Science and research
As part of its research programs, the German Federal Government provides funding for basic technologies that drive forward developments in central fields of application and thus serve to encourage growth in several sectors. Research funding provided by the German government seeks to find solutions to global challenges, increase Germany’s competitiveness and secure sustainable jobs.
Project applications are selected and approved in a competitive procedure on the basis of specific calls for applications from various Federal Ministries.
FAU receives the most funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as well as from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).
Some of the most significant projects are listed and described briefly below:
MIRACUM – Medical Informatics in Research and Care in University Medicine is one of four consortia that receives funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the Medical Informatics Initiative (MII). From 2018 to 2022, the focus was on establishing data integration centers at university hospitals in Germany. From 2023 onwards, these data integration centers will be connected to regional hospitals and further medical care centers beyond the university hospitals. The consortia will also consolidate during this expansion phase of the MII. Six junior research groups have been established from MIRACUM. Furthermore, funding is also being provided for “Digitale FortschrittsHubs Gesundheit” (Digital progress hubs for health) via the MII, of which four of the six hubs have been formed from the MIRACUM consortium. During the new funding phase, researchers will collaborateacross sector boundaries in eight clinical and three methodological use cases. MIRACUM is participating in all of these use cases. FAU and Universitätsklinikum Erlangen will receive almost 8.2 million euros of funding from 2023 to 2026. Further funds of around 4.5 million euros are expected to be granted for clinical and methodological application projects in the MII. The consortium is led by Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Prokosch, Chair of Medical Informatics, FAU.
The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months and for up to 2 years after introducing solids. Even though breast milk offers protection against serious illnesses and infections, there are some viruses that are transmitted via breast milk. This includes the human T-lymphotropic virus 1 (HTLV-1), a neglected retro and tumor virus that predominantly infects white blood cells (CD4+ T cells) and can lead to incurable illnesses after lifelong persistence. At least 5 to 10 million people worldwide are infected with HTLV-1, however many of them do not know they have the virus. The virus is transmitted via bodily fluids that contain cells, including blood products, seminal fluid and breast milk, which is mainly responsible for the transmission of HTLV-1 from mother to child. The risk of transmitting the virus increases with the duration of breastfeeding, but refraining from breastfeeding is not an option in countries where resources are limited or within under-represented ethnic groups such as ethnic minorities. Although our understanding of how the virus is transmitted from cell to cell on a molecular level continues to improve, it remains unclear which cells in which organs are infected first via breast milk, how these cells are infected and how breast milk influences the infection of these cells. Furthermore, the development of prevention strategies that still allow breastfeeding, above all in economically underdeveloped regions, is urgently required. We intend to take an experiment-based approach to tackling these questions. For this purpose, we will use various tissue culture models and develop HTLV-1 specific single-domain antibodies that can be used in therapy. Our central aim is to develop prevention strategies that ultimately allow infants to gain from the benefits of breastfeeding without being exposed to an increased risk of HTLV-1 transmission.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number 01KI2023, from November 1, 2020 until October 31, 2025.
Software Campus 2.0
Software Campus is a training program from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, tailored for managers in the IT sector. It is aimed at students studying for a Master’s degree and doctoral candidates in computer science from Germany and abroad, who have demonstrated outstanding academic success and an innovative entrepreneurial spirit. Within the framework of the program, Master’s students or doctoral candidates can develop and manage their own IT idea as part of a project together with an industrial partner. BMBF has provided funding of up to 100,000 euros for the project for a maximum of two years. Those participating in the program have the opportunity to attend special training courses aimed at improving their methodological and management skills, as well as other valuable soft skills.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number 01IS17045, from November 1, 2017 until June 30, 2025.
