Over a billion Euros announced for science funding scheme to create German 'ivy league'.

Ned Stafford/Hamburg, Germany

First-round funding has been announced in a science funding scheme to create a German elite, or ’ivy league’, of universities. Chemistry-related programs account for only a small slice of the €1.9-billion (?1.275 billion) funding pie.

Life sciences were the big winners in the   €873-million first round of the program, dubbed the excellence initiative, which will finance creation of graduate schools and so-called ’excellence clusters’ with the goal being to increase international exposure of German universities and scientists.

Torsten Hotopp, programme director of the Chemistry and Process Engineering Division at the German Research Foundation (DFG), a co-administrator of the initiative, told Chemistry World: ’In the first round, none of the funded graduate schools and clusters of excellence are chemistry dominated.’

Chemistry plays a significant role in only three of the 17 excellence clusters funded in the first round, each of which will receive around €6.5 million per year over the next five years, he said. Those would be the Center for Functional Nanostructures at the University of Karlsruhe, Macromolecular Complexes at the University of Frankfurt-Main, and the Munich Center for Integrated Protein Science (CIPS) at the University of Munich, Hotopp said. He estimated that chemists would account for no more than about 30 per cent of participating scientists in any of the three clusters.

Thomas Carell, an organic chemist at the University of Munich who will be head of the CIPS excellence cluster, told Chemistry World that he uses a broader definition for chemistry. He estimates that nearly half of the two dozen scientists at CIPS could be classified as chemists, adding: ’Whenever we come down to the molecule, this is chemistry. The borderlines between chemistry, biology, physics and medicine are blurring.’

Other excellence clusters that will be of particular interest to chemists include the Nanosystems Initiative Munich at the University of Munich and Microscopy at the Nanometer Range at the University of G?ttingen.

As for the 18 graduate schools chosen in the first round, each of which will receive about €1 million per year over the next five years, chemistry plays a minor role in only two of the graduate schools, said the German Research Foundation’s Hotopp.

Another part of the program includes naming up to 10 universities as top universities, with the goal of creating world recognized names, such as Cambridge and Oxford in the UK, or Harvard and Stanford in the US. In the first round, only three universities were chosen for this honor: the University of Munich, the Technical University of Munich, and the University of Karlsruhe. Each will receive €21 million per year for the next five years.

The deadline for second - and final - round proposals from universities seeking funding was in September, with winners to be announced next October. Hotopp declined to comment on the number of second-round chemistry-related proposals, saying applications are confidential. But he noted that it was possible chemistry will play a bigger role.

’In general, we think that it is too early for a comment on the outcome, especially regarding the proportion of particular disciplines,’ he said. ’There is still one round to complete and things could look different after it.’