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Paving the way for the future: FRIAS to benefit from state funding commitment and establish new areas of research focus

The Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts of the state of Baden-Württemberg will support the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) with a total of 3.8 million euros for another funding phase of three years beginning in October 2014. By making this commitment, the state is recognising the outstanding academic work conducted at FRIAS and is supporting the implementation of FRIAS’s new concept. “The refined concept presented by the university is extremely impressive and has received backing in equal measure from all of the university’s committees,” stated Minister Theresia Bauer.

The university’s Rectorate is delighted to have received this level of financial support from Baden-Württemberg. Prof. Bernd Kortmann, Academic Director Designate of FRIAS: “This is wonderful news for the Institute and the University of Freiburg. With its new concept the Institute is making itself accessible to all disciplines while maintaining its stringent academic selection criteria. By creating carefully chosen areas of focus, the Institute can continue to provide impetus for enhancing the university’s profile.” Both the state and university are lending ongoing support to help FRIAS secure financial assistance from the German federal government based on the national importance of the Institute.

The new concept to be supported by the state funding is already being implemented. Drawing on the decision made by an international expert committee, the Rectorate announced FRIAS’s two new areas of research focus for the year 2014/15 on 27th November.

The Dynamic Alignments and Dealignments in Global Southeast Asia area of focus intends to investigate the effects of global challenges on key players, structural models and processes in the region and examine the resulting dynamics of alliances and disassociations. Attention will be paid in particular to exploring cultures of cooperation on an international, national and local level in the strategically important, economically dynamic and politically instable region whose future development is of high political significance. The area of focus unites the disciplines of ethnology, political science, economics and history and is also open to academics wishing to examine similar issues in other regions of the world.

The Designed Quantum Transport in Complex Materials area of focus promotes the interdisciplinary research of quantum design principles by looking at their long-term use in efficient, scalable, inexpensive and sustainable technologies for transforming light into energy. The topic is based on the analysis of quantum processes in biological structures, for example, those in birds to aid navigation or in plants for photosynthesis, with the aim of implementing them in technologically relevant processes such as photovoltaics.  The area of research focus combines physics with physical chemistry and the work of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.

Prof. Hermann Grabert, Academic Director Designate of FRIAS: “With this decision the university is demonstrating its intention to continue uniting the humanities and social sciences, natural and engineering sciences as well as medicine under one roof at FRIAS. All of the applications received for our areas of research focus were of exceptional quality and are an impressive testament to our university’s academic potential and the appeal of these new funding formats.”

The areas of research focus still follow the recipe for success created by FRIAS during its first funding phase and bring together Freiburg-based and external research scholars in an environment where established academics work alongside outstanding early-stage researchers. The topics and challenges pertaining to the two areas of research focus and their closely related fields will be presented and discussed in events such as public presentations and lecture series.

The Institute has also recently secured 3.3 million euros of funding from the EU which it is using to run an extensive international fellowship programme over the next four years (the call for applications is open). In addition to this, it is currently concentrating on running joint research groups with the University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study (USIAS), who are making an important contribution towards deepening the level of scientific cooperation in the Upper Rhine region.