A Really Good Day for RWTH




Thorsten Karbach

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Three funding proposals for new Clusters of Excellence have been approved in Germany's Excellence Strategy competition. Now the University is eligible to submit its application in the “Universities of Excellence” funding line.


RWTH Aachen University is very pleased with its success in the in "Excellence Strategy" competition of the German federal and state governments. The international expert panel appointed by the Joint Science Conference of the Federal and State Governments (GWK) has approved three funding proposals for Clusters of Excellence submitted by RWTH, one of which has been jointly developed and submitted with the University of Cologne and the University of Bonn.

The results of the first phase of the Excellence Strategy were announced earlier today by Federal Minister of Science and Research Anja Karliczek, who is head of the GWK, and Professor Eva Quante-Brandt, the deputy head of GWK. RWTH is one of the twelve German universities to receive funding for more than one Cluster of Excellence and thus eligible to participate in the next round of the Excellence Strategy competition.

"This is a really good day for RWTH– this strong result will be instrumental in driving the University forward," said Professor Ulrich Rüdiger, the rector of RWTH Aachen University. 88 proposals submitted by 41 universities have been reviewed, and 57 proposals from 34 universities have been approved for funding. As a result, RWTH will now receive funding for its proposals "The Fuel Science Center – Adaptive Conversion Systems for Renewable Energy and Carbon Sources," "Internet of Production," and "ML4Q – Matter and Light for Quantum Computing," the latter developed in collaboration with the University of Cologne and the University of Bonn.

These clusters will be funded for an initial period of seven years, receiving between three and 10 million euros in funding annually. According to the German Research Foundation DFG, the Excellence Strategy seeks to strengthen Germany as a hub of outstanding research and further improve its international competitiveness.

Reward for Hard Work

"We are very pleased with these results. In the past two years, we put in extraordinary effort and hard work into all of our cluster proposals, and we are very glad that it has received this recognition," said RWTH Rector Rüdiger. Professor Matthias Wessling, the University’s Vice-Rector for Research and Structure, adds: "We feel confirmed in our choice and definition of research areas, which were considered by the reviewers to address future challenges of great societal relevance."

"Our sincere thanks go to all who have contributed to this enormous joint effort – they have all exemplified extraordinary teamwork," emphasized Rüdiger, who also explicitly recognized the work of former rector Professor Ernst Schmachtenberg and former vice-rector Professor Rudolf Mathar. The researchers of the clusters that were not approved for funding from the DFG will continue to address their important research questions with unabated energy and dedication.

In February, RWTH submitted five draft proposals for Clusters of Excellence; in the summer, the site visits of the international team of reviewers took place. Due to the approval of three clusters, RWTH is now invited to submit its application for funding as a University of Excellence. Preparations for the application process are already underway. "We now want to confirm and renew our status as a University of Excellence with a convincing application. This would further enhance our reputation and visibility both nationally and internationally," said Rüdiger.

Overview of Approved Clusters

The Fuel Science Center (FSC) – Adaptive Conversion Systems for Renewable Energy and Carbon Sources

Based on the outstanding results of the Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass Cluster of Excellence (TMFB), the new Cluster will develop methods and generate insights with the aim to replace the combustion of fossil fuels in engines with adaptive production and drive systems based on regenerative energy and alternative carbon sources under dynamic boundary conditions.

Over the last years, TMFB has developed and established the "Fuel Design Process," which sought to realize the vision of a model-based optimization of sustainable pathways for the conversion of plant material (lignocellulose) in combination with efficiency-optimized, low-emission energy conversion in the combustion engine.

The FSC investigates novel pathways to convert renewable energy, for example from biomass or carbon dioxide, into liquid energy carriers, the so-called bio-hybrid fuels, and prepare them for utilization in the mobility sector.

Spokespersons for the Cluster are Professor Stefan Pischinger, Chair for Combustion Engines, and Professor Walter Leitner, Chair of Technical Chemistry and Petrochemistry and Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion. Providing a worldwide unique, leading scientific environment in its research area, the FSC coordinates the activities of the collaborating RWTH institutes and its partners from Forschungszentrum Jülich and the two involved Max Planck institutes.

Internet of Production

The Cluster seeks to significantly contribute to shaping production engineering in the era of digitalization and interconnectivity.

The Internet of Production (IoP), which allows the real-time capable, secure availability of relevant data at any time and at any place, is at the heart of Industry 4.0 and is considered to usher in a new era of production. The sum of all generated and aggregated data, the so-called “digital shadow” of production, allows to develop predictive capabilities with the aim of fully mastering the production process. Cross-domain knowledge is generated and used – from the entire product development process to fast and flawless implementation of quickly required changes in the series production. This approach of needs-based data analysis and the application of machine learning algorithms hold enormous potential and provide an important impetus for production technology.

Spokesperson for the Cluster is Professor Christian Brecher, Chair of Machine Tools, Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering WZL at RWTH Aachen University

ML4Q – Matter and Light for Quantum Computing

The concept for the ML4Q Cluster has been jointly developed by the University of Cologne as coordinating university, RWTH Aachen University, and the University of Bonn, with contributions from Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Initially the laws of quantum mechanics were formulated as descriptions of atoms and molecules. Their use for communication and computing in quantum information processing opens up new possibilities such as the secure transmission of information as well as dramatic increases in performance that cannot be obtained using more traditional approaches. The planned Cluster of Excellence seeks to lay the foundations for realizing this vision.

Spokesperson for the Cluster is Professor Yoichi Ando, Institute of Physics II, University of Cologne; spokesperson for RWTH is Professor Hendrik Bluhm, Chair of Experimental Physics and Institute of Physics II, JARA Institute for Quantum Information.