Collaborative Research Centres

Collaborative Research Centres at FAU

Collaborative Research Centres (CRC) and Transregios (TRR) are research institutions at universities which are awarded long-term funding where researchers work together as part of an interdisciplinary research programme. FAU is involved in 24 Collaborative Research Centres or Collaborative Research Centres/Transregios (CRC/TRR) and is the main applicant university for 11 and co-applicant for 5 of these.

Collaborative Research Centres with FAU as the main applicant university

The key innovative idea behind invasive computing is to introduce resource-aware programming support. This means that a programme can dynamically distribute its computing processes to neighbouring processors, in a process similar to a phase of invasion. Code with a high degree of parallelism is then run in parallel through the available (invasible) parts of the multi-processor architecture.

Professor Jürgen Teich is speaker for CRC/TRR 89. The project is currently being funded in the third funding period until 31 December 2022.

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Additive manufacturing describes production technologies which construct components in layers according to a computer model. In the future, it will be possible to produce plastic and metal components directly from a computer at the click of a mouse, very much like printing on paper today. CRC 814 concentrates on the fundamental questions surrounding this promising technology. A better understanding of how powder behaves during production will be used to manufacture new and improved powder materials, and optimise machine design and processes.

Professor Dietmar Drummer is speaker for CRC 814. The project is currently being funded in the third funding period until 30 June 2023.

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Synthetic carbon allotropes such as fullerenes, carbon nanotubes and graphenes are one of the most promising families of materials today. Due to their unique electrical, optical, mechanical and chemical properties, they have a great deal of potential for high-performance applications in areas of nanoelectronics and optoelectronics, in hydrogen storage, in sensors, and in polymer strengthening.

Professor Andreas Hirsch is speaker for CRC 953. The project is currently being funded in the third funding period until 31 December 2023.

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CRC/TRR 130 contributes to the fundamental understanding of autoimmune diseases by carrying out research into why the immune system turns on the body in certain diseases. As B cells are often the root cause in diseases which are based on autoimmune reactions, Transregio 130 is focusing its research on the antibody response to foreign bodies triggered by B cells and what goes wrong in this process in autoimmune diseases.

Professor Lars Nitschke is speaker for CRC/TRR 130. The project is currently being funded in the second funding period until 30 June 2021.

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The goal of CRC/Transregio 154 is to meet the challenges of energy reform using mathematical modelling, simulation and optimisation in order to provide solutions which set a new quality standard. New knowledge of various fields of mathematics, such as mathematical modelling, numerical analysis and simulation, or integer, continuous and stochastic optimisation are required to achieve this.

Professor Alexander Martin is speaker for CRC/TRR 154. The project is currently being funded in the second funding period until 30 June 2022.

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Inflammation is an important repair mechanism that activates the body’s immune cells in order to respond to tissue stress and damage. CRC 1181 aims to gain a better understanding of the molecular processes involved in stopping this immune response after repairs have been completed. This is important as immune cells that are not deactivated continue to act on healthy tissue, leading to chronic inflammation which is manifested as conditions such as asthma or arthritis. Researchers at CRC 1181 are investigating fundamental immune mechanisms, the activation of defence cells, and the relationship between tissue structure and cell death in order to find out why the immune response is not deactivated in the case of chronic inflammation.

Professor Georg Schett is speaker for CRC 1181. The project is currently being funded in the second funding period until 30 June 2023.

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The aim of CRC/TRR 241 is to better understand the interaction between cells in mucous membranes and immune cells in the bowel and to develop more effective therapy methods for chronic inflammation. During the next few years, researchers will integrate findings about the regulation and function of the immune system in the bowel and current data about anti-microbial defence on the mucous membrane barrier into a new concept. The individual projects will focus in particular on the role of misdirected communication between epithelium and immune cells during the pathogenesis of IBD. The researchers’ long-term aim is to develop medication that targets the causes of bowel inflammation while retaining the ability of the immune system to fight infections and cancer cells. In addition, they hope to find diagnostic methods that predict patients’ response to therapies – a goal that not only serves to relieve symptoms quickly, but should also contribute to lowering treatment costs.

