Bonn The winners of the strategy for excellence were named - and the local university is the great winner. Now the college can apply for the official title of „University of Excellence“.
The whole thing got off to a poor start. The broadcast of the significant press conference after two years of preparation only began after a 20 minute delay and then also without any sound.
The German Research Association (DFG) had a technical problem. But only five minutes later, the tension in the still nameless brand-new lecture hall 7 on the campus in Poppelsdorf gave way to a boundless buzz.
"Beyond Slavery!“, shouts Michael Hoch, around him scientists, employees, students, who were shortlisted with seven funding applications for the future funded excellence clusters. Then everything happened at once. Hausdorff-Center, ImmuniSensation, and also the agricultural scientists are among the names announced.
„Folks, we got six clusters“, exclaims Hoch after a loud whoop, „I’ve got tears in my eyes“. The excitement was huge amongst all present. Grown-up leading researchers were hugging each other like soccer players in the team dressingroom. A catering service brought Kölsch into the foyer by the case.
„Next thing we’ll nab the Nobel prize“, said one of them who may have a justified hope of getting one, and clinked glasses with his colleagues. And in the middle there was Fields Medal winner Peter Scholze, smiling silently, hands in his pockets, and he said: „I like being in Bonn.“
Only a few kilometres from here, representatives from the federal state, the federal provinces, the DFG and the science council announced the results of the nationwide competition for the 57 future funded excellence clusters. While the university management was eagerly awaiting the decision, the last discussions took place in the science centre in Bad Godesberg.
When the „academic quarter“ was used up at 4.15pm, the commission for excellence was finally ready to announce their decision - almost exactly two years since the start of the procedure. All involved were united in understanding the importance of this particular Thursday in September.
„A day which opens a new chapter for leading research in Germany“, said Federal Science Minister Anja Karliczek. Peter Strohschneider, president of the German Research Association, who was responsible for the implementation of the procedure, called it „a date which can hardly be overvalued for the research field in the Federal Republic“.
Everybody agreed also regarding the quality of the submitted research objects. They had a choice between „good and even better applications“, said Strohschneider. This also showed in the amount of honored clusters: Instead of the originally 45 applications 57 of 88 applications were granted funding.
„Even the universities which didn’t win are also winners“, emphasised Eva Quante-Brandt, Science Senator in Bremen and deputy GWK chairwoman. They had good opportunities to apply for other funding. Quante-Brandt was also delighted that the applications were so diverse: „The top applications were widely diverse.“ German leading research is on a good path.
Universities newly set up
This was not only thanks to the excellence initiative, which is now replaced by the excellence strategy. The universities approached differently and sharpened their profiles, praised Karliczek. Copying attempts in China, South Korea and Austria had shown that the „dynamic of German research“ has attracted world wide attention.
Amongst the 34 honored universities the university of Bonn stands out: No other university and no other group has won that many clusters. Four individual applications and two cooperations have been honored; only one application was remained unplaced. Happy days also in Cologne: there, four applications won, three of these are cooperations.
Bonn stood out because also smaller faculties like arts and social science had applied, said Karliczek in an interview with the GA. „Often those departments find the debate difficult because their discussions are too differentiated.“ Bonn and Cologne are thus among the 19 universities and groups which are now allowed to apply for the title „University of Excellence“.
The financing of that funding line also benefits „doctrine, infrastructure and transfer“, explained the chairwoman of the Science Council, Martina Brockmeier. The decision in this regard will be made in July - again in Bonn. Briefly after the announcement of the results, the sound was switched off in lecture hall 7.
„We are completely overwhelmed“, said Andreas Zimmer, vice deacon and responsible for research and innovation. For a long time there has been no similar solidarity in the university as during the preparation for the applications. At the end there’s now the „succes of the ‚we‘“, which nobody had suspected to be possible at this point.
Lord Mayor speaks of sensation
Also Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan allowed himself to be infected by the joy. He spoke of a „sensation“ before he had to leave for a council meeting. Isabel Peiffer-Poensgen, who came from the science centre to Poppelsdorf, enjoyed/took more time. „The quality overall was very high“, she said. The Rhine region was setting a pleasing counterpoint to the research centres like for example in Berlin or Munich. The applications were discussed tenaciously from 9am until 6pm.
„We had to fight some tough fights“, said Pfeifer-Poensgen, slightly tired, „don’t embarrass us.“ She was looking forward to a bite to eat with her state secretary Annette Storsberg. Others would love to start the work immediately. Two agricultural scientists demonstratively pulled up with two tractors. Cluster member Jan Berner said he was looking forward to „more space, more staff and more projects“.
It was a major success that the only agricultural faculty in North Rhine-Westphalia has been recognised across the regional borders now as well. The quantum physicists were also delighted. The professional cooperation with the participating unit and the research centre Jülich will grow increasingly, Bonn’s cluster spokesperson Martin Weitz believes. Bonn gets two new professorships due to the Cluster and the students will benefit from a number of exciting subjects for master theses and dissertations.
But first, it’s party time. And also, the scientists of the seventh application - „CASCADE“ - should not remain empty-handed. „We decided amongst the directorate that we will pursuit that subject and support it“, explained Hoch, before he climbed onto a tractor for a little spin. Original text: Martin Wein, Katharina Weber Translation: Mareike Graepel