On the basis of a highly competitive selection procedure, three generous lines of funding are being made available to German universities. The first is intended for the establishment of Graduate Schools which provide structured post-graduate training for junior academics in an optimal research environment. The aim of the second is to support the formation of interdisciplinary research networks (“Clusters of Excellence”) that cooperate closely with non-university research institutions and with industry. In the context of a future-oriented Institutional Strategy, the third strand enables the universities selected to implement a project-related master plan, aimed at further developing each institution’s research profile.
The German government assigned to the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) the task of organizing and carrying out the competition. Grants are awarded for a period of 5 years. For the first phase of the program, which involved two successive rounds of selection in 2006 and 2007, a total of 1.9 billion euros was placed at the disposal of the DFG. In June 2009, State and Federal Governments formally decided to extend the Excellence Initiative for a further 5 years from October 2012, and agreed to provide a further 2.7 billion euros in funding for that purpose.