Von links nach rechts: FWF-Präsident Christof Gattringer, Sepp Hochreiter (Universität Linz), Wissenschaftsminister Martin Polaschek, FWF-Vizepräsidentin Ursula Jakubek, Frank Madeo (Universität Graz) bei der Bekanntgabe der neuen Exzellenzcluster
From left to right: FWF President Christof Gattringer, Sepp Hochreiter (University of Linz), Minister of Science Martin Polaschek, FWF Vice-President Ursula Jakubek, and Frank Madeo (University of Graz) at the announcement of the new Clusters of Excellence. © FWF/Cristine Miess

The next funding awards in the federal government's excellent=austria initiative to expand top-level research at universities and non-academic research institutions have been announced. Based on a recommendation by the international jury, the FWF's Scientific Board approved two further Clusters of Excellence from the first round of calls, successfully completing an additional short-track procedure conducted in addition to the original multi-stage decision-making process.

Science Minister Martin Polaschek and FWF President Christof Gattringer congratulate the successful researchers

"With the funding of two new Clusters of Excellence, bringing the total to seven, Austria is further strengthening its position as one of Europe’s most research-intensive countries, as the recently forecast research quota of 3.34% shows. The joint investment of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and the FWF, amounting to €37.7 million, funds collaborations between universities and non-university research institutions in their areas of strength. This enables the creation of internationally competitive framework conditions for cutting-edge research in Austria. New findings in the important forward-looking fields of research on aging and artificial intelligence will not only benefit the research locations, but society as a whole. “I would like to congratulate all researchers and their research institutions on the Cluster of Excellence funding," said Martin Polaschek, Minister of Education, Science and Research.

“Today marks a further milestone for cutting-edge research in Austria. Together with the research institutions, the FWF is expanding the structures for large-scale inter-institutional projects. I would also like to congratulate the two new Clusters and wish them every success with their research projects,” said FWF President Christof Gattringer.

Two more Clusters of Excellence at research institutions in five Austrian states

The two new Clusters of Excellence include researchers from nine universities and non-university research institutions: the University of Graz, the Medical University of Graz, and the Medical University of Vienna are involved in the Cluster of Excellence on research on aging, and the University of Linz, the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA), TU Wien, the Graz University of Technology, the University of Klagenfurt, and WU Vienna University of Economics and Business will be participating in the Cluster of Excellence on artificial intelligence. Teams of over 100 researchers will be collaborating in each Cluster over a period of five years.

Focus on aging and artificial intelligence

Austria's next Clusters of Excellence will advance basic research at the highest scientific level in the forward-looking fields of research on aging and artificial intelligence. 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 budgets. In total, the FWF will be providing around €37.7 million for the first five years, and €25.4 million will be provided by the participating institutions themselves.

Austria's Next Clusters of Excellence at a Glance

Cluster of Excellence “Metabolic Control of Aging and Disease”

Board of Directors des Exzellenzclusters „Metabolic Control of Aging and Disease“
© FWF/Daniel Novotny

New strategies for healthy aging

Researchers from the University of Graz, together with colleagues from the Medical Universities of Graz and Vienna, will study the regulation of healthy aging as part of this Cluster of Excellence. Under the acronym “MetAGE,” the researchers are investigating how metabolic control disorders influence the risk of age-related diseases. At the same time, clinical testing will focus on targeted nutritional interventions. The special feature of this Cluster of Excellence is that findings from basic research in model organisms will be transferred directly into clinical research. The idea is to encourage prevention – turning “medicine against illness” into “medicine for health” in the future.

“Combining research into human aging with basic research is at the core of our Cluster of Excellence. While life expectancy is generally increasing, the healthy lifespan is not increasing to the same extent, which ultimately means an increased risk of age-related diseases. Our project is primarily aimed at extending the health span, i.e. helping people achieve as many active and enjoyable years as possible,” says Frank Madeo, Director of Research, about the objectives of the Cluster of Excellence.

Board of Directors and participating research institutions

  • Brigitte Pertschy (University of Graz)
  • Thomas Pieber (Medical University of Graz)
  • Frank Madeo (Director of Research, University of Graz)
  • Thomas Scherer (Medical University of Vienna)
  • Martina Schweiger (University of Graz)
  • Gernot Faustmann (University of Graz, not pictured)
  • Sabrina Zimmermann (University of Graz, not pictured)

FWF funding volume

€17.9 million

Cluster of Excellence "Bilateral Artificial Intelligence"

Board of Directors des Exzellenzclusters „Bilateral Artificial Intelligence“
© FWF/Daniel Novotny

Discovering new dimensions of AI

The “Bilateral AI” research project, coordinated by the Johannes Kepler University Linz, combines the two most important strands of research in the field of artificial intelligence to date: sub-symbolic AI (machine learning) and symbolic AI (knowledge representation and reasoning). The project will now be bringing together both approaches, with the common goal of developing the foundations of “Broad AI.” Broad AI could be capable of coming to its own conclusions and demonstrating comprehensive cognitive abilities. While existing AI programs like ChatGPT are currently causing a sensation, they ultimately only evaluate existing data. New AI systems could plan better, adapt quickly to changing situations, and become creative in a broader sense.

“Broad AI could help to make our everyday lives, as well as systemically relevant areas and processes such as energy, transport, and healthcare, more ecologically sustainable, efficient, and resource-friendly," says Sepp Hochreiter, Director of Research, about the new Cluster of Excellence.

Board of Directors and participating research institutions

  • Agata Ciabattoni (TU Wien)
  • Christoph Lampert (Institute of Science and Technology
    Austria, ISTA)
  • Sepp Hochreiter (Director of Research, Johannes Kepler
    University Linz)
  • Gerhard Friedrich (University of Klagenfurt)
  • Martina Seidl (Johannes Kepler University Linz)
  • Thomas Eiter (TU Wien)
  • Axel Polleres (WU Vienna University of Economics and Business)
  • Robert Legenstein (Graz University of Technology, not pictured)

FWF funding volume

€19.8 million

First round of approvals for Clusters of Excellence completed

With the funding of the two additional Clusters of Excellence, the FWF has now concluded the first round of calls for proposals for the excellent=austria initiative. All seven clusters will be evaluated after five years. If this evaluation is positive, the researchers can apply for funding for a further five years.


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