Hamburg University of Technology Launches New Science Funding Model (Research Group of Excellence)

The Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) is launching a new science funding model. The idea is for business and government to make equal investments in young and smart scientists at the TUHH with the aim of turning ideas into innovations faster and more sustainably. Especially in view of the high demand for research as society turns to alternative sources of energy, the path on which the TUHH has embarked with its newly established Research Group of Excellence will serve as a model for Germany. The Hamburg-based university’s aim is to strengthen technical sciences on the one hand and increase the innovative power of business enterprises on the other.

The idea is to find long-term solutions to pressing issues for the future with the help of a new research funding model that in addition to business enterprises as partners is designed to appeal to university and non-university research institutions, foundations and banks. Joint public and private sector investment will be ploughed into Green Technologies and into two other areas of expertise that TUHH President Garabed Antranikian has identified for the university: Life Science Technologies and Aviation & Maritime Systems. These three main focal points are geared to existing clusters in Hamburg, where wind energy, for one, is fast gaining ground, and which is also the world’s third most important center for aeronautics. Promotion of science in a College of Excellence like this always begins with new scientific ideas and approaches that go beyond the wish to optimize and can ultimately generate competitive products that enable enterprises to hold their own on the global market.

The TUHH itself will not be standing by while others pay. Far from it: six million euros, half of it funded from the TUHH’s own resources and half by the Ministry of Science and Research of the City of Hamburg, has been earmarked to launch the Research Group of Excellence. The big idea is to double this amount by 2018 by means of participation by research partners. To ensure the sustainability that this model is designed to deliver, after this six-year period research will continue under the auspices of an endowed chair funded by the partner or of a professorship funded by TUHH, or the scientist will move to a leading post in business.

This model enables TUHH to create prospects for non-professorial academic staff. Improved financial backing will open up better career prospects for postgraduates, doctoral graduates and junior professors with an appropriate record of achievement. There have long been calls in Germany for programs like this to encourage non-professorial academic staff against a background in which many outstanding scientists are emigrating to the U.S.

Freedom of research and teaching will be guaranteed in all phases of the model. Each topic to be explored by research teams in the three fields of competence will be specified jointly by the TUHH and a partner. After that, the junior professorships will be advertised throughout Europe and the TUHH will oversee the selection process.

This means that partners who invest in the College of Excellence at the TUHH will initiate their own research ideas. They will also benefit from more direct access to scientists and to TUHH graduates, and from long-term cooperation. “Unlike with the usual model of project work and funding, we will focus on longer-term prospects such as how a company’s future product might look in five years’ time,” said TUHH Research Manager Dr. Johannes Harpenau. Given the manageable investment – a junior professorship costs EUR 150,000 per annum – this model should certainly of interest to small and medium-sized enterprises too, he said. Working with outstanding scientists who adopt new approaches would enable them to future-proof themselves.

Ideally, from summer 2013 until 2018 outstanding talents will conduct research in three research teams in the fields of Green Technologies, Life Science Technologies and Aviation and Maritime Systems that are partly funded by partners for the benefit of science and business.

Contacts for potential partners:

Vice-President Research
Prof. Andreas Timm-Giel
Tel. : +49 40 42878-3049
E-mail: timm-giel(at)

Manager Research
Dr. Johannes Harpenau
Tel.: +49 40 42878-3574
E-mail: harpenau(at)