A Tradition of Excellence

Bonn is Germany’s Preeminent University of Excellence

We have been one of eleven German Universities of Excellence since the summer of 2019. And we are the only German university in the Excellence Contest conducted by the federal government and German states (as part of their Excellence Strategy—ExStra) to receive funding for six Clusters of Excellence. This makes us the most successful University of Excellence in their Excellence Strategy. Find out more about the planning for our future as a University of Excellence.

News from the Excellence Strategy
AI to Make Crop Production More Sustainable

Drones monitoring fields for weeds and robots targeting and treating crop diseases may sound like science fiction but is actually happening already, at least on some experimental farms. Researchers from the PhenoRob Cluster of Excellence at the University of Bonn are working on driving forward the smart digitalization of agriculture and have now published a list of the research questions that will need to be tackled as a priority in the future. Their paper has appeared in the “European Journal of Agronomy.”

New insights into our immune system

Dendritic cells play an important role in setting the course of our immune system. However, what determines their heterogeneity and functional specialization is still not sufficiently understood. An international collaboration consisting of researchers from the University Hospital Bonn (UKB), the University of Bonn and the Technical University of Denmark, among others, has investigated the role of the transcription factor Bcl6 in dendritic cells in a mouse model and discovered that a subgroup is highly dependent on this protein. The findings contribute to a better understanding of immunological processes during infections, vaccinations, allergies and autoimmunity. The results have now been published in the renowned scientific journal "Nature Communications".

Breakthrough in brown fat research

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark, the Novo Nordisk Center for Adipocyte Signaling (SDU), the University of Bonn and the University Hospital Bonn (UKB) have found a protein that is responsible for turning off brown fat activity. This new discovery could lead to a promising strategy for safely activating brown fat and tackling obesity and related health problems. The results of the study have now been published in the journal „Nature Metabolism“.

How the Immune System Learns from Harmless Particles

Our lungs are bombarded by all manner of different particles every single day. Whilst some are perfectly safe for us, others—known as pathogens—have the potential to make us ill. The immune system trains its response whenever it encounters such a pathogen. Yet researchers at the University of Bonn have now shown that even harmless particles help to improve the immune response and have published their results in the journal “Nature Immunology.”

This is what the "Excellence Strategy" is all about

The Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and German States was adopted in 2016 with the long-term aim of enhancing Germany’s standing and international competitiveness as a location for science and scholarship; implementation commenced in 2018. The associated grant program successfully rolled out in the earlier Excellence Initiative (of 2005-2017) forms the funding basis for the process of ongoing development at German universities. Roughly half a billion euros in funding is budgeted annually, three-quarters of which are put up by the federal government and one quarter by the German states. The goal: promoting research excellence by heightening the profile of the national higher education system and strengthening collaboration between its member institutions. The Excellence Strategy provides for two grant programs for which universities can apply:

What is a “Cluster of Excellence”?

Clusters of Excellence are formed as an instrument for providing project-specific funding to universities and university consortia for research in fields of importance in a context of international competition. In September 2018 the decision was made to allocate funding for applications connected to the University of Bonn for the current grant period, out of a total of 57 approved projects. The annual funding budgeted for Clusters of Excellence ranges between three and ten million euros, granted for an initial seven-year period. Both new and follow-on applications may be approved at the end of this period, subject to the limit of two funding periods for Clusters of Excellence.

What is a “University of Excellence”?

The grant program for Universities of Excellence is in place as a means to empower individual institutions and university alliances or consortia to make further gains as international research leaders. Annual funding of between 10 and 15 million euros is available for individual universities, and up to 28 million euros for university consortia. 
A new aspect to this grant program now is that universities of supra-regional stature are eligible for joint funding from both the federal and state governments on a non-temporary basis. For Universities of Excellence the condition applies that they must successfully pass a research evaluation every seven years. Decisions regarding funding for new and ongoing projects are to be made in 2026.

The University of Bonn's Future Concept

The Future Concept outlined by the University of Bonn was effective in convincing the evaluating judges to select the institution as one of eleven Universities (and university alliances) of Excellence. At the heart of this Future Concept lies a set of fundamental objectives: promoting transdisciplinary research, through the formation of Transdisciplinary Research Areas (TRAs); “We invest in people”—creating high-profile professorships to attract scholars of excellence across the range of qualification levels; “We foster networks”—forming and strengthening research alliances; and “We create impact” by furthering knowledge transfer and communication within the research community.

Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© USGS on unsplash

Transdisciplinary Research Areas

The six existing Transdisciplinary Research Areas (TRAs) have touchpoints across the entire spectrum of academic inquiry at the University.

Exzellenzstrategie -  TRAs
© Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

The ‘Future Concept’

Our strategy to deliver excellence in research and teaching is summarily expressed in the slogan: “We invest in people, we foster networks, we create impact.

Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Volker Lannert/HCM

Our Clusters of Excellence

The University of Bonn has six Clusters of Excellence, including alliances with the University of Cologne and the RWTH Aachen University.

Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

High-Profile Professorships

Excellence at our University is further enhanced by high-profile professorial chairs: the prestigious Hertz, Schlegel and Argelander professorships.


Avatar Hoch

Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Michael Hoch

Rector of the University of Bonn
Avatar Zimmer

Prof. Dr. Andreas Zimmer

Vice Rector for Research and Early-Career Researchers
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