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Research Field Matter

Results and recommendations of strategic evaluation

This research field examines the constituents of matter and the forces acting between them—from elementary particles to complex functional materials to the gigantic systems and structures found in the universe—from basic research into the quantum universe to the design of new materials and active substances in the field of applied research. To this end, Helmholtz develops and operates a diverse spectrum of research infrastructure for its own purposes as well as those of the scientific community in Germany and abroad.

"The science is outstanding, and the prospects this research field offers are extremely interesting." 

Ursula Bassler, CERN

Programs in the 2021–2027 funding period

• Matter and the Universe

• Matter and Technologies

• From Matter to Materials and Life

Participating centers

• Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY

• Forschungszentrum Jülich

• GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research

• Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB)

• Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR)

• Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Center for Materials and Coastal Research (HZG)

• Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)


Helmut Dosch - Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY


The experts highlighted the exceptionally high standard of scientific quality and key strategic relevance of the activities in this research fi eld. They noted that Helmholtz has an international profile in the areas of elementary particle, hadron, nuclear, and astroparticle physics, in the development of accelerators and detectors, and in computing. Its research involving photons, neutrons, ions, and high electromagnetic fields was highlighted in particular. The panel noted that the research field consequently has access to an outstanding network of activities and stakeholders in conjunction with its high-caliber research facilities and infrastructure. Its three programs have a strong impact at the international level, where the full force of the science Helmholtz conducts comes to bear.

The experts described the Matter and the Universe program and those involved in it as world-class. According to their evaluation, the strategy behind the three topics is excellent, and the program's work on particle physics is outstanding. They recommended that the program enhance its involvement in research into gravitational waves.

The panel rated the Matter and Technologies research program as excellent with respect to its scientific expertise and strategy. In particular, it applauded the program’s successes and future plans in the area of accelerator development as well as the newly established area of scientific data processing. The experts recommended that a greater focus be placed on supporting sustainable career strategies in the future.

The panel likewise evaluated the From Matter to Materials and Life program as outstanding in terms of the research it conducts using large-scale research infrastructures and user facilities and described its profile in the fi eld of structural biology in particular as exceptional. Moreover, it acknowledged the extraordinary significance of the program’s research facilities for the national and international user community. The panel members deemed it imperative that the program continues to pursue its plans for expansion in the individual areas.

Strategic Recommendations

  • Efforts to coordinate the research community in Germany should be stepped up to more effectively support the goals of the Helmholtz Association.
  • New research developments and trends should be responded to even more rapidly.
  • The highly attractive nature of this research field for young researchers could be used to greater effect.
  • Contacts in industry should be strengthened.
  • Helmholtz should serve as a model for Germany’s scientific community in the context of diversity.

Ilja Bohnet

Chief Research Manager Matter
Helmholtz Association

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