With its excellent basic research, innovative and interdisciplinary approaches, and high transfer potential, Helmholtz has a high level of systems expertise at its disposal. This expertise has to be strategically aligned with the major challenges facing science, society, and the economy. The basis for this is provided by research programs with clearly defined objectives, in which scientists from the Helmholtz Centers apply their specific expertise.
The Helmholtz Association therefore no longer invests its resources in individual institutions, but in cross-center research programs that compete with one another for funding. By pooling the diverse resources of its various research centers, Helmholtz is in the unique position of not only being able to offer solutions to individual problems, but also to comprehensively address the complex issues facing science, society, and the economy and to develop system solutions. The six main areas of research thus take on the important task of shaping the trendsetting fields of research for the future and establishing system solutions in collaboration with the best partners.
The program-orientated funding is based on a two-step system: the first step is a scientific evaluation of the centers and the existing programs at the level of the individual centers. The second step is a strategic evaluation of the programs planned for the future at the level of the areas of research.
The scientific evaluation is focused on scientific quality. The results serve to provide a review of the performance of both the Helmholtz Center and the individual, usually cross-center programs. Both aspects are equally important: the centers are the driving force behind the Association, since this is where research is carried out and where new insights are gained. In the programs, the insights and findings are combined and system solutions are developed.
The focus of the strategic evaluation is on the program proposals prepared for the coming funding period in terms of the research policy objectives. To what extent do they address the challenges, formulate objectives to solve these challenges, and indicate ways to achieve these objectives? How do the centers combine their expertise and incorporate the recommendations of the scientific evaluation? And in what way does a program contribute towards implementing the strategy of the area of research?
The reports provided by international and independent experts form the basis for the Helmholtz Senate's recommendation on the extent to which the federal government and the federal states should fund the research programs and how the funding should be apportioned. Furthermore, recommendations also emerge as to how the programs and areas of research can be further developed.
Thanks to this combination of quality assurance and prospective evaluation, the research of the Helmholtz Association is in an ideal position. Its research findings measure up with those of the leading institutes around the globe and the Association will continue to provide fresh impulses in relation to the complex issues in the years to come.