The “Clusters of Excellence” grants enable large teams to further develop especially promising research areas to a world-class level. Up to €7 million a year in funding is available to each cluster to strengthen collaboration among outstanding researchers across regional, disciplinary, and institutional boundaries. Researchers of all disciplines are welcome to apply, and initial information on the programme is available now online.
Clusters of Excellence are the first of three pillars of the excellent=austria funding initiative to further strengthen Austria’s position as a top location for research within the international scientific community. A Cluster of Excellence is characterised by the successful combination of top-level research, research-based education and career development of young researchers, and the national and international exchange of knowledge. The dimension and scope of the research conducted in a cluster go far beyond what was previously possible within the FWF’s existing programme portfolio. The goal is to firmly establish this research area at several research institutions in the long term at a top international level. Clusters of Excellence contribute to boosting Austria’s innovative capacity and finding answers to the challenges of tomorrow.
Ten-year funding opportunity for long-term successful research
The amount and flexibility of research funding are critical for competing with the best researchers in the world. In the Clusters of Excellence, a total of up to €70 million (over ten years) is available to research teams to conduct forward-looking large-scale projects in basic research—the volume exceeds all previous FWF funding programmes. The annual funding volume is between two and seven million euros per year and is provided by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) (60 percent) and the participating research institutions (40 percent). As cutting-edge research in many fields relies on state-of-the-art infrastructure, funding is also available for large-scale research facilities.
Organisational structure for maximum freedom of research
Numerous researchers work together in a cluster at three or more research institutions. To ensure the most efficient cooperation possible, the basic features of the organisational structure have already been specified in the programme design. The goal is to establish a minimum of organisational structures to guarantee smooth management while at the same time offering the greatest possible flexibility and freedom to gain new knowledge and insights.
The research and organisational management of a cluster is the responsibility of a Director of Research, who is supported by a Board of Directors. Together they are responsible for the coordination of the four units of which each cluster is composed:
- The Research Unit focuses on gaining new knowledge and insights.
- The Training Unit trains and educates highly talented young researchers and promotes the career development of doctoral candidates and postdocs.
- The Communication and Transfer Unit is responsible for science communication and technology transfer and works on developing partnerships and collaborations.
- The Management Unit is responsible for the human resource and financial management of a cluster.
The use of funds can be adapted dynamically to the progress of research. Clusters can thus change course to pursue especially promising directions.
From Letter of Intent to jury hearing
Groups of researchers together with the participating research institutions have until 16 August 2021 to express their interest in the form of a Letter of Intent. This is followed by a pre-proposal (December 2021) and a full proposal (October 2022). The decision shall be made by the FWF Board at the beginning of 2023 on the basis of a hearing before an international jury. The illustration below provides an overview of the multi-stage decision-making process. The detailed application guidelines for the Letter of Intent will be available as of 1 June 2021.
Webinars and advice on applying
Starting in June 2021, the FWF will offer webinars on the application process to interested researchers and representatives of research institutions. You can find dates and how to register here online.