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€4.4 million for fresh ideas

FAU advances cutting-edge research with new initiative

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) aims to focus on establishing itself as a centre where new ideas are identified at an early stage and turned into cutting-edge research. This is why FAU has now established the “Emerging Fields Initiative” (EFI), in order to encourage promising research projects which will be taken on by leading international experts from Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. The EFI’s core focus is on innovative, interdisciplinary research projects which show significant potential, but which are in the very early stages of development. It is precisely these interdisciplinary projects, in “Emerging Fields” that will advance science to the greatest degree. Six cutting-edge FAU research projects were selected in the first competitive round for EFI funding. Over a period of two years, these projects will receive funding from the university amounting to €4.4 million. A further three outstanding projects currently receiving large amounts of financial support from other promotional programmes are receiving non-material support.

The Emerging Fields Initiative, which will support the outstanding scientists of the FAU, will enable the university to react to new research challenges faster, more effectively and above all in a way which minimises red tape. The promotional programme aims to create structures and to make financial support available, which will allow outstanding researcher scientists, at all stages of their careers – from postgraduate students to professors – to work on the most cutting-edge and innovative areas of research. By doing so, it will be possible to secure excellent researchers for the FAU and develop strategic alliances with high-ranking partners. A strict selection process ensures that the quality of the research scientists, ideas and research approaches to be backed are high. “We are hoping for groundbreaking scientific achievements and innovative research-based approaches to teaching”, comments FAU President Grüske. “At the same time we also want to use this opportunity to significantly improve internationalisation, the promotion of young researchers and equality”.

FAU’s Emerging Fields:

Tissue/Organ engineering with self-assembling proteins and bioactive biomaterials: a new therapeutic approach for regenerative medicine
(Cooperation from the Faculty of Engineering, Science and Medicine, coordinator: Prof. Dr. Aldo R. Boccaccini)

The overall aim of the project is the fundamental research and development of cell-based tissue structures which will then result in the complete regeneration of damaged tissues, for example, the regeneration of bones with integrated vessels. It should be possible to reproduce the micro-anatomical structure of bones and blood vessels based on the combination of new manufacturing processes for three dimensional frameworks in conjunction with bioactive materials, specific growth factors and patients’ own cells. It is hoped that these processes will pave the way for new intelligent therapies in the future via the application of customised biomaterials and the production of complete or component tissue in the laboratory or directly in the operating theatre on or in the patients. This combination would cut out the complicated and protracted cultivation of tissues.

Bio-Objects and Bio-Subjects. Exploring the Interface of Science, Technology and Society
(Cooperation from the Faculties of Philosophy, Engineering, Science, Medicine, and Law and Economics, coordinator: Prof. Dr. Peter Dabrock)

Scientific and technological cutting-edge research is becoming increasingly intertwined in an intricate network of economic expectation and media staging. The aim of the project, “Bio-Objects and Bio-Subjects. Exploring the Interface of Science, Technology and Society”, is to plan for such a thorough process of change, to anticipate its consequences and to work on the publics’ expectation of trust. The project brings all five of the FAU’s existing faculties together on the issue and is to be carried out in close collaboration with leading internal and external researchers.

Taxation, Social Norms, and Compliance: Lessons for Institution Design
(Cooperation from the Faculties of Medicine, and Law and Economics, coordinator: Prof. Dr. Veronika Grimm)

The globalisation of the economy and the liberalisation of the economy and financial markets offer tax payers the opportunity to reduce their tax burdens by means of clever planning or also by means of tax evasion. These developments are now jeopardising the acceptance of the tax system and entail corresponding repercussions regarding the tax payers’ willingness to cooperate and comply with tax legislation. These relationships have, until now, been seldom discussed. The project hopes to gain comprehensive insight into how the arrangement of the tax system affects tax compliance and the tax payer’s honesty, and moreover, to find out what particulars shape the perception of the tax system. The underlying questions are: which factors are important for the acceptance of a particular type of tax and the tax system in general, to what extent does the level of acceptance affect tax compliance, and how, in light of this, the existing institutions can be optimised.