Professor Christoph Becker is speaker for CRC/TRR 241. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 30 June 2022.

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CRC 1411 focuses on optimising nanoparticle design. For this purpose, particle syntheses are combined with novel separation methods for classifying nanoparticles. The key feature of this approach is that production is optimised in such a way that particles with engineered properties can be produced in continuous processes. These elegant approaches to property and process design replace current methods that are often highly complex and based on experiments. Thanks to this innovation, the new CRC will make important contributions to the digitalisation of the product design of particle systems. In 20 individual projects, researchers from the fields of chemical engineering, materials sciences, mathematics and physics will design, produce and characterise new nanoparticles. Designing particles with special optical properties is a central aspect of this research. Within the framework of the CRC, a research training group has been set up for doctoral research in nanoparticle design – a world first. The CRC is also breaking new ground in dealing with the large amounts of data generated in the experiments and simulations.

Professor Wolfgang Peukert is speaker for CRC 1411. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 31 December 2023.

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Cooperative behaviour is a well-known phenomena, for example in the dynamics of flocks of birds. However, cooperativeness in the field of quantum mechanics has not yet been fully described. The Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio ‘Quantum Cooperativeness of Light and Matter (QuCoLiMa)’ investigates cooperativeness on the quantum level. The research group hopes to contribute to a systematic understanding in the long term of the spatial and temporal quantum correlations in mesoscopic systems in which light and matter have very strong interrelationships. Its results could enable quantum cooperativeness to be used in sensors, communication systems and in quantum computing in the future.

Professor Joachim von Zanthier is speaker for CRC/TRR 306. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 31 December 2024.

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The CRC ‘Catalysis at Liquid Surfaces (CLINT)’ is pursuing a completely new approach in chemical reaction engineering by using the highly-dynamic anisotropic environment of gaseous-liquid and liquid-solid interfaces to create technical catalysts with new properties and as yet unattained productivity, stability and manageability. The aim is to combine the understanding of catalytic processes with targeted material development, which is why the research will include everything from model systems to real catalysts and incorporate in-situ methods.

Professor Peter Wasserscheid is speaker for CRC 1452. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 31 December 2024.

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CRC 1483 EmpkinS (Empatho-Kinaesthetic Sensory Systems) is aimed at finding brand new ‘digital’ patient-centred options for diagnosis and treatment in medicine and psychology by combining touch-free radar, wireless and camera-based sensor technologies with innovative signal processing methods and artificial intelligence.

EmpkinS has received roughly 11 million euros of funding for the next four years. In addition to FAU, Hamburg University of Technology, the University of Bayreuth and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Erlangen are also involved in the project.

Professor Martin Vossiek is speaker for CRC 1483. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 31 December 2025.

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Collaborative Research Centres with FAU as the co-applicant university (TRR)

Monocrystalline superalloys are key materials in the manufacturing of turbine blades for modern gas turbines, such as those used in space technology and energy production. For this reason, they are as essential for modern society as they are for a sustainable energy supply. Using new monocrystalline technology in gas turbines increases efficiency while reducing harmful emissions – one of the main aspects of research by CRC/TRR 103.

Professor Carolin Körner is speaker for Erlangen for CRC/Transregio 103. The project is currently being funded in the third funding period until 31 December 2023.

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This collaborative research centre/Transregio is dealing with a new field of research where structures are generated using 3D printing in which cells and materials are arranged in structures similar to tissues. In the long term, this method could be used to create tissue models that could replace animal testing, for example. CRC/TRR 225 is conducting research in the foundations of biofabrication and is investigating the behaviour of cells before and after the printing process. In addition, it is seeking to develop new materials and processes for 3D printing of tissue.

Professor Aldo R. Boccaccini is speaker for Erlangen for CRC/TRR 225. The project is currently being funded in the second funding period until 31 December 2025.

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Blood stem cell transplants are one treatment option for certain forms of leukaemia and lymph node cancer. However, in some patients immunological reactions can occur between the transplanted cells and the healthy tissue after the transplant. This often causes damage to the skin, liver and intestines. CRC/TRR 221 is therefore researching the immunological mechanisms of blood stem cell transplants. The long-term aim is to increase the tolerability of this therapy and to suppress undesirable immune reactions.

