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Collaboration with other universities and with non-university research institutions
The Excellence Initiative strengthened co-operation with other universities, both nationally and internationally. Two or three universities often collaborate in various clusters of excellence. Collaboration with other local and close regional universities has received a substantial boost from the Excellence Initiative. The interviewees generally regarded these collaborations as very fruitful. Inter-university collaboration provided additional opportunities for excellent research at small universities that might not have had the critical mass to carry successful Excellence Initiative applications on their own. There is also a case of co-operation between a state university and a private university; the latter brings specific competences and qualities that go beyond research, such as stronger international orientation, an internationally more diverse faculty and more experience with communication and public relations activities. In another case, two universities established an inter-university department with the view to establishing the cluster of excellence on a permanent basis. The planning horizon for this cluster of excellence already extends well beyond the funding period.
Many interviewees mentioned that their universities have established new formal and informal co-operation agreements with partner universities abroad. Some have set up strategic individual partnerships with leading universities abroad. Others have drawn up a partner model for international research co-operation, focusing on collaboration by individual research teams.
For postgraduate training as well, the universities built new bridges to partners abroad. A German university has set up a joint annual conference scheme with a worldleading research university in the United States that is specifically dedicated to early- stage researchers. Universities have also established graduate school co-operation agreements with international universities.
The Excellence Initiative explicitly mentions co-operation with non-university research institutions as a general funding criterion. At the same time, the DFG and the WR communicated to applicants that the core of excellence had to lie with the universities. Simply buying in excellence from third parties would not have met the aims or fulfilled the spirit of the Excellence Initiative.
Although collaboration by university research groups with non-university research institutions, most notably the institutes of the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Leibniz Association and the Fraunhofer- Gesellschaft, has a long tradition in Germany and some DFG funding instruments such as the CRC programme have long been open to thematic collaboration to build local critical mass and integrate research resources, the Excellence Initiative went a step further by encouraging more intensive and more formal research collaboration agreements. It also eased the administrative burden of collaboration as research groups or members from non-university research institutions could be funded along the same lines as research groups from the universities.
The funding of clusters of excellence and institutional strategies in particular provided a significant boost to long-term, strategic collaboration by universities with nonuniversity research institutions. Even at universities with a long and well-established history of collaborations of this type, the interviewees mentioned that the Excellence Initiative has intensified their scale and scope and put universities on a more equal footing with non-university research institutions. Many interviewees reported that new collaborations had been established, especially interdisciplinary collaborations. In some cases the integration of resources led to the establishment of joint research teams or to the establishment of research teams from non-university institutions at the university premises of the cluster of excellence.
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