Research programmes for greater focus
No other research organisation can compare with the way the Helmholtz Association has engaged in its reforms in recent years and, in so doing, has successfully put these into practice. Since the Helmholtz Association's foundation in Autumn 2001, all the research has been strategically restructured. Programme-oriented funding is the centrepiece of these reforms. We no longer invest our resources in individual institutions, but rather fund centre-embracing research programmes that compete with each other for funding. In accordance with the core objectives of the Pact for Research and Innovation, activities now concentrate primarily on achieving top-flight results through cooperation and competition. The scientists and researchers working in the 18 Helmholtz Centres have developed a total of 28 research programmes whose scientific excellence and strategic relevance are evaluated by internationally-renowned peers once every five years. This in turn serves to ensure that the results of Helmholtz research can compete with the work of leading institutes worldwide.
Strategic programmes form the basis for positioning the Helmholtz Association in the research landscape. Clearly-defined goals additionally ensure that Helmholtz can focus on its strengths and so perform top-flight research. By concentrating its assets in multidisciplinary teams and by packaging the wide range of resources available in its Research Centres, the Helmholtz Association is uniquely able to not only provide solutions for individual questions but is also able to answer the complex questions raised by science, society and industry, and to develop the appropriate systems solutions.
Programme-oriented funding represents the core of the reform. This means two things: Focusing the scientific work on research programmes and consequently restructuring the financing. Scientific research work at the Helmholtz Centres is largely paid for from tax revenue. This money used to go direct to the centres. The reform will distribute these financial resources on the basis of a new principle: Funding now goes to scientific programmes rather than to the centres.
This support policy is based on two guiding principles:
- Cooperation across institutional and disciplinary borders
- Competition for research funds.
The research programmes with which, generally, several Helmholtz Centres will apply for funding have been assigned to the six major research fields of the Helmholtz Association.
Evaluation by leading scientists
Strategic evaluation forms the basis for research programme funding. Distinguished experts from all around the world take on responsibility for carrying out the reviews. Their reports determine the decision on how much funding will be provided and what the ratio of Federal and Länder funding for programmes will be. The President of the Helmholtz Association is responsible for managing the whole process.