More collaboration in cutting-edge research: 36 teams from throughout Austria are competing for a “Clusters of Excellence” grant.

The researchers and the institutions in the race for “Clusters of Excellence” grants have been determined: 36 consortia with proposals amounting to more than one billion euros are taking part in the selection procedure for Austria’s future beacons of basic research. An overview of all the submissions is now available online—and highlights the areas of strength of cooperative cutting-edge research in Austria.

In the end, they will be Austria’s largest cooperative research projects in the area of basic research, which are scheduled to begin with excellent=austria grants in 2023. The overview of the researchers submitting proposals reads like a who’s who of Austrian cutting-edge research: 36 teams including practically all national universities and other renowned research institutions are competing in the international selection procedure for a “Clusters of Excellence” grant.

“Clusters of Excellence provide researchers with unprecedented opportunities to answer pioneering research questions. Successful clusters integrate researchers from several institutions, as well as perhaps industrial partners; win the support of an international group of peers; and receive long-term funding both through the FWF as well as their own institutions. This in turn increases Austria’s attractiveness internationally as a location for research”, says Austrian Minister of Science Heinz Faßmann, expressing his satisfaction with the great interest in the first excellent=austria grants.

“The opportunity to expand cooperation within science is very promising for a small research country like Austria. The Clusters of Excellence offer attractive conditions to encourage close collaboration and to gain forward-looking insights. The research proposals submitted lead us to expect top scientific achievements”, says FWF President Christof Gattringer in reference to the first submissions.

Close ties between universities and other research institutions

The consortia submitting proposals are coordinated on the top level by 14 public universities, two non-university research institutions, and one private university. In total, the consortia bring together 32 institutions and 180 individual participations. The amount of funding requested by all clusters totals a little more than one billion euros. These figures impressively highlight the enormous potential for innovation and cooperation of Austrian cutting-edge research.

Those who can convince on the international stage receive funding

“Clusters of Excellence” grants are awarded based on the bottom-up approach, and the researchers and their institutions are free to decide which research questions they wish to pursue. Those who can convince on the international stage receive funding. The distribution of expressions of interest by research field underscores the wide variety of cutting-edge research in Austria: 10 proposals focus on the Humanities and Social Sciences, 11 on Biology and Medicine, and 15 on the Natural Sciences and Engineering.

You can find an overview of all the consortia here (pdf, 136KB) (in German)


Next step: International review of the research proposals

The next step for the consortia submitting proposals is to translate their research projects into a detailed pre-proposal. These pre-proposals will then be evaluated by international leading researchers with respect to their excellence, potential for innovation, and synergies in the summer of 2022. All teams that emerge successful from this initial review will then be eligible to submit a full proposal as the final step before the award of funding. The first clusters will be able to begin their research in March 2023.

Clusters of Excellence: A new dimension of research funding

The amount and flexibility of research funding are critical for competing with the best researchers in the world. In the Clusters of Excellence, which form the first pillar of the excellent=austria funding initiative, 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 funding programmes in the area of basic research in Austria. To make the scale clear: a Cluster of Excellence involves large teams, with outstanding research infrastructure, working together for several years. At the same time, the Cluster grants also allow for the dynamic use of funds to account for the progress of the research. Long-term collaborations between leading researchers will also be expanded across regional, institutional, and thematic boundaries.

Top-level research, education, and knowledge transfer

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 funding initiative provides groups of researchers at Austrian research institutions with the opportunity to achieve outstanding cooperative research results in one field or interdisciplinarily. The goal is to establish this research field in Austria in the long term at a top international level. Particular emphasis is also placed on equal opportunities and diversity. In addition, special importance is given to the transfer of knowledge and technology in the form of collaborations with business and society. A Cluster of Excellence is expected to take a leading role internationally in the development and expansion of its chosen research field.

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