Antimicrobial resistance has become one of the world’s most serious health problems. Attempts to develop new or improved antimicrobial chemotherapy drugs have had only limited success up to now. The problem requires innovative approaches during the development of new therapies. The naturally acquired immunity of humans has evolved during the course of millions of years and transferring natural immune cells (known as T cells) to treat infectious diseases has been proven to be safe and effective in clinical trials, even in cases where conventional drugs were no longer effective. This applies in particular to infections with the herpesviridae family of viruses, which can be fatal for patients with a suppressed immune system. However, the fact that these cell therapies have to be tailored to each patient prevents their widespread use. Even though genetic engineering can be used to increase the variability of T cell therapies, modifying the cells in this way also causes profound changes to their physiology. New ‘genetic scissors’ such as CRISPR/Cas9 mean that it is now possible to produce genetically modified T cells that are very similar to physiological T cells for the first time. The aim of the project is to improve natural immunity to herpesviridae that are resistant to chemotherapy by using physiologically modified T cells (Physiological Advanced Genetically Engineered T cells – AGEnTs). The goal is to develop safe, functional therapeutic T cell products for widespread use using pioneering genetic engineering techniques. The long-term objectives of the research project are to combine the advantages of physiological immunity and cell engineering in order to develop therapies for patients suffering from other infectious diseases that are resistant to conventional drugs.
SiC Quantum Memory Nodes for a Distributed Quantum Computing Network (QMNDQCNet)
This project focuses on implementing scalable quantum memory nodes for creating a “distributed quantum computing network”. Quantum memory nodes such as these can be created in a solid state body via an optically active quantum system and controllable nuclear spins. Silicon vacancy centers (color centers) in 4H-SiC are being used as a quantum system for implementing the research project. Silicon vacancy centers in 4H-SiC are optically active quantum systems that are suitable for such applications due to their spectral stability and a coherent controllable electron spin. The aim is to implement addressable, scalable and robust quantum memories using 13C and 29Si nuclear spins. The aim of this research project is to demonstrate a distributed quantum computer network comprising two quantum memory nodes and six nuclear spin qubits (three per node).
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number 13N16264 , from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2026.
Reliable and high-performance communication networks are an important driver of innovation in our digital society. To shape our digital future effectively and in line with our requirements, it is vital that Germany and Europe have technological superiority. To ensure that Germany plays a leading role in designing 6G, the next generation of mobile communication technology, and to ensure the technology is firmly established in Europe, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is providing funding of around 68 million euros for the Open6GHub project during the next four years (2022–2025).
The Open6GHub is developing a 6G vision for digital sovereignty in a hyperconnected world from 2030 and is designing a 6G system that will save resources and be energy efficient, protect personal information and ensure high network availability. The design criteria for collaboration in the Open6GHub will focus on the needs of society (sustainability, climate protection, data protection, resilience, participation) as well as the competitiveness of our companies and our technological superiority.
The consortium, comprising 47 research groups from 11 universities and six extramural research institutions, is focusing on application fields requiring very high standards of quality and security in communication technology: smart cities, highly connected production, future mobility scenarios, new worlds of learning, personalized medicine and, above all, human interaction with a large number of autonomous vehicles and devices, which are examples of a world that will be characterized by 6G from 2030 onwards. In addition, 6G is also likely to play a key role in accelerated digitalization for the purposes of sustainability and the implementation of climate policy targets. Providing equal coverage to rural areas is another aim of the Open6GHub, for which 6G research is being carried out into satellite connections, for example.
Within the context of these focal areas, the project will contribute to a global 6G harmonization process and standard in Europe in order to strengthen Germany and Europe’s position in international competition for 6G.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number16KISK005 from August 1, 2022 until July 31, 2025.
Interfaces in Immunomedicine (iIMMUNE_ACS)
The Advanced Clinician Scientist (ACS) Program iIMMUNE_ACS supports outstanding clinicians who carry out research after they have completed their specialist medical training. It is an extension of the Clinician Scientist program at the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research (IKZF) for physicians who are completing specialist training. The ACS Fellows who receive funding have the opportunity to carry out a research project in the field of immunomedicine during the course of 6 years and to prepare for a clinical and scientific management position in an in-depth interdisciplinary training program. iIMMUNE_ACS ensures that the specialists who receive funding are guaranteed that 50% of their time is set aside for research and receive additional funding for research. An individually appointed team of mentors provides support to the ACS fellows in achieving their defined goals.
iIMMUNE_ACS is part of a nationwide ACS program that the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding at a total of 8 locations in Germany. The collaboration of these ACS programs across locations and joint events offer all ACS fellows a wide variety of opportunities to exchange information and network with others and participate in the training provided at other locations.
iIMMUNE_ACS is based at Deutsches Zentrum Immuntherapie (DZI).
