Cooperating with Universities
The Helmholtz Association places particular importance on bringing together the potential for excellent research which exists at universities with that at the Helmholtz centres to create a critical mass. The association additionally sees the integration of young university researchers into Helmholtz research as one of its key roles. Indeed, this function aims to make even better use of the potential which lies in creative young minds and so seeks to advance Germany's position as a centre of top-class research. In fact, the association is convinced that it is absolutely essential for the various players to work together. This is an indispensable factor today when it comes to achieving significant and internationally competitive progress in the field of knowledge production. And especially when this means addressing the major challenges which face science, industry and society.
There are several reasons why Helmholtz is a good partner for the universities: Helmholtz scientists contribute to the academic teaching and so transport knowledge gained from non-university research into higher education. The association operates large-scale facilities, some of which are unique worldwide, and comparatively large teams of researchers collaborate on cross-disciplinary projects at the Helmholtz research centres. And last but not least, the Helmholtz centres have the expertise and resources required for managing major projects.
This is why the policy of staff sharing between the centres and the universities has become much more intensive over past years. The model of jointly appointing professors who take on research and management responsibilities within the Helmholtz Association has already been successfully practised for a long time. These professors then provide a link between the universities and Helmholtz and specifically drive forward scientific projects and help to promote the network building process.
Helmholtz Association Centres made a substantial contribution as major partners in both rounds of the Initiative for Excellence. The first Call for Proposals saw four Graduate Schools, six Excellence Clusters and one Future Concept approved as collaborative projects with the University of Karlsruhe. In the second round, six Graduate Schools and three Excellence Clusters were successful, as were two Future Concepts, one in collaboration with the University of Heidelberg and the other with the RWTH Aachen. With the Future Concept approved for the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the research capacities of the participating institutions – Excellence University and national Helmholtz Centre – are currently being united to create thematically-focused Centres and Core Areas under the Initiative for Excellence. In energy research, optics and nanosciences, KIT not only aims to offer top-flight research and excellent academic training, but also intends to serve as an outstanding centre of lifelong learning, of extensive continuing training, and of scientist and researcher exchange. Measures to interlink the supervisory and executive management bodies are now being prepared so as to establish a basis for the strategic partnership, in particular, a coordinated and harmonised appointments policy and a comprehensive package of measures to promote young scientists and researchers.
New models for closer cooperation
The President's Initiative and Networking Fund serves the Helmholtz Association as an important instrument for using new forms of collaboration to achieve a new quality of cooperation.
In particular, the fund makes it possible to finance various forms of Helmholtz-University cooperation. At present these are:
Helmholtz centres and universities use these instruments to concentrate research and management capacities and so create centres of excellence of international standing in key areas of research.
Such research groups are established in topic areas which are particularly important to the partners participating from the universities and Helmholtz centres. For example, such groups can be established as part of a "virtual institute".
Dr Stephanie Dittmer
+49 30 206329-41
+49 30 206329-70
stephanie.dittmer (at) helmholtz.de