Professor Andreas Mackensen is speaker for Erlangen for CRC/TRR 221. The project is currently being funded in the second funding period until 31 December 2025.

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In all fields of product manufacturing, such as automotive and mechanical engineering, individual parts are joined to form structures with several connection points. The joinability of parts is the key to efficient production processes. In addition to the need for a prognosis of joinability, the growing number of combinations of materials and geometries means that inflexible mechanical joining processes need to adapt. Up to now, these needed to be tailored to new combinations, which is a complex process. CRC/Transregio “Method development for increasing mechanical joinability in adaptable process chains” will research methods for increasing adaptability in the areas of materials (suitability for joining), construction (joining safety) and manufacturing (joining capability) as well as for joinability prognosis.

Professor Marion Merklein is speaker for Erlangen for CRC/Transregio 285. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 30 June 2023.

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The mechanisms behind tumour metastasis are not yet well understood. The Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio ‘Striking a moving target: From mechanisms of metastatic organ colonisation to novel systemic therapies’ is researching the early phase of organ ‘colonisation’ by scattered tumour cells. The research group hopes to increase existing knowledge about the mechanisms of colonisation and develop approaches for therapies which could help to stop metastasis at this early stage.

Professor Thomas Brabletz is speaker for Erlangen for CRC/TRR 305. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 31 December 2024.

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Collaborative Research Centres involving FAU

Pneumonia is a widespread disease that has increasingly severe effects on the entire healthcare system. The rapidly increasing rates of multi- and pan-drug resistant bacteria, the emergence of viruses with pandemic potential and the current demography are increasing the significance of the disease and facing society with new challenges. CRC/TRR 84 directly addresses this high scientific and clinical demand and our interdisciplinary consortium is committed to comprehensively deciphering the central role of the innate immune system for the pathogenesis of pneumonia. We will exploit insights, derived from basic research as well as patient-derived observations, for novel diagnostic, preventative and therapeutic strategies. The central mission of CRC/TRR 84 is the exact delineation of pathogen-host interactions and resulting infection and inflammation in a lung-specific context. CRC/TRR 84 consistently pursues the strategy of creating a tight-knit scientific network of experts across various locations. Out of a total of 18 projects, 11 (previously 7) are now transregional projects spanning Berlin, Gießen and Marburg. We focus on developing new experimental human disease models, and using large animals and clinical samples to increase the translational relevance of the projects. The project will continue to focus on three coherent areas of pneumonia research: Area A ‘Pathogen recognition in the lung and initiation of innate immune response’ addresses amongst others the role of antimicrobial therapy for damage of the commensal flora and its retroaction on the innate immunity of the lung. Area B ‘Humoral and cell-based bronchoalveolar defence mechanisms’ addresses the role of local antimicrobial defence mechanisms and of resident or newly recruited pulmonary immune cells in host defence, tissue damage and repair processes. Area C ‘Control of host response in the bronchoalveolar compartment and strategies for intervention’ investigates topics such as the molecular mechanisms underlying the often-observed detrimental break-down of local infection and inflammation containment (barrier failure). It also evaluates treatment approaches developed in the CRC and aims to discover ways of manipulating the innate immune response for improved vaccinations. We have fine-tuned our powerful cutting-edge microscopic techniques to enable new molecular imaging dimensions which will benefit nearly all CRC/TRR projects.

Professor Holger Hackstein is speaker for Erlangen for CRC/TRR 84. The project is currently being funded in the third funding period until 31 December 2022.

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Proteins are essential cellular building blocks with many structural and regulatory functions. Protein modifications are important physiological regulatory elements, but they can also be involved in the development of diseases such as inflammation, neurodegeneration and cancer. CRC 877 analyses intra- and intercellular signal transduction pathways, which include a special form of protein modification, namely the cleavage of proteins. While most covalent modifications of proteins are reversible within a fraction of a second, cleavage of proteins is virtually irreversible and is therefore of unique but so far not thoroughly understood importance. Cells need hours to resynthesize cleaved proteins and many short-lived cells such as neutrophils are not able to do so at all. The CRC analyses such protein cleavage reactions and has developed the hypothesis that these are master switches of cellular communications, which are dysfunctional during the development of diseases. Results from the first and second funding period impressively corroborate this hypothesis. In the last funding period our consortium and the integrated research training group want to study how an understanding of proteolytic principles can be used translationally. The final goal of our initiative is to further develop strategies for novel therapeutic concepts in the treatment of inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

Professor Friederike Zunke and Dr. Philipp Arnold are the speakers for Erlangen for CRC 877 . The project is currently being funded in the third funding period until 30 June 2022.