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number 01EO2105 , from May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2024 (long-term planning until 2032) .
Development of a digitalized and automated value chain for Next-to-OEM wiring harness manufacturing (Next2OEM)
The Next2OEM research project addresses the entire value chain of wiring harness systems for automotive applications. The aim of the project is to digitalize and automate the value chain to facilitate the reshoring of wiring harness manufacturing to Germany. Next-to-OEM wiring harness manufacturing involves developing highly automated solutions for wiring harness manufacturing and assembly in the vehicle at OEM that are set up in a demonstrator and linked together. Digital consistency is ensured for orchestrating automated manufacturing and traceability to the component and process level using an innovative information model that provides a semantic description of the product and the newly developed manufacturing processes. The project consortium includes partners from the entire value chain. This ensures holistic automation solutions for all steps of the process including everything from plug-in connector manufacturing and cable assembly, shaping, cable protection, testing and logistics to the assembly of the wiring harness into the car body using a self-sufficient central console wiring harness. A prototype of the linked assembly line at consortium leader AUDI AG validates the practicability and forms the basis for potential further development to volume production.
The Next2OEM project, with a total funding amount of over 24 million euros, will run from February 2023 until January 2026. The project partners are TE Connectivity and KOSTAL Kontakt Systeme as connector manufacturers, semantic PDM for the development of the graph-based information model, and Kromberg and Schubert as wiring harness manufacturers. Other important partners in automation include Komax Taping, Komax Testing, Stefani Maschinenbau, BÄR Automation and ArtiMinds Robotics. As consortium leader, AUDI AG is responsible for designing on-board network architectures and the assembly process into the car body. As part of a research network and with a project budget of almost 2.3 million euros, the Institute for Factory Automation and Production Systems carries out research on topics related to the digital factory and the traceability of products and processes and the automation of cable sheathing and assembly of the wiring harness into the car body.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, reference number 13IK026D, from February 1, 2023 to January 31, 2026 .
Diagnostics with biomarker patterns from extracellular vesicles in plasma using artificial intelligence methods (KI-VesD-2)
Liquid biopsy test systems would be an ideal tool for early tumor detection and follow-up checks. The new approach being used in KI-VesD (“Künstliche Intelligenz-unterstützte Vesikel Diagnostik” – Artificial intelligence-based vesicle diagnostics) records the innate immune reaction to the development of tumors. This is carried out by quantifying enzymatic and non-enzymatic factors in plasma extracellular vesicles (pEV) and evaluating them using artificial intelligence (AI), thus achieving high sensitivity and specificity and enabling treatment to be monitored. We developed two test systems to do so: A Point-of-Care (PoC) screening test and a confirmation test for use in a central laboratory. The special feature of this collaborative project is the involvement of several clinical departments for clinical studies in Erlangen (Dermatology, Urology, Hemato-Oncology, Transfusion Medicine) as well as an institute for microfluidics (Hahn-Schickard, Freiburg) for manufacturing test hardware, for example a PoC device.
In the first project phase (2 years, beginning in 2020), excellent results were achieved for the test validation milestones. These involved test robustness and reproducibility, equipment-based purification of pEV as well as the first AI-based analyses for tumor follow-up checks and early detection. The latter achieved an AU-ROC of 0.92-1.0 in the test samples (prostate cancer, melanoma and lymphoma). Important new features were incorporated such as pEV purification using SEC (DMC), for which a semi-automated device is being developed as well as reliable quantification of non-enzymatic factors using Olink® technology. Using AI enabled undesired influencing factors to be eliminated, considerably improving the evaluation. A combination of techniques and materials was found that enabled the tests to be automated.