(Cooperation from the Faculty of Science and Medicine, coordinator: Prof. Dr. Monika Pischetsrieder)

Neurotrition describes the interaction between nutrition and the way the brain functions (neurofunction). Nutritional components and diet can modulate brain functionality and brain activity, while the brain’s activity patterns influence the quality and the quantity of nutritional intake. What is unclear in these two cases is how this happens. The neurotrition project, therefore aims to bring together the FAU’s expertise from the fields of science, medicine and medical technology, to systematically study neurotrition on various functional levels. On the one hand, the project hopes to find out how brain functionality is influenced by nutritional substances, and on the other, how neurophysiological processes influence the amount and the type of food consumed.

Quantum Geometry
(Faculty of Science, coordinator: Prof. Dr. Thomas Thiemann)

Geometry is where the research interests of physics and mathematics coincide. The best and most famous example of this is Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which describes gravitation from a physical point of view and does so using, inter alia, (pseudo) Riemannian geometry, a branch of differential geometry. The general relativity theory, however, only provides a fragmented description of nature as it does not incorporate quantum theory. The amalgamation of quantum theory and general relativity theory into quantum geometry is one of the toughest challenges facing fundamental physics today and it is this very issue that the Erlangen research project intends to tackle. A successful quantum geometry theory could broaden our understanding of nature in areas where the classic general relativity theory fails, improve our knowledge of the universe on the largest and smallest scales and reveal new mathematical correlations.

Medicinal Chemistry: Redox-Active Small Inorganic Molecules as Biological Mediators and Therapeutic Drugs
(Cooperation from the Faculty of Medicine and Science, coordinator: Prof. Dr. Ivana Ivanovic-Burmazovic)

Chronic inflammation, pain and signs of ageing are important factors in many autoimmune and infectious diseases. Although modern cytokine inhibitors (biologicals) have improved the treatment of inflammation in autoimmune diseases, they also bring with them significant disadvantages. They are very expensive, are associated with infectious complications and work less effectively in the presence of neutralised antibodies. Thus, new inorganic compounds for the therapeutic treatment of inflammation are to be developed within the framework of the research project. Inexpensive, inorganic biological metal and sulphur-based molecules provide promising new approaches to the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases in an ageing population.

The following three projects are to receive non-material support from the university:

Next generation solar power
(Cooperation from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, coordinator: Prof. Dr. Dirk Guldi)

The ever-increasing demand for energy has lead to a significant increase in the research and development of alternative, non-fossil fuels. The research project “Next generation solar power” has set itself the objective of developing a groundbreaking platform in a bid to produce chemical fuels using solar power. In doing so, the new centre will focus on future generations of photovoltaics, nanotubular metal oxide architecture (NMOA) for solar water thermolysis and artificial leaves (AL). Finally, it is hoped that fuel and electricity will be produced as efficiently and as sustainably as possible and that energy costs will be comparable to those of current energy generation from fossil fuels.

Energy carrying compounds
(Cooperation from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, coordinator: Prof. Dr. Peter Wasserscheid)

Large-scale energy supply from regenerative sources (sun, wind) requires new technologies for energy storage. One attractive approach to tackling these technical challenges is the use of energy carrying compounds. These compounds are charged at “energy rich” locations at an “energy rich” time and the stored energy is then released at a later date, whenever and wherever required. Diesel-like hydrogen carriers, which can be managed in our current energy infrastructure (tankers, fueling stations etc.) and allow for decentralized energy storage are of particular interest. The pivotal scientific issues regarding this include the selection of materials, the optimisation of the procedure and the assessment of energy efficiency.

With these two projects the FAU is reasserting its position as a leading location for energy research.

High-energy Astroparticle Physics and Dark Matter
(Cooperation from the Faculty of Science, coordinator: Prof. Dr. Uli Katz)

The Erlangen Centre for Astroparticle Physics (ECAP) is tackling research where the fields of astrophysics, particle physics and cosmology overlap. The ECAP is making considerable contributions to innovative experiments in neutrino, gamma and X-ray astronomy and is developing new instruments for particle and radiation detection. These activities have only recently been supplemented by theoretical quantum gravitation research.

Further information for the media:

Dr. Esther Schnetz
Tel.: 09131/85-26388

uni | media service | news No. 303/2011 on 24.11.2011

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