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Trauma can affect any individual at any location and at any time over a lifespan. The disruption of tissue and cell barriers induces an instant activation of various defence systems. The subsequent acute danger response is designed to limit further damage and to induce regeneration and healing processes. However, it also represents a major driver of complications, which may prove fatal. In the first funding period, CRC 1149 provided novel mechanistic insights into the acute danger response after trauma and defined various individual patient factors as disturbance factors of the post-traumatic regenerative processes at the organ, cellular, and molecular level. In the second funding period, the focus of the CRC1149 remains on the most frequent injury patterns, major disturbance factors, and compromised regenerative mechanisms, to provide a profound pathomechanistic understanding of the molecular trauma response and related complications, in the hope of developing effective therapeutic trauma strategies. As compelling scientific and clinical challenges, CRC 1149 focuses on the following A) Deciphering the danger response after trauma on a molecular, cellular, organ, and organism level; B) Determining the influence of major disturbance factors (co-morbidities) on the trauma response; C) Defining mechanisms of the dysfunction and potential of post-traumatic regeneration processes and adapting them for the purposes of trauma management.The overall goal of CRC1149 is a deep pathophysiological understanding and integrated view of the trauma patient with the final aim of developing innovative therapies to reduce the burden of trauma for the individual and society

Professor Miriam Kalbitz is the speaker for Erlangen for CRC 1149. The project is currently being funded in the second funding period until 31 December 2022.

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European populations are ageing rapidly. By the year 2060, every third person living in Germany will be older than 65. For this reason, the social and socio-economic relevance of regenerative therapies is clearly increasing. This holds particularly true for implants: the older the population grows, the more medical implants will be required for various indication areas and the more often they will have to be replaced during the course of therapy. The research vision pursued by the Collaborative Research Centre ELAINE focuses on innovative electrically active implants. Specifically, we address implants employed for the regeneration of bone and cartilage, and implants for deep brain stimulation to treat movement disorders. Three central research objectives are a means to implement our research vision. The first objective is to establish innovative energy autonomous implants that allow a feedback-controlled electrical stimulation. Thus, we will pave the way for new long-time medical applications, and individual patient treatment by conceiving an ultra-low power, miniaturised implant electronic platform supporting all electrically active implants being considered in ELAINE. A second objective is efficient multi-scale simulation models to enable rapid progress in targeted implant improvements and patient-specific therapies. Here, new methods in the simulation of biomaterial compounds, electromagnetic stimulus of living cells and the validation of results will push the fundamental understanding in ELAINE far beyond the state of the art. The third long-term objective is to analyse the basic mechanisms of electrical stimulation in bone, cartilage and brain, and to translate this knowledge into clinical practice. The technical vision focuses on an energy-minimised electrical stimulator that works autonomously for 12 weeks, is fully programmable and implantable with continuous and intermittent modes for application both in humans and in animals For this purpose, scientists from the fields of electrical engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, material science, physics, biology, and medicine will work together in an interdisciplinary manner. As a unique characteristic, our interdisciplinary consortium enables a scientifically sound validation of newly derived theoretical models, computational methods and technical solutions through experiments in both engineering and the life sciences. This high-risk collaborative and interdisciplinary research programme is designed to demonstrate new approaches for future biomedical implants, hopefully increasing the chances of overcoming the above-mentioned health problems of ageing populations.

Professor Aldo R. Boccaccini is speaker for Erlangen for CRC 1270. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 30 June 2021.

