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Programme Matter and the Universe

National Partnerships

The Initiative and Networking Fund of Helmholtz has created very effective support instruments that are being used to strengthen additional collaborations with universities, including Young Investigator Groups, Virtual Institutes, Graduate Schools and Helmholtz Alliances. The latter are particularly important for Matter and the Universe to foster cooperation between Helmholtz Centres and the universities and to profit from the complementary competencies of the partners. Three Alliances have been established in our Research Field:


Helmholtz Alliances

Helmholtz Alliances Terascale, EMMI and HAP: the German network is shown on a map.
The table gives the individual members and lists also the associated
members (without direct funding; in grey) in Germany and abroad.


  • Physics at the Terascale: This Alliance ("Terascale" for short) — the first Helmholtz Alliance — was founded in July 2007 among DESY, KIT, the Max Planck Institute for Physics and 18 universities with the goal of strengthening Germany's role at the LHC and to advance common activities in physics analysis, grid computing, detector development, and accelerator research. It was also engaged in joint activities such as funding Young Investigator Groups, fellowships and outreach programmes, and maintained an exceedingly well received programme of schools, training events and workshops addressing all its topics and attracting, every year, several hundred physicists. A total Helmholtz funding of 25 million euros was available in the years 2007–2012, complemented by about the same amount from the universities (mostly in the form of new or tenured positions). Beyond 2012, this Alliance has been supported at a much reduced level, however, sufficient to continue with some of the school and training programmes.


  • Helmholtz Alliance "Extremes of Density and Temperature: Cosmic Matter in the Laboratory": This alliance was founded in April 2008 and combines two Helmholtz Centres (GSI, FZJ) with six German universities and research institutions and five international partners. The alliance has established the Extreme Matter Institute EMMI on the campus of GSI. It focusses on interdisciplinary research on strongly interacting quark-gluon and neutron matter, electromagnetic plasmas, atomic physics and cold quantum gases. The international partners have created in total 18 tenured and tenure-track professorships and research staff positions. This alliance has received a total funding of 18.75 million euros matched by a contribution of the partners in excess of 50 million euros.


  • Helmholtz Alliance for Astroparticle Physics (HAP): This young, smaller Alliance was founded in July 2011 with a budget of 10 million euros. Partners are the Helmholtz Centers KIT and DESY, 15 German universities, three Max Planck Institutes, and five international partners.

The Alliances have had a significant coordinating effect in the university landscape and in strengthening the communities. A map showing the locations of member institutes is presented in the figure above. The programme network MUTLink will help to preserve the achievements of the Alliances, to exploit synergies between them and to integrate networking activities within the programme Matter and Technologies. The figure below shows this as a timeline graph.

  Timeline of Helmholtz Alliances and the Matter-Universe-Technology network MUTLink.
Timeline of Helmholtz Alliances and the Matter-Universe-Technology network MUTLink.
The initial funding periods are indicated by the solid black lines with end markers.


In the field of astroparticle physics, in addition, a collaboration has been established by the international Nuclear Astrophysics Virtual Institute NAVI between the Helmholtz Centre GSI, 6 German universities and research institutions and 3 international partners. NAVI fosters interdisciplinary research in nuclear astrophysics, bringing together researchers from astronomical observation, astrophysical modelling and experimental and theoretical nuclear physics. The virtual institute has a total funding of 4.5 million euros for five years (2011 - 2016) at its disposal.


For our university partners, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) ("Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung") provides the so-called "Verbundforschung": this programme is dedicated to joint collaborative research at universities using large-scale facilities that have been constructed and/or are operated with substantial federal resources, i.e. by the Helmholtz Association or the Max Planck Society. The current average annual federal expenditures within the "Verbundforschung" amount to 70 million euros per year, including particle, nuclear and hadronic, astroparticle and condensed matter physics and astrophysics. In this way, the Helmholtz programme helps building bridges between the federal funding of research infrastructures and their scienti c exploitation by universities, which are otherwise funded by the 16 German States ("Länder").


Several other structures strengthen the connections and collaborations in subatomic physics in Germany, e.g. Excellence Clusters, Collaborative Research Centres ("Sonderforschungsbereiche") Graduate Schools and Research Groups, all funded by the German Physcis Society (DFG) ("Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft"). All four centres in Matter and the Universe host some of these highly appreciated DFG programmes.


It should be noted that funding from the BMBF and the DFG can only be obtained for activities that are complementary to the core contents of Helmholtz programmes.