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University of Cologne wins four Clusters of Excellence

The German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Science Council (WR) announced the successful Clusters of Excellence in the national Excellence Strategy competition on 27 September. With the Excellence Strategy, the German federal and state governments want to strengthen the academic landscape in Germany and further promote the country’s top position in the international competition of universities. 

The German federal and state governments will fund four Clusters of Excellence at the University of Cologne. This means that all UoC proposals were successful. ‘We are overjoyed that the University of Cologne was able to convince the commission with four outstanding projects’, says Professor Axel Freimuth, Rector of the University of Cologne.  

Of the 88 full proposals submitted, the Excellence Commission selected 57 Clusters of Excellence for funding at 34 universities. The awarding of at least two Clusters of Excellence qualifies universities to apply for the status of a University of Excellence, which will be announced in the summer of 2019.

The successful Clusters of Excellence at the University of Cologne are:

CECAD – Cluster of Excellence in Aging Research
Demographic change and an aging society pose significant challenges by raising the costs of health care. The well-established CECAD Cluster of Excellence for Aging Research explores the biological and medical foundations of the aging process and searches for possibilities to extend the health span. After the first two funding periods, CECAD now wants to focus on the interactions among organs: How do the liver and the brain, or the heart and the muscles communicate? ‘We are very excited that our success in this competition will allow us to take the next step: from basic research towards clinical application’, says Professor Thomas Langer from the University of Cologne.
The Cluster of Excellence in Aging Research is a cooperation of the University of Cologne, Cologne University Hospital, the Max Planck Institutes for Metabolism Research and Biology of Aging as well as the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE). The University of Cologne is the managing university.
More information: cecad.uni-koeln.de

CEPLAS – Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences
Climate change and the increasing demand for food pose an enormous challenge to sustainable food production and the preservation of ecosystems. The aim of the scientists at the Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS) is to lay the foundation for the development and breeding of crop plants that will predictably react to future challenges and reliably ensure food security. CEPLAS investigates how plants adapt to changing environmental conditions, how they can thrive in almost any habitat and how agriculture can profit from this knowledge.
Professor Stanislav Kopriva, CEPLAS spokesperson at the University of Cologne, on the continued funding for the Cluster: ‘The recognition of the important role of plant sciences for the future of our society is a wonderful opportunity for all of us in Cologne, Düsseldorf and Jülich to make a difference.’
The Cluster of Excellence CEPLAS is a cooperation of the Universities of Cologne and Düsseldorf as well as the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and Forschungszentrum Jülich. The University of Düsseldorf is the managing university.
More information: ceplas.eu

Cluster of Excellence ECONtribute: Markets & Public Policy
The new Cluster of Excellence in economics of the Universities of Cologne and Bonn conducts research on markets, focusing on the tension between business, politics and society (public policy). The aim of the scientists involved in the Cluster is to better understand markets and to develop a new paradigm for the analysis of market failure that goes beyond traditional approaches and takes current political, social and technological challenges into account. ‘We are very happy about the funding. With ECONtribute, we want to hazard a new, comprehensive perspective on markets. Financial crises, the need to regulate digital markets or increasing inequality – traditional perspectives no longer suffice to understand these things. With ECONtribute, we will not only further develop insights from the field of economics, but also from political science, psychology and law’, says Professor Felix Bierbrauer, the designated spokesperson of the Cluster at the University of Cologne.
Social concerns such as fairness, social mobility and social responsibility should be taken into account in the design of markets. In the work of the Cluster, these objectives will be systematically integrated into the analysis of incentives, market mechanisms and political decision-making processes. Professor Isabel Schnabel, designated spokesperson at the University of Bonn, says, ‘We will provide new answers to the question of how markets produce good results and in which cases more political regulation is needed. To achieve this, we will rely on close exchange with political decision makers and the public sphere. We want the ECONtribute network to establish an entirely new dialogue between top research and policy.’ The ECONtribute Cluster will meet the new challenges of markets under the roof of the Reinhard Selten Institute, which both universities founded last year. It is the only Cluster in economics.
More information: selten.institute/econtribute/

Cluster of Excellence ML4Q – Matter and Light for Quantum Computing
The aim of the Cluster of Excellence is to develop new computing and networking architectures using the principle of quantum mechanics. ‘We want to contribute to accelerating the promising developments this field has seen in recent years. For us and our partners, the funding provided in the Excellence Strategy opens up exciting new opportunities’, says the designated spokesperson of the Cluster, Professor Yoichi Ando from the Physics Institute II at the University of Cologne.
In quantum computers, extremely fast processing units are modularly constructed and connected to each other. This new generation of computers could contribute to resolving many pressing challenges of humanity, such as the design of new materials and drugs, making communication safer or developing environmentally safe fertilizers. The computing and networking capacity of these quantum architectures would by far surpass that of existing technologies.
Physicists and engineers have made significant progress in the development of quantum computers in recent years, but the technology is not yet ready for meaningful applications. ‘However, the progress we have seen shows that there is no fundamental reason which hinders the realization of a quantum computer’, adds Ando.
Matter and Light for Quantum Computing is a cooperation of the University of Cologne, the University of Bonn, RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich. The University of Cologne is the managing university.
More information: ml4q.uni-koeln.de/


Media Enquiries:
Dr. Patrick Honecker
+49 221 470 2202
p.honecker(at)verw.uni-koeln.de