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More excellence? The German top clusters

The German Ministry of Education has launched yet another initiative in line with it strategy of putting the country at the top of the world's most important future markets: the so-called Spitzencluster-Wettbewerb (Top Cluster Initiative) was started in August 2007 and has received 38 applications up to now.

For a loyal reader of the ACA Newsletter this may sound familiar or it might even strike you as old news. Indeed, we have been reporting on a major German funding initiative called the “Excellence Initiative” over the past two years. But be assured: the two are not the same. While the Excellence Initiative funds clusters of excellence between universities and science organisations (see ACA Newsletter - Education Europe October 2007), Top clusters are essentially cooperations between science and the economy. The aim of this new initiative is to turn scientific results into marketable products more effectively and more rapidly. And this is not a free-ride for companies either: they are required to bear at least 50% of the costs of the project beforehand.

On the practical side: the Top Cluster Initiative will cover three rounds, in each of which five clusters will be selected. A total of 15 clusters will receive funding worth  600 million Euro over a period of five years. The five winners of the first round will be announced in September 2008, the second round is scheduled to be launched shortly after that.

Whether the German initiatives to boost science and economy will bear fruit in the long run remains to be seen.

German government
BMBF – top cluster initiative