Taking Stock After Three Years of the Excellence Strategy

Photo: UHH/von Wieding As a University of Excellence, Universität Hamburg is com
Photo: UHH/von Wieding As a University of Excellence, Universität Hamburg is committed to fostering research, teaching, knowledge exchange, research infrastructure, and internationalization.

Funding for far more than 500 people and projects, 12 additional professors, new centers dedicated to sustainability, digitalization, and knowledge exchange- since 2019, 4 clusters of excellence have been doing research on the climate, physics, and manuscript cultures. Universität Hamburg has accomplished a great deal halfway through its funding period as a University of Excellence.

In November 2019, Universität Hamburg was deemed a University of Excellence by the German Council of Science and Humanities and the German Research Foundation. It was one of only 11 universities and university collaborations in Germany to earn the distinction. The title was awarded on the basis of our flagship university concept. As the largest research institution in northern Germany, we assume a central role in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region and beyond.

Currently, Universität Hamburg is home to 4 clusters of excellence -interdisciplinary research alliances required for the title of University of Excellence. In these research alliances, researchers tackle questions in astrophysics, climate research, photon science, and written artifacts.

What has happened since then? Universität Hamburg has used the funds from the Excellence Strategy of the Federal and State Governments to establish a new degree program in the liberal arts and sciences. It has also significantly expanded the Studium Generale and the range of interdisciplinary courses. A newly founded center coordinates the courses. For the degree programs in the core research areas a total of 12 professorships have been permanently established.

Six nucleus professorships form the core of the pioneering research areas

The historian Ulf Schmidt, for example, is developing a center for this history of values and health. Stefano Panzeri is making substantial contributions to the development of neuroscience, one of 3 areas with which Universität Hamburg and the Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf would like to apply for another cluster of excellence.

Universität Hamburg-University of Excellence has created long-term institutions for socially important topics such as digitalization, sustainability, and knowledge exchange. These include the Knowledge Exchange Agency , the Digital Office, including a new chief digital officer , and the Sustainability Office headed by Laura Edinger-Schons as chief sustainability officer. Sustainability is also one of the University’s major concerns, in line with our motto: Innovating and Cooperating for a Sustainable Future.

Students, doctoral researchers, postdocs, and professors can apply for funding in a current total of 15 new funding programs. In the past 3 1/2 years, far more than 500 individual have received funding through these programs. Universität Hamburg-University of Excellence also spent around €6.5 million.

The Excellence Strategy funds have so far facilitated a stay abroad for 40 doctoral researchers from Universität Hamburg. Fifty-one researchers from abroad were able to realize research projects at the University, for example, within the context of an annual advanced fellowship. Artists can also do an advanced fellowship. To support guests from abroad, the University has established a Welcome Service with 5 staff members.

More national and international cooperation partners

Furthermore, the University has initiated several international and to some extent public conferences. At the Hamburg Vigoni Forum, participants discuss Europe and at Hamburger Horizonten current societal topics. Previous highlights include a talk on the climate by the Nobel Prize Winner Esther Duflo. This was followed in April 2023 by an event with the president of Latvia, Egils Levits.

Universität Hamburg-University of Excellence has actively fostered public understanding of science and humanities with its regular public events and activities. For example, its free public lectures , which take place throughout the city, are always completely booked. This series saw the University’s president, Hauke Heekeren, talk about his field, cognitive neuroscience and biological psychology, from atop a floating crane. On 13 June 2023, Laura Edinger-Schons, chief sustainability officer, will talk about sustainability at the circus tent in Schanzenpark.

There are also new opportunities to discover alongside established events such as Knowledge on Tap and the Children’s University Lectures: for example, an app on Hamburg’s colonial heritage or a citizen-science project that collects stories from Hamburg’s music past. You can see the internet portal Wissen für alle for information about all of these events and activities.

Below are a few of the researchers funded through the Excellence Strategy of the Federal and State Governments and who are available to take questions from the press:

The informatics student Maya Herrscher is doing her doctorate immediately following her bachelor’s through the fast-track program. She is doing research on IT-systems security.

Thanks to an Outgoing scholarship, geographer Leo van Versendaal is doing his doctorate on changes in species diversity on Madagascar and how to preserve the island country’s natural treasures.

Dr. Rogier Gerrits received funding through a postdoctoral fellowship from April 2020 to April 2023. The literature scholar researched the representation of miracles in the Early Modern Period.

Why do some people get sick while others don-t? This is the question that junior professor, human biologist, and neuroscientist Esther Diekhof asked in her research. Last year she received €26,000 from the Ideas and Venture Fond.

Nucleus professor Ulf Schmidt is looking at, among other things, the history of research ethics after World World II and of biological and chemical weapons. He recently founded the Centre for the Study of Health, Ethics, and Society.

Read here what the clusters of excellence at Universität Hamburg have achieved since funding measures began:

Taking stock of Understanding Written Artefacts

Taking stock of CUI: Advanced Imaging of Matter

Taking stock of Quantum Universe

Taking stock of Climate, Climatic Change, and Society