areas of philosophy which normally function independently. This is something that never has been done before in philosophical research,” says Tim Crane, Director of Research of the Cluster of Excellence.

Board of Directors

Tim Crane (Director of Research, Central European University)

Marian David (Universität Graz)

Katalin Farkas (Central European University)

Max Kölbel (Universität Wien)

Hans Bernhard Schmid (Universität Wien)

Paulina Sliwa (Universität Wien)

Charlotte Werndl (Universität Salzburg)

FWF funding volume

€8.9 million for five years

Quantum Science Austria

Quantum Science Austria
  Board of Directors and logos of the research institutions
The members of the Board of Directors (left to right): Armando Rastelli, Hannes-Jörg Schmiedmayer, Francesca Ferlaino, Gregor Weihs, Oriol Romero-Isart, Markus Aspelmeyer © FWF/Daniel Novotny

The Second Quantum Revolution - the breathtaking development of modern quantum science - would have been inconceivable without groundbreaking contributions from Austria. Based on these discoveries, quantum technologies are being developed today that surpass traditional technologies in many areas. The Cluster of Excellence “Quantum Science Austria” aims to advance basic research in quantum science and expand the frontiers of knowledge, making it a driver for future innovations. Its focus is on fundamental questions about the quantum nature of space, time, and gravity, new paradigms in quantum information science, and the physics of quantum many-body systems. The Cluster’s researchers in Innsbruck, Vienna, Linz, and Klosterneuburg are asking innovative, groundbreaking questions that can only be solved by uniting the unique expertise available in Austria. With well-controlled model systems based on trapped ions, ultracold atoms, long-range interacting systems, superconducting quantum circuits, and nanoscopic solid-state systems, they aim to unravel the most complex mysteries of the quantum world.

“Austria has developed into a global leader in quantum physics over the past three decades, as demonstrated by the Nobel Prize for Anton Zeilinger. This development is in part thanks to the very close cooperation between different research groups in Austria. With the new Cluster of Excellence, we can further strengthen these collaborations and establish an internationally visible center of quantum science in Austria that will attract the best minds to Austria,” says Gregor Weihs, Director of Research, about the Cluster of Excellence’s goals.

Board of Directors

Gregor Weihs (Director of Research, University of Innsbruck)

Markus Aspelmeyer (University of Vienna)

Francesca Ferlaino (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Johannes Fink (Institute of Science and Technology Austria, not shown)

Armando Rastelli (University of Linz)

Oriol Romero-Isart (University of Innsbruck)

Hannes-Jörg Schmiedmayer (TU Wien )

FWF funding volume

€21 million for five years

Materials for Energy Conversion and Storage

Materials for Energy Conversion and Storage
Board of Directors and logos of the research institutions
The members of the Board of Directors (left to right): Ulrike Diebold, Stefan Freunberger, Günther Rupprechter, Leticia González, Julia Kunze-Liebhäuser © FWF/Daniel Novotny

The continued burning of fossil fuels to meet our growing demand for energy has brought the world to the brink of a climate crisis. In this Cluster of Excellence, researchers are working to create new technologies for efficient energy conversion and storage, paving the way to a fossil fuel-free society. One key factor is the storage of renewable energy in recyclable energy carriers: water can be split into hydrogen and oxygen, and CO2 can be converted into higher-value products - even climate-neutral substitutes for natural gas and crude oil.

To fulfil this purpose, the researchers aim to develop catalysts on which chemical reactions can take place quickly and reliably. The Cluster will bundle expertise from various fields such as surface chemistry, surface physics, materials science, and computer simulation. The work of this Cluster of Excellence is an important step towards climate neutrality.

“It's already five minutes past 12. The energy transition can only be achieved if the best minds in materials research work together to develop innovative, climate-neutral ways of storing renewable energy. With this Cluster of Excellence, Austria is making a contribution to mastering this global challenge,” says Günther Rupprechter, Director of Research, about the new Cluster of Excellence.

Board of Directors

Günther Rupprechter (Director of Research, TU Wien)

Ulrike Diebold (Vienna University of Technology)

Stefan Freunberger (Institute of Science and Technology Austria)

Leticia González (University of Vienna)

Julia Kunze-Liebhäuser (University of Innsbruck)

FWF funding volume

€20.6 million for five years

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