Excellence Strategy: three successful proposals


A great success for the University of Würzburg in the first round of the Excellence Strategy: expert committee approves three draft proposals for Excellence Clusters in the fields of physics, chemistry and medicine.

JMU flags. (Photo: Daniel Peter)
JMU flags. (Photo: Daniel Peter)

Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) has overcome the first hurdle in the Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state governments: The German Research Foundation (DFG) announced that the University is invited to flesh out its applications for setting up three research clusters together with the corresponding partner universities and resubmit them for appraisal.

"We are very happy about this nice success for our university," says Alfred Forchel, the University President. "I thank all successful applicants in the departments and our Research Advancement Centre for their outstanding commitment. Unfortunately, two of our cluster applications did not make it to the next round. I would like to thank the colleagues involved for their great work."

Cluster of Excellence "Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter"

Novel materials with custom-tailored functions are the basis of progress in virtually all areas of modern technology: from information processing to energy supply and medical engineering. The Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter cluster, short ct.qmat, focuses on quantum mechanics at the atomic level, which combined with topological physics and the chemical and physical complexity, produces unprecedented properties and phenomena. This cluster application is submitted jointly with the University of Dresden.

Professor Ralph Claessen (Würzburg) and Professor Matthias Vojta (Dresden) are the spokesmen.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Ralf Claessen, Chair of Experimental Physics IV, T: +49 931 31-85732,

Cluster of Excellence "Periodic Table of the Supramolecular Elements"

New materials based on complex molecular, biomolecular and macromolecular structures are at the centre of the successful draft proposal of the University of Würzburg for a joint Excellence Cluster with the University of Bayreuth. For this project, the two universities can build on research excellence in their respective profile fields "polymer and colloid research" and "molecular chemistry and materials" as well as on their cooperation with the Bavarian Polymer Institute (BPI).

With the development of a periodic table of supramolecular elements, the envisaged Excellence Cluster is set to design functional nanosystems which are based on uniform molecules and molecular aggregates. The structure of these supramolecular nanosystems will resemble natural systems as formed in living organisms. Additional functions and hierarchical structures will make these systems highly attractive for technological applications, too, for example in bioelectronics.

"Our goal is to understand the molecular and macromolecular self-organisation at multiple length and time scales and to use them to construct complex materials. Our priority in this context is to include highly motivated young scientists in these research activities," Professor Frank Würthner details one of the cluster goals; he is the cluster's spokesman at the University of Würzburg. 

"The special appeal of our cluster will be to combine the molecular and supramolecular chemistry in Würzburg with the polymer research in Bayreuth to produce a powerful domain of research," says Professor Hans-Werner Schmidt, the cluster's spokesman at the University of Bayreuth.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Frank Würthner, Chair of Organic Chemistry II, T.: +49 931 31-85340, 


Center for Nanosystems Chemistry (

Bavarian Polymer Institute (

Cluster of Excellence "Enlightening the Receptome"

The "receptome", i.e. the sum of all receptor molecules of an organism which are the target of various therapeutic application options, accounts for more than five percent of the known proteins of this organism. The pharmacological use of receptors is one of the most successful concepts of biomedical research of the last century. So it is not surprising that research in this field has led to the discovery and development of numerous substances that bind to specific receptors. Despite its key relevance for therapy, the knowledge of the number and variety of receptors in the different cell types and cell stages, their distribution, interaction and molecular function is still very limited.

The Cluster of Excellence "Enlightening the Receptome": From Biophysics to Clinical Application" therefore aims to systematically unravel the receptome and harness it to treat diseases. The participating scientists want to study the receptome at all levels using molecular mechanisms and functions down to the cellular interactions in a healthy and sick organism. The newly gleaned knowledge will be used directly to develop new molecular screening methods and personalised therapies.

The application is jointly submitted by the universities of Würzburg and Jena; Professor Markus Sauer (Würzburg), Professor Klaus Benndorf and Professor Christian Hübner (Jena) are the spokesmen.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Markus Sauer, Chair of Biotechnology and Biophysics, T: +49 931 31-88687,

About the Excellence Strategy

The Excellence Strategy was adopted in June 2016 by the German federal and state governments and is designed to continue the previous Excellence Initiative. The overall programme will be funded with EUR 80 million in 2017 and from 2018 with EUR 533 million each year. The money will be allocated on two funding lines:

In the Excellence Clusters, individual projects are funded in internationally competitive fields of research in universities and university partnerships. The deadline for submitting draft proposals was 3 April 2017. 195 such proposals in total from 63 universities were submitted to the DFG. 21 panels with international members reviewed these applications over the past months. An expert committee consisting of 39 scientists, which work mostly abroad, has now decided that 88 draft proposals will be invited to proceed to the full proposal stage to enter the final round – including the draft proposals from JMU.

By 21 February 2018, the selected draft proposals will now have to be elaborated into funding applications to be submitted to the DFG. The final decision will be made in September 2018 by the so-called Commission of Excellence; funding of the 45 to 50 Clusters of Excellence will begin on 1 January 2019.

The administrative agreement envisages funding for the Clusters of Excellence in the amount of approximately EUR 385 million per year.

The second pillar of the Excellence Strategy are the Excellence Universities. As a prerequisite, at least two Excellence Clusters have to be approved (at least three for university partnerships).