Past projects

Previous EFI projects

The digitalisation of society and media systems is having a major impact on the formation of (political) opinion and discourse. The purpose of this project is to investigate a complex phenomenon that has arisen in an era of globalised mass media and connectivity in terms of social media that transcends national borders. An interdisciplinary combination of computer linguistics, network visualisation, intercultural hermeneutics and content analysis from the viewpoint of communication science makes it possible to analyse and map the processes behind the phenomenon. The project addresses the current political discussion focusing on nuclear energy and the energy transition in Germany and Japan following Fukushima.

Project coordination: Prof. Dr. Stefan Evert,

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Industry 4.0 is the term used to describe the intelligent digitalisation and networking of industrial value creation. The German government’s high-tech strategy sees Industry 4.0 as a major project that will help maintain Germany’s future global competitive capacity.

The purpose of the proposed project is to define the potential benefits and challenges associated with the implementation of Industry 4.0 beyond the technical aspects primarily researched so far, but with a special, integrative focus on the economic, ecological and social aspects in their interaction with technological developments and solutions. As part of the project, we will consider the correlations between opportunity and risk on all three levels of sustainability to form a normative model of sustainable value creation that can be differentiated on the basis of different value creation typologies. It will then be possible to outline specific integration strategies for the practical realisation of Industry 4.0.

Project coordination: Prof. Dr. Kai-Ingo Voigt,

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Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer that causes mortality in women. The extraordinary complexity of the corresponding tumour forms is considered to be the main reason why comparatively little is known at present about the development of breast cancer. This means that the currently available treatment methods lack predictive accuracy and options for verifying success at an early stage. Although the introduction of more effective medical techniques such as genome analysis and immunotherapies has improved prognoses significantly, there is still no targeted method of treating breast cancer successfully that is associated with few undesirable effects.

Participating in the Emerging Fields project entitled BIG-THERA is a multi-disciplinary team of internationally recognised researchers at FAU and Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. The aim is to jointly develop new strategies with different approaches to improve the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of breast cancer. The team has outstanding expertise at its disposal in the fields of clinical and preclinical breast cancer research, immunology, genetics, imaging, nanomedicine, ethics, theoretical physics, pattern recognition and Big Data management.

Projekt coordination: Prof. Dr. Diana Dudziak,

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The purpose of the ‘MoJo 3D – Modular composite Joint 3D’ project is to develop a completely innovative technology that will make it possible to restore a functional joint surface in patients suffering from osteoarthritis or with cartilage damaged by trauma. The objective is to generate a highly resilient yet frictionless joint surface based on a modular concept personalised for the patient undergoing treatment. This interdisciplinary project brings together the fields of materials science, cellular biology, stem cell research, tissue engineering, biomechanics and the clinical fields of orthopaedics, trauma surgery and rheumatology. The intention is to create a material with a modular structure that is adapted to the biological and biomechanical requirements of the human joint. In order to devise the completely new construction and application concepts required for this form of regenerative treatment, the project combines the existing expertise at FAU.

Project coordination: Prof. Dr. Kolja Gelse,, Dr. Tobias Fey,

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‘Chemistry in living cells’ is a project that involves an interdisciplinary consortium of nine academic research groups based in Erlangen and Frankfurt that are working on the development of non-enzyme-dependent chemical reactions designed to run autonomously to intracellular processes. The reactions are intended to enable minuscule, membrane-permeable particles to merge inside living cells to create complex agents, fluorophores and radioactive sensors. The reactions will be designed to occur only if particular bio-molecules specific to a disease (such as miRNAs, ROS) are present. The long-term aim of the project is to develop treatments for human diseases (including cancer) and to improve diagnostic methods.

Project coordination: Prof. Dr. Andriy Mokhir,

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Up and coming new applications in biology, nano-technology and medicine make it necessary to find ways to connect objects and machines in dimensions that can be measured in nanometres and micrometres. The standard electromagnetic approaches for designing the corresponding communication systems are unsuitable in connection with magnitudes of this order. Communication between nano- and micro-objects such as bacteria and other cells, however, is widespread in the natural world. Signal molecules often function as information carriers in this regard, thus providing the basis of a physiological molecular communication system. The project concentrates the expertise available at FAU in the fields of electrical engineering, biology, materials science, mathematics and nano-medicine to design and implement synthetic molecular communication systems on the basis of natural mechanisms and processes.

Project coordination: Prof. Dr. Robert Schober,

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The Emerging Fields project ‘Human Rights in Healthcare’ focuses on highly relevant issues for our society involving human rights and medical ethics. In general, the aim is to analyse the problems that often arise in connection with the demand for the support required to provide for personal autonomy in healthcare from the practical perspective and at the same time from the normative point of view of human rights and medical ethics. This will be undertaken by means of interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from the fields of medicine, ethics, law, philosophy, social sciences, political science and literary studies.

