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Excellence in research: Mainz University is on track for success in attracting research funding

External funding of JGU research activities has increased by 42 percent to EUR 96 million since 2007 / Positive trend continues in 2012

On July 1, 2012, the German Research Foundation (DFG) will be setting up a new Transregional Collaborative Research Center (CRC/TR) to study multiple sclerosis. The Mainz University Medical Center will be responsible for its coordination. This is just the most recent example of the success of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), Germany, in acquiring projects and third-party funds. The new CRC/TR is a symbol of the ongoing positive trend in research promotion at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the Mainz University Medical Center. Rhineland-Palatinate's Minister of Science, Doris Ahnen, sees the research funding policy at Mainz as being on track for further success.

"When the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate launched its Research Initiative in 2008, the aim was to help the universities in our state procure prominent academics and research funds to ensure that they would be able to compete in the international arena. And today I can hold my head high and confirm that our strategy has been successful," says Doris Ahnen, Minister of Science in Rhineland-Palatinate. "Clear confirmation of this is provided by the many projects and the high level of third-party funds that the Mainz University Medical Center and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have recently managed to attract. The new Transregional Collaborative Research Center is a particularly important undertaking, not merely because of the financial means that will be made available through it but because by investigating multiple sclerosis it will be taking on a scientific challenge of major social relevance."

A reliable indicator of JGU's excellence in the research sector is the remarkable increase in the rate of third-party funds that have been made available over the past five years. Compared with the figure for 2007, JGU's third-party funding increased by 42 percent to EUR 96 million in 2011.

Last year, the work of 926 members of the academic staff and 420 non-academic personnel was funded from third-party funds. This positive trend will be continuing in 2012. Over the past six months alone, Mainz academics have raised approximately EUR 80 million to be spent in the coming years. The President of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Professor Dr. Georg Krausch, believes that the Mainz science hub is now in the ideal position when it comes to its performance and competitive capacities. "These successes represent a seal of quality and showcase the excellent standard of research at our university, and are the result of the active and dynamic developments that are occurring across the board at our university. In particular, the new funded projects will bolster our already outstanding core research fields that include, among others, medicine, the life sciences, materials sciences, physics, and chemistry."

Restructuring of core research areas in the field of medicine leads to success

"The restructuring of our core research areas at the Mainz University Medical Center is now bearing fruit. The most recent success of the University Medical Center in being appointed to supervise the new Collaborative Research Center for studying multiple sclerosis is unequivocal evidence of this," says Professor Dr. Dr. Reinhard Urban, Chief Scientific Officer of the Mainz University Medical Center. The new CRC/TR 128, entitled "Initiating/Effector versus Regulatory Mechanisms in Multiple Sclerosis - Progress towards tackling the disease," will be coordinated by Professor Dr. Frauke Zipp and will be integrated in the JGU Research Unit Translational Neurosciences and the Rhine-Main Neuroscience Network (rmn²) formed in November 2010 for this purpose, which represents a combination all of the neuroscience expertise in the Rhine-Main area. The new CRC/TR will receive total funding of about EUR 13.3 million over the initial period of four years.

According to Professor Dr. Dr. Reinhard Urban, the effective research promotion policy at the Mainz University Medical Center can be further substantiated by citing other instances in which it had acquired funding and distinguished research awards in 2011 and 2012, for example:

* In April 2012, the Mainz University Medical Center was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship worth EUR 5 million. This professorship will be based at the Center for Thrombosis and Hemostasis (CTH). A leading blood coagulation researcher currently based in the USA has been appointed to the post. It will, in particular, enhance the profile of two of the core research areas at the Mainz University Medical Center, i.e. vascular prevention and immunology.

* In March 2012, the European Commission approved funding to the tune of EUR 6 million for the EU research project "Blue Genics," which was initiated by the Mainz University Medical Center. The goal of this research project is to use biomedically relevant substances from the deep sea in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

* In January 2012, the Cluster Individualized Immune Intervention (CI3) based in Mainz, in which the Mainz University Medical Center and JGU participate, was one of the winners of the Leading-Edge Cluster competition held by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This success translates into federal funding worth up to EUR 40 million.

