The Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments is the instrument ensuring the development of top-level research in Germany. It is intended to improve the quality of German universities and other research institutions on a general, fundamental level. Its goal is the preservation and enhancement of Germany as an attractive and inspiring location for doing research in the face of international competition. The Excellence Initiative was approved by the German federal and state governments in 2005 and again in 2009. The initiative is now run by the German Research Foundation (DFG) in cooperation with the German Science Council (WR).
Since its first implementation in 2005, the Excellence Initiative has begun a second round in 2012, with currently funded projects continuing until October 2017 before entering a third round. During this second round, the Excellence Initiative is using a total of 2.7 billion Euros to provide funding in three areas: Graduate Schools to provide doctoral students with excellent education; Clusters of Excellence to establish internationally visible, competitive research and training facilities, thereby enhancing scientific networking and cooperation among the participating institutions; and Institutional Strategies to allow excellent long-term planning and resource allocation, which are only granted to universities with at least one Cluster of Excellence and one Graduate School.
More than 30 German universities benefit directly from the Excellence Initiative, out of ca. 140 total universities in Germany. Eleven of these managed to acquire the coveted title "Eliteuniversität" (Elite University), meaning they successfully applied for all three lines of funding offered by the Excellence Initiative.
The CIN was founded as a Cluster of Excellence in 2007, after a successful application with the Excellence Initiative. In 2012, the University of Tübingen managed to succeed in all three of these areas. It was thus able to build on the groundwork laid by the successful earlier application, and on the gain in experience and knowledge that followed, to establish itself as one of Germany's "Eliteuniversitäten".
In 2019, another round of excellence funding in Germany will commence, then re-christened as the Excellence Strategy. Unfortunately, a joint proposal for a new centre to be installed as a cluster of excellence in systems neuroscience in Tübingen has not been found eligible to be part of the Excellence Strategy. Under the title "The Adaptive Brain Initiative", the centre would have taken a perspective grounded in adaptive processes on multiple timescales. Nevertheless, the CIN and its members will remain at the core of what amounts to one of the largest concentrations of neuroscientific expertise and excellence in Europe, thanks to the Excellence Initiative.
Find out more about the Excellence Initiative here.