In addition to basic research, during the upcoming funding period until 2026, the scientists will conduct clinical studies, for example a planned multi-center study for the early detection and treatment of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (in conjunction with the Department of Hemato-Oncology in Erlangen), a study for the early detection of prostate cancer (in conjunction with the Department of Urology in Erlangen), a study for treatment monitoring of metastasized prostate cancer (in conjunction with the Department of Nuclear Medicine and the Department of Urology in Erlangen) as well as studies for treatment monitoring of uveal melanoma with Tebentafusp and monitoring of the supporting treatment of melanoma patients in stage II and III (in conjunction with the Department of Dermatology in Erlangen).
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number 16LW0338K, from April 1, 2023 until March 31, 2026.
Digital Leadership & Communication and Cooperation Development (LeadCom)
LeadCom offers head teachers and teachers who deal with digital school development at non-specialist and vocational schools a system of training and support with a focus on developing digital communication and cooperation and the change in digital leadership associated with it. The project partners from Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate will implement the following work packages: (1) Shaping a culture of digital communication and collaboration in schools and among the partners involved in the competence center, (2) developing and testing concepts to strengthen digital leadership among school administrators and leaders and multipliers in this area, (3) designing and implementing training and advice programs on digital leadership and digital communication and collaboration, and (4) ensuring transfer to practical application in schools. The center brings together previously used strategies, processes, models and measures and pursues a process of development using design-based research where schools, project and transfer partners actively collaborate. Training and advice programs and concepts for digital leadership as well as for a culture of digital communication and collaboration are designed and developed further on an ongoing basis. Research is also being carried out into the implementation of the programs and concepts. This involves a longitudinal evaluation of training available on the topic of digital leadership as well as on communication and collaboration taught online in the context of schools in order to implement an evidence-based approach to developing programs and concepts while taking the framework conditions of the German federal states into consideration. Another focus lies on the collaborative development of design concepts, the development of a culture of communication and cooperation and of the leadership skills profile.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number 01JA23E01A, from August 1, 2023 until March 23, 2026.
AI demonstration and transfer network in manufacturing (ProKI)
In the “ProKI-Nürnberg” project, the Institute for Factory Automation and Production Systems (Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg Franke) and the Institute of Sociology (Prof. Dr. Sabine Pfeiffer) are building a demonstration and transfer center. This center serves to assist companies in introducing artificial intelligence in joining processes, especially in electronics manufacturing and electrical machinery construction. In addition, it also provides developed solutions to companies.
The project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) focuses on developing concepts that adapt AI methods tested during research for joining processes for use in industrial applications. In conjunction with seven other centers in the nationwide ProKI network, the project designs methods for introducing AI applications and qualification measures. The project demonstrates and explores AI applications in selected joining processes with the aim of introducing AI applications in manufacturing, thus enabling SME in Germany in particular to implement AI. In order to make this a reality, FAU is creating a wide range of services as part of ProKI-Nürnberg that addresses companies with and without any prior experience of artificial intelligence. This includes consultations, customized seminars and support for transfer projects.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, reference number 02P22A000, from October 1, 2022 until December 31, 2023.
Automated manufacturing processes for Electric Road Systems for the electrification of heavy goods vehicle traffic (E|MPower)
The Institute for Factory Automation and Production Systems (FAPS) is consortium leader of the new E|MPOWER collaborative project with partners VIA IMC, Autobahn GmbH, Electreon, Risomat and TH Nürnberg. The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, reference number 01MV22020A, as part of the “Elektro-Mobil” program, and also has the backing of Deutsche Autobahn GmbH. One key aim of the project is the integration of the wireless electric road system (ERS) technology from Electreon on a one kilometer long section of the highway in Northern Bavaria. This ERS uses inductive charging technology that is directly integrated into the road surface and facilitates contactless energy transfer to stationary and moving vehicles.
The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, reference number 01MV22020A, from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2025.