The objective of the German Excellence Initiative, launched in 2005 by the Federal and State governments, is to strengthen Germany’s standing as a location for research, to improve its international competitiveness, and to make outstanding work in universities and other research institutions more visible.
The Excellence Initiative comprises three project-oriented funding lines:
The funding period for the approved projects is five years. 75 percent of the funding comes from the federal government and the remaining 25 percent is provided by the federal states. The competition was organized by the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) and the German Research Foundation (DFG).
The prerequisite for being awarded the status of excellence is that the applicant institution must have at least one Cluster of Excellence and one Graduate School, as well as a coherent overall strategy for building up its research profile. The grants committee makes its decisions based on the recommendations of the Joint Commission of the German Council of Science and Humanities and the German Research Foundation.
In June 2005 funding was made available for an initial period of five years, and the first funding decisions within the framework of the Excellence Initiative were subsequently made in October 2006 and October 2007. Total funding for the first phase of the program from 2006 to 2012 was 1.9 billion euros. In mid-2009 the federal and state governments decided to continue the Excellence Initiative for the period from 2012 to 2017 and to provide funding of more than 2.7 billion euros. In the second period, new proposals then competed with applications for renewed funding.
With nine funded projects (some in collaboration with other universities), Freie Universität was the most successful university in the first phase. Three Clusters of Excellence and five Graduate Schools were awarded funding. The institutional strategy "International Network University" has been successfully implemented.
In June 2012, Freie Universität was successful in having its excellence status confirmed. Funding until 2017 was awarded for the institutional development strategy "Veritas - Justitia – Libertas: International Network University," for three Clusters of Excellence and seven Graduate Schools, partly in cooperation with other universities. The projects will receive total funding of 121 million euros.