Project co-ordination: Prof. Dr. Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, and Prof. Dr. Andreas Frewer,

The liberalisation of the electricity market and the increasing use of renewable energy sources pose new challenges for our energy system with regard to grid expansion, energy production, transmission, distribution and innovative storage systems. A successful transition to a smart energy system is therefore largely dependent on adequate investment incentives and the attractiveness of the business models of the involved stakeholders. The goal of the research project is to carry out an interdisciplinary analysis of the energy system and the business models of the participants. It aims to gain new and urgently needed insight into the interaction between business models and regulation while taking into account technical reference models, and to provide recommendations for political and regulatory frameworks to ensure a successful transition towards a smart energy system.

Project co-ordination: Prof. Dr. Nadine Gatzert,

CYDER is an international and interdisciplinary consortium of cell cycle specialists. The cell cycle is a tightly regulated series of events that governs cell proliferation. Faults in cell cycle regulation can result in cancer. Furthermore, although not explicitly considered cell cycle-related diseases, cardiac disease, kidney disorders and Alzheimer’s disease are just a few examples of the many incurable illnesses associated with certain cell cycle activities in non-proliferative cell types. The aim of the project is to gain a better understanding of the effects of cell cycle activation that can lead to a wide variety of problems such as cancer, regenerative malfunction and chronic organ failure. CYDER’s ultimate goal is to identify typical cell cycle-related patterns in seemingly unrelated diseases in order to accelerate the development of new prophylactic approaches, treatments and cures for cell cycle-related diseases.

Project co-ordination: Prof. Dr. Felix B. Engel,

One of the most serious issues in the public healthcare system is the lack of methods that provide for the objective and individualised assessment of the effectiveness of the medical diagnostic and intervention procedures used in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of such disorders. For this reason, the Emerging Fields project ‘EFIMoves’ aims to develop and validate appropriate cutting-edge multi-modal diagnostic medical techniques. The purpose is to make possible a form of qualitative and quantitative assessment of motor disturbances that will provide a sustainable benchmark for the development of forms of treatment. Mobile and integrated sensor-based movement analysis is a simple, cost-effective and individualised method that can be used to analyse all movement malfunctions that are relevant to the treatment of motor neurone diseases and diseases of the musculoskeletal system.

Project co-ordination: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Winkler, and Prof. Dr. Jochen Klucken,

The aim of the research project is to develop a molecular imaging technique that can be used for endoscopic examinations in inflammatory and neoplastic disorders. The idea is to use the molecular signature of the cellular structures of tissue expressed in the presence of the disorder in question to order to selectively identify the disease-specific changes. Molecular imaging during endoscopic examinations could make it possible to detect various lesions more easily and at an earlier stage, while it might also provide a basis for designing new algorithms for future diagnosis and therapy concepts. Furthermore, this procedure could be used to predict the response to immunomodulatory therapy, enabling this form of treatment to be adapted more effectively to the needs of individual patients.

Project co-ordination: Prof. Dr. Markus F. Neurath,

The Synthetic Biology project aims to establish an interdisciplinary platform for researchers from the fields of biology, computer science, mathematics, materials science and physics to enable them to conduct collaborative research into biological principles on the nanometre scale, develop approaches for the rational metabolic reprogramming of living cells, and explore how biology can be tapped to enable the creation of nanomachines. The resulting studies will provide important insights into the function of natural biological systems. It is hoped that the corresponding findings will not only be applicable with regard to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, but also with regard to the development of new sources for bioenergy, new approaches in environmental protection and methods for producing fine chemicals. The project aims to bring together experts in the above-specified disciplines at FAU and to promote projects focused on designing novel metabolic pathways in living systems and developing tailor-made minimal cells and nanofactories.

Project co-ordination: Prof. Dr. Uwe Sonnewald,

Although literature and the natural sciences may appear to be poles apart when it comes to interpreting our world, if these two areas are combined they have the potential to improve our understanding of current and future problems and how to deal with them. At present, more highly insightful, fact-based literary texts dealing with science-related themes are being published than ever before. By means of dialogue and narration, they translate the mathematical and symbolic forms used to represent knowledge in the sciences into verbal, polyvalent forms of expression and re-embed these in specific cultural contexts. At the same time, in the natural sciences there is increasing interest in the form of verbal communication of the results of research as well as their general cultural relevance. The analysis of concept formation in the natural sciences can benefit from a consideration of linguistic and literary theory, while the analysis of the transformation of scientific knowledge in literary texts needs to be complemented by a sound knowledge of the natural sciences. ELINAS provides a platform for this exchange: it considers this research field systematically and from the historical perspective, bringing together expertise in the fields of cultural studies and the natural sciences. The main challenge lies in developing a common systematic approach despite the highly dissimilar, methodologically-controlled specialist discourses of each of the two groups of experts.

Project co-ordination: Prof. Dr. Klaus Mecke, and Prof. Dr. Christine Lubkoll,

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Singlet fission is a method of producing two excited electrons using one photon which can be used to increase the efficiency of solar cells. In this project, researchers working in the fields of synthetic and physical chemistry, surface and molecular physics and theoretical physics collaborate closely in order to identify the fundamental processes involved in singlet fission. They hope to obtain a fundamental understanding of the physics behind the processes so that the information can be used to design novel materials for solar cells.