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The aim of the POLYTARGET CRC is to develop polymer-based nanoparticle carrier materials for the targeted application of pharmaceutical substances. The focus lies on systems that are suitable for treating diseases and syndromes whose morbidity rates are significantly characterised by an inflammatory reaction. The research will involve investigating the relationship between the structure and properties of polymers and nanoparticles and their biological effects with the aid of systematic particle libraries. New functional polymers are being developed for the nanoparticles such as polyesteramides, polyketals, functionalised polysaccharides and cationic polymers that are tailored to the anti-inflammatory substance (both new and known substances) to be incorporated and the desired type of substance release (CORE projects). To increase the circulation time in the body and minimise undesirable interactions with proteins, the nanoparticles can be equipped with polymers known as ‘stealth polymers’ such as poly(ethylenoxide) and poly(2-oxazolin)e. Cell specificity is achieved by active or passive targeting, whereby the coupling of antibodies, peptides or other molecules with specific recognition structures plays a major role. Suitable dyes are included in the carrier materials or covalently attached to enable diagnostic approaches (SHELL projects). In particular within the MEDIUM projects, the nanoparticles are investigated in detail with respect to their physical and chemical properties as well as their biological / pharmaceutical suitability, also taking into account physiological conditions, in in vitro and in vivo models. For this purpose, already established techniques are used, but new methods are also being developed to identify formulations suitable for use in nanomedicines over the long term. Close cooperation within the multi- and interdisciplinary consortium with researchers from chemistry, materials science, biology, pharmacy and medicine offers unique prerequisites for transferring the findings from basic research into applications.

Professor Dagmar Fischer is the speaker for Erlangen for CRC 1278. The project is currently being funded in the second funding period until 30 June 2025.

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More than two million people suffer from chronic kidney disease in Germany alone. 80,000 of them with scarred kidneys which are no longer capable of functioning rely on dialysis treatment. The aim of modern medicine is therefore to recognise kidney disease at an early stage and use specific treatments to prevent or slow down further damage, in particular excessive inflammation and scarring processes. A major problem facing those hoping to develop specific approaches for treating kidney disease is the fact that kidney damage often involves complex interactions between the various types of cell in the tubule system and the interstitium, whilst the underlying signals and mechanisms are still largely unknown. […]

The new Collaborative Research Centre 1350 made up of an interdisciplinary team of kidney researchers from Regensburg and Erlangen has thus set itself the ambitious goal of exploring the pathophysiology and interactions between the various types of cell in the kidney of relevance to the disease.

Professor Kerstin Amann is speaker for Erlangen for CRC 1350. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 31 December 2022.

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The central nervous system (CNS) is a highly differentiated tissue which is highly susceptible to irreversible damage after insults. However, the extent of recovery after insults varies greatly. It ranges from irreversible destruction to almost complete recovery of the nerve tissue. Until now, little is known about the regeneration of this nerve tissue. This multi-disciplinary research consortium investigates various scenarios of insults to the CNS using multimodal imaging strategies as well as molecular and functional-genetic approaches directly in living tissue. We investigate distinct damage and reconstitution constellations using models of inflammatory, traumatic, metabolic and ischemic insults. Our common goal is to define the immunological, glial and neuronal checkpoints that regulate the recovery of damaged nerve tissue. These findings are then used to determine generally applicable rules and signal pathways that determine the potential of the damaged nerve tissue for recovery. Our findings will lay the foundation for the design of novel treatment strategies that harness the endogenous repair potential to promote tissue restitution and limit scarring.

Professor Veit Rothhammer is speaker for Erlangen for CRC/TRR 274. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 31 December 2023.

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The development of new alloys is critical for many key technologies. Lightweight materials for transport and logistics, energy conversion or safe materials for implants are just some examples of applications.

The vision of this CRC is to develop a novel framework that combines two historically independent concepts for alloy design: controlling the formation of crystalline phases based on thermodynamics and increasing the strength of materials by introducing crystal defects. Defect phase diagrams will provide a powerful tool for engineering corrosion-resistant materials with tailored mechanical properties in the future.

The speaker for Erlangen for CRC 1394 is Professor Erik Bitzek, who leads the sub-project A02 ‘Atomistic simulations of dislocation processes’. The project is currently being funded in the first funding period until 31 December 2023.

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