Collaborative Research Centers - SFB

ZMBT Windows RWTH Aachen

In Collaborative Research Centers, scientists from a broad range of disciplines join forces to research complex topics in fundamental research from an integrative, interdisciplinary perspective. There is a constant exchange of data, experience, materials, and,not least, of scientific staff, which guarantees a close, interdisciplinary collaboration between the involved research institutions.


Gero Bornefeld


Gero Bornefeld

Managing Director SFB


+49 241 80 94661



What are Collaborative Research Centers?

Collaborative Research Centers (SFB) are long-term arranged university institutions, typically established for a period of 9 to 12 years, in which researchers across various subjects, institutes, subject areas, and faculties work together on a thematically coherent research program.

The goal of the interdisciplinary collaboration is to advance and deeply strengthen an innovative research focus at the university through the concentration and coordination of university resources, thereby sharpening the research profile of the university. Other goals include the fostering of young scientific talent and equality between male and female researchers. International cooperation is strongly encouraged as it makes possible to establish and extend networks between the centres and research partners abroad.

A SFB Transregio is a joint project undertaken by several universities. As a prerequisite for funding from the German Research Foundation, evidence must be provided that each cooperative partner contributes complementary and synergetic research that is essential to the success of the project . DFG funding facilitates close, nationwide collaboration among the participating universities and researchers, as well as networking and the joint use of resources.

Collaborative Research Centers at RWTH Aachen University

Here you can find an overview and descriptions of Collaborative Research Centers (SFB) and Transregional Centers (SFB-TRR) at RWTH Aachen University:

Current Collaborative Research Centers
Previous Collaborative Research Centers

Funding and Scientific Assessment

An SFB is usually proposed by a university and carried out by a consortium of its scientists. The centers are financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG), which also delegates external research groups to evaluate a SFB at regular intervals. This way research goals and results of the costly projects can be regularly controlled and evaluated.

As an internal quality control and management tool, a council of representatives (“Sprecherrat”) is established. This council has advisory functions and is tasked with assessing the SFB's individual sub-projects.

The high scientific quality of the research project has to be guaranteed. Originality and funding of the proposal, qualification of project leaders, their scientific achievements, and their international reputation all serve as guidelines at the time of the proposal.

The scientists should be integrated in a consortium, in order to work in close proximity to each other. Within certain parameters, neighboring and external research institutions and the economy can participate in the SFB's activities.

Establishment of an SFB and DFG Funding

As a rule, a Collaborative Research Center is applied for by a university and, if the application is approved, led by a team of university researchers. As a prerequisite for funding from the German Research Foundation, the university agrees to pool all the resources required for the success of the research project, including personnel, equipment, and facilities.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Moreover, the high quality of funded research projects must always be guaranteed. At the time of application, and indicator of the expected quality is the innovativeness and substantiality of the project as well as the qualification of the project coordinators as well as their academic achievements and international reputation.

The contributing researchers are to be integrated into a working group, so as to be able to work in close proximity to their co-workers. To a certain extent, neighboring and extra-university institutions as well as business and industry may contribute to the SFB.

Quality Control

The nationwide "Collaborative Research Center" program is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). At regular intervals, the DFG commissions external reviewers to assess current SFB projects. In this way, the objectives and research results of these expensive projects are being evaluated. At the university level, the SFB speaker council is responsible for quality management. The council advises the participating researchers and provides preliminary assessments of the SFB's sub-projects.

SFB Highlights - RWTHthemen

The RWTH journal "RWTHthemen" presents the work of several Collaborative Research Centers in more detail. Please note that the reports are in German.

External Links

  • German Research Foundation/SFB

    The German Research Foundation (DFG) decides on the establishment and financial support of Collaborative Research Centeres (SFB).

  • DFG Funding Ranking

    DFG Funding Ranking 2009: Institutions – Regions – Networks

  • DFG Funding Atlas 2012

    The successor to the DFG Funding Ranking provides key data and statistics on publicly funded research in Germany.