Project co-ordination: Prof. Dr. Thomas Fauster,

Identifying specific tissue diseases – in particular cancers and inflammations – at the earliest possible stage in order to provide adequate, personalised and minimally invasive treatment is one of the major challenges in modern medicine. In order to achieve the required high-resolution visualisation of diseased cells and tissue components, new optical technologies at the limits of optical resolution need to be developed so that structures that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye are revealed. The main goal of the ADVENDO-LIFE project is to miniaturise state-of-the-art multi-photon imaging equipment in order to create a new generation of optical endoscopes that will be suitable for visualising individual diseased cells in tissues and tissue architecture in vivo; the techniques will be initially tested in animal models prior to subsequent clinical use in humans. To achieve this, an interdisciplinary team of laser physicists, optical engineers, biotechnologists and medical experts are working together to develop and validate a prototype endoscope. Systematic computer-aided analysis of the imaging data will be used to create a database of the ultrastructures of organ-specific diseases.

Project co-ordination: Prof. Dr. Dr. Oliver Friedrich

The overall aim of this project is the fundamental research and development of cell-based tissue structures and, based on this, the complete regeneration of damaged organs, for example, the regeneration of bones with integrated vessels. It is intended to reproduce the micro-anatomical structure of bones and blood vessels based on the combination of new manufacturing processes for three-dimensional scaffolds 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 via the application of customised biomaterials and the production of complete organs or parts of organs in the laboratory or directly in the operating theatre on or in patients. This combination would eliminate the need for the complicated and protracted cultivation of tissues.

Innovations in biotechnology and the life sciences do not only yield great progress in various areas of scientific and technological research and thus also drive economic development, but they also dynamically chart the fundamental relationship between nature, technology, and society. In the future bio-objects will take a key position in dynamic, knowledge-based societies and economies that far exceeds their current importance. They subvert established categories, thereby leaving the realm of the purely material and gaining a certain autonomy and independence from the contexts of their origin and use. This project aims to identify bio-objects as a driving factor for biotechnological developments, to chart their multidimensionality and to examine their effects on agents and society.

The goal of the project ‘Taxation, Social Norms, and Compliance: Lessons for Institution Design’ is to foster research on individual and social determinants of tax compliance. In particular, the project aims to investigate the role institutions and social and cultural norms play for tax compliance. With regard to formal institutions, the project considers the design of tax systems as well the role of tax administration and of tax accounting. Special attention is paid to social and cultural norms, an aspect which is crucial given the great impact these have on fairness and on the individual’s perception of other taxpayers’ behaviour. Finally, the project also includes several sub-projects that focus on behavioural economics, exploring the preferences and the decision behaviour of individual taxpayers.

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 FAU’s expertise from the fields of science, medicine and medical technology to systematically study neurotrition on various functional levels. The project hopes to find out how brain functionality is influenced by nutritional substances and how neurophysiological processes influence the amount and the type of food consumed.

Geometry is where the research interests of physics and mathematics coincide. The reconciliation of quantum theory and the general theory of relativity into quantum geometry is regarded as one of the biggest challenges in modern fundamental physics. The FAU research project aims to help unravel this mystery. A successful quantum geometry theory could broaden our understanding of nature in areas where the classic general theory of relativity fails, improve our knowledge of the universe on the largest and smallest scales, and reveal new mathematical correlations.

Growing challenges in healthcare mean that there is a demand for new substances that are relevant for treatment and diagnosis to be developed. A new approach is to move away from conventional carbon-based medications and use innovative alternatives based on small, low-cost, inorganic bioactive metal and sulphur-based molecules. The unique oxidation-reduction activity of these molecules can be used to regulate the intracellular redox state and the activation of the immune response, as well as to treat neuropathological diseases and diseases caused by immune deficiency, inflammation or infection. Using these molecules is therefore a promising approach that could improve treatment for chronic inflammatory diseases in our ageing population. This unique interdisciplinary research project involves experts in inorganic chemistry, medicine and clinical practice and is co-ordinated by FAU’s Chair of Bioinorganic Chemistry.

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 the objective of developing a ground-breaking platform to produce chemical fuels using solar power. In doing so, the new centre will focus on future generations of photovoltaics, on nanotubular metal oxide architecture (NMOA) for solar water thermolysis and on artificial leaves (AL). It is hoped that fuel and electricity will ultimately 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. The research project ‘Next Generation Solar Power’, which already receives funding from external sources, was granted the status of a model Emerging Fields Project due to its outstanding academic quality.

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 may be used in our current energy infrastructure (tankers, fuelling stations, etc.) and allow for decentralised 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. The research project ‘Energy Transport and Storage Systems’, which already receives funding from external sources, was granted the status of a model Emerging Fields Project due to its outstanding academic quality.

The Erlangen Centre for Astroparticle Physics (ECAP) focuses on research where the fields of astrophysics, particle physics and cosmology overlap. ECAP is making considerable contributions to innovative experiments in neutrino, gamma and X-ray astronomy and developing new instruments for particle and radiation detection. These activities have recently been supplemented by theoretical quantum gravitation research. The ECAP research project, which already receives funding from external sources, was granted the status of a model Emerging Fields Project due to its outstanding academic quality.