* In November 2011, gastroenterologist Professor Dr. Detlef Schuppan, who relocated from Harvard Medical School to the Mainz University Medical Center, received a EUR 2.5 million Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC).

* In addition, the University Medical Center has succeeded in acquiring third-party funds from industry. Shire Deutschland AG has allocated EUR 1 million to the Medical Center for an endowed professorship.

* The Mainz University Medical Center and JGU also have close links with the international research sector, as proven by the establishment of the German-Chinese Joint Center for Biomaterials. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research will be providing EUR 400,000 towards the funding of this Joint Center.

Not only can Mainz boast remarkable successes in the field of medicine; its core research units in the natural sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences are also acquiring third-party funding thanks to their superb performance. A case in point is the new Collaborative Research Center in nuclear physics, "The Low-Energy Frontier of the Standard Model: From Quarks and Gluons to Hadrons and Nuclei," which has been has investigating fundamental aspects of the world of sub-atomic particles since January 2012. The high-precision measurements and theoretical analyses planned as part of this project will be carried out by the physicists working with the MAMI electron accelerator in Mainz in cooperation with Chinese colleagues at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing. This new CRC will be receiving funding of approximately EUR 8 million over its first four years. In addition, two outstanding researchers in the fields of chemistry and physics at JGU, Professor Dr. Claudia Felser and Professor Dr. Matthias Neubert, have each been awarded one of the prestigious Advanced Grants of the European Research Council (ERC), worth EUR 2.4 million and EUR 2.1 million respectively. In the materials sciences sector, the Volkswagen Foundation is providing EUR 550,000 to fund a joint project that is being supervised by JGU, in which the universities of Mainz and Osnabrück will be collaborating with the Jülich Research Center with the aim of demonstrating the technical feasibility of a quantum computer on the basis of electron spins. Two major projects in the German Academy program serve as examples of projects in the humanities and social sciences being funded by the German Research Foundation: The first digital dictionary of German surnames (EUR 3.2 million) and the art history project on the history of royal residential cities (EUR 5.8 million) are being sponsored as part of the Academy program of the eight German Academies of Sciences and Humanities. And, with effect from summer semester 2012, the German Research Foundation will be providing EUR 254,000 to fund the project "A Bibliography and Historical Analysis of Protestant and Catholic Catechistic and Educational Literature, 1750 to 1900."

JGU ranks high throughout Germany in the research fields of chemistry and physics

The successes in the natural sciences are reflected in the 2012 edition of the Funding Atlas (covering the period 2008 to 2010) published by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Hence, in terms of overall grants of DFG funding, the sciences in Mainz ranked ninth in the German top ten, seventh when grants made to specific individuals are taken into account. Well in the lead in the field of chemistry were the polymer research and the analytics and method development sectors. In the field of particle, nucleus, and particle field research, the JGU Institute of Physics was ranked second best just after the Technical University of Munich; the Institute of Geosciences at Mainz University came in seventh with regard to atmospheric and marine research, all data based on absolute figures for DFG grants made in 2008-2010. "On the one hand, these results confirm the research achievements of our materials scientists, geoscientists, physicists, and chemists in the core research areas at our university," says JGU President Professor Dr. Georg Krausch. "On the other hand, we understand these very positive rankings as an encouragement to systematically continue our profile development strategy and to promote the associated project-related expansion of our university's cutting-edge research program."

Rhine-Main as one of the regions receiving most grants

In its 2012 Funding Atlas, the German Research Foundation cites the Rhine-Main region and the Rhine-Neckar region as the areas attracting most grants after Berlin and Munich. Particular mention is made of cities in south-west Germany, including Karlsruhe and Heidelberg, but also Mainz and Frankfurt, which each received more than EUR 500 million in DFG grants in the years 2008 to 2010. "This result reflects the strength of the Mainz science hub, where universities, scientific institutions, and companies that place a marked emphasis on research are located in very close proximity," explains the University's President. "Creating links with major cooperation partners to promote research outside of our university environment is an essential component of the overall JGU research strategy."

idw :: 13.06.2012