In the first funding period (as from 2007), numerous new projects were launched and have been very successful. Total external funding brought in by researchers at Freie Universität increased from 48 million euros in 2006 to nearly 111 million euros in 2011 (both net expenditure). This means that each professor brought in an average of 276,000 euros in 2011, whereas in 2006 the average stood at 128,000 euros.
The concept of the Network University focuses on the strengthening of interdisciplinary research. As part of the institutional strategy, transdepartmental and transdisciplinary platforms have therefore been established. In these so-called “Focus Areas.” researchers at Freie Universität are working with partners on topics that are of special relevance for the future of society. In the establishment of new research collaborations, the focus areas were supported in the first phase of funding by the Center for Cluster Development (CCD). The CCD shepherded the further development of the two major focus areas that were already established in 2006 – the Center for Area Studies (CAS) and the Dahlem Humanities Center (DHC) – and coordinated the establishment of three new focus areas in 2009: the Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences (DCPS), the Centre for Urban Earth System Studies (MILIEU), and Functional Materials at the Nanoscale (NanoScale).
The CCD created a transparent framework for competitiveness and provided extensive guidance. The evaluations of the focus areas were incorporated into the research strategy of the university's Executive Board. The MILIEU focus area has since developed into a smaller structural unit, in keeping with the research projects that are based there. Toward the end of the first funding phase, Freie Universität had already begun to define the frameworks for two additional focus areas. For one of the new focus areas, this process is now complete: it will deal with research issues at the interface between the life sciences and social sciences.
A key objective of the first phase of funding was to identify new research opportunities at Freie Universität and to develop initiatives for external funding. With support from the Center for Cluster Development, 49 applications for external funding were made in the context of the focus areas, nearly half of which have now received a positive funding decision, totaling more than 38 million euros (not including successful project proposals in the context of the Excellence Initiative).
In the first funding phase, numerous services were established to assist researchers in the development and realisation of their research ideas. In addition to the aforementioned services for the Focus Areas, the CCD was also active in the following areas: implementation of data collection and analysis (e.g., regarding competitors), organizing and hosting the “Foresight” colloquia series, and the international conference "Planning Research for the Future?" (October 13-15, 2011), as well as assisting academic departments in the development of strategies for research and the fostering of junior researchers.
Because the concept of the "cluster" at Freie Universität now applies only to Clusters of Excellence that are part of the national Excellence Initiative, the CCD was been given a new name in the second funding phase, reflecting this convention and the center’s future tasks: Center for Research Strategy.