How can hydrogen make a crucial contribution to environmentally friendly mobility? How can a deeper understanding of our immune system lead to new treatments for infections, tumours and autoimmune diseases? And how can new polymer materials be developed which are suitable for use on and in the human body? These are all questions FAU is exploring in collaboration with its Bavarian partner universities, Technische Universität München (TUM), Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU), Universität Regensburg and the University of Bayreuth. The state of Bavaria plans to provide funding for these three research proposals involving FAU from 2021 within the context of the funding programme for clusters of excellence and university consortia (E-VUK). The aim is to establish collaborative research clusters and the infrastructure required to be successful in the bid for funding as part of the Excellence Strategy.
Hydrogen for environmentally friendly mobility
Together with TUM, researchers at FAU are involved in a project focusing on generating, storing and using green hydrogen for the mobility of the future. The project deals with the importance of hydrogen for the Bavarian economy and the pending structural change in the automotive industry, in particular in the HGV sector. Within the context of their collaborative research into hydrogen mobility, the partner universities are researching how to produce green hydrogen using low temperature electrolysis, how to reconvert hydrogen to electricity in low temperature fuel cells and how to store hydrogen in a way compatible with existing infrastructure.
Spying on the immune system
In the project ‘4I – IMMUNOCLUSTER’, FAU is collaborating with the universities in Regensburg and Würzburg. In this project, the partners hope to gain new insights into those aspects of our immune system which are of major significance for our future health, determining the occurrence and progression of infections, chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases and the development and growth of tumours, which are becoming more widespread in an ageing population. Previous years have shown that understanding how the immune system works on a molecular level can lead to pioneering new treatments. It is hoped that the findings from the project will also be beneficial for preventing infections, tumours and autoimmune diseases. The partners aim to expand the research infrastructure for key technologies available across the various universities, especially in the area of molecular imaging.
Biomaterials for the human body
In cooperation with the universities of Bayreuth and Würzburg, FAU has submitted a proposal for the project ‘Function by Design: Cellular Hybrids. Taking a biological approach to material sciences.’ It builds on the existing close collaboration between the three universities in the area of polymer research. The partners want to do the groundwork aimed at producing synthetic polymers and biopolymers that can even be tailored to have the mechanical properties they need to perform biological functions in the human body. As a first step, researchers are looking to design materials following the example of the natural world. Manufacturing technology is another research challenge. Additive manufacturing, the process of choice for manufacturing certain materials, is currently predominantly used at high temperatures. These, however, are not suitable for manufacturing biopolymers. In order to be able to produce biological materials, the researchers therefore hope to develop a process which would make additive manufacturing possible at low temperatures.
The aim of the funding programme included in the Bavarian government’s High-Tech Agenda Bavaria is to allow Bavarian universities to be quick off the mark and get off to a good start with preparations for applications for Cluster of Excellence funding from 2026. According to Bavarian science minister Bernd Sibler, ‘the concepts of FAU and its partner universities in Munich, Würzburg, Regensburg and Bayreuth demonstrate that our universities have the expertise and resources they need to be among the leaders in the national competition for gaining the status of University of Excellence in 2026. Our programme for funding clusters of excellence and university consortia within the High-Tech Agenda Bavaria is aimed at providing them with valuable support. Our aim is to boost the potential of university research across the whole of Bavaria and get into the best possible position for the next round of the Excellence Strategy.’
‘The decision to award funding to three so important research projects is a great Christmas present for FAU and our partner universities,’ says Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger, President of FAU. ‘This serves to underline once again the close ties between the Bavarian universities. Whilst they may be in competition with each other to a certain extent, they are more than willing to work together to tackle the major research questions of the future. On the basis of existing close collaborations, we can now power ahead with added resources to take the next important steps in issues of relevance to the future such as green mobility, immunology and polymer research. We are doing all we can to ensure we are in the best possible position for the Excellence Strategy 2026. But even if there were no Excellence Strategy, society would still benefit from our findings’.
All nine state universities in Bavaria with collaborative projects involving two or three universities within Bavaria were invited to submit a proposal. The Bavarian State Ministry of Science and the Arts is providing funding for up to six of these research consortia. The planned volume of funding comes to a total of more than 25 million euros and covers up to 30 W3 fixed-term professorships plus equipment.