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The University of Freiburg in the Excellence Competition



In the first funding line of the Excellence Strategy, scientists from the University of Freiburg and other partner institutions have acquired the clusters CIBSS – Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies and livMatS – Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems. The new Clusters of Excellence started their work on January 1, 2019.

In the previous two rounds of the Excellence Initiative, the University of Freiburg was successful with its proposals for the cluster BIOSS – Centre for Biological Signalling Studies and the Spemann Graduate School of Biology and Medicine (SGBM). Moreover, the university received approval in the second round for the cluster BrainLinks-BrainTools and in the first round for its institutional strategy, the centerpiece of which was the international research institute Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS).


Excellence Strategy

cibss-3x2.pngCIBSS – Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies

How do 30 trillion cells collectively orchestrate their development and function in order to form and maintain a healthy human organism? In the Cluster of Excellence CIBSS - Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies, scientists have joined forces with the aim of comprehensively understanding this biological communication at all levels: from individual molecules to the entire organism, from biochemical reactions occurring in microseconds to biological signals that last a lifetime, from communication processes in simple, unicellular fungi to those in plants, animals and humans.

CIBSS researchers not only want to understand biological communication, they also want to learn how to speak this language: in order to control signalling for certain applications or to correct faulty communication signals, for instance in disease, they will develop new precision technologies from synthetic and chemical biology.

One of the goals of CIBSS is to optimise signalling in immune cells so that cancer cells or other disease-causing agents can be combated more efficiently. In addition, the scientists want to understand the communication between plant roots and their environment and control this signalling in such a way that plants become more resistant to the consequences of climate change and require less fertiliser. Go to the Website


livmats-3x2.pnglivMatS – Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems

The cluster livMatS – Living, adaptive and energy-autonomous material systems develops bio-inspired material systems that adapt autonomously to different environments and harvest clean energy from their environment. Today's materials have properties like strength, hardness and conductivity given to them during production that do not change over time, apart from inevitable aging. In contrast, living nature is characterized by constant changes. The key to the survival of all living beings lies in the greatest possible adaptability to their respective environment. However, this adaptability costs energy, which must be provided by food or sunlight.

The vision of livMatS is to combine the best of both worlds – nature and technology: The cluster is developing purely technical, but behaviorally quasi-live materials systems that meet people's demands for future-oriented environmental and energy technologies. Research into the acceptance and social relevance of these autonomous systems and their sustainability are important components of development.

There are numerous possible applications for the materials systems: Prostheses that can adapt automatically and without batteries, for example by utilizing the wearer's body heat. Protectors such as helmets with, damping mechanisms gleaned from natural models, or so-called soft machines, which can recognize and grasp objects by touching them without the help of a computer. Go to the Website


Excellence Initiative

sgbm-3x2.pngSpemann Graduate School of Biology and Medicine (SGBM)

The Spemann Graduate School of Biology and Medicine (SGBM) offers a dynamic interdisciplinary training program that prepares students for future scientific challenges. Its ultimate goal is to create a top notch “Life Scientist of the Future” who can assimilate knowledge and techniques from various disciplines as well as combine basic with translational research, biotechnology and drug development. Go to the Website


bioss-3x2.pngBIOSS – Centre for Biological Signalling Studies

Biological signalling processes are the key regulators of cellular activity in all types of cells in living organisms. The BIOSS – Centre for Biological Signalling Studies in Freiburg uses modern analytical methods and strategies of synthetic biology to study biological signalling processes in a creative and playful way. The main focus of research at BIOSS is to initiate and promote a dialectic process between scientists using analytical and synthetic approaches in signalling research. Go to the Website



BrainLinks-BrainTools unites life sciences, engineering, and clinical applications in Freiburg, thus anchoring neurotechnology as a research axis between three faculties of the University – Biology, Medicine, and Engineering – and various cooperation partners. These emerging opportunities for strong joint research and education between neuroscience and engineering deliver novel interdisciplinary results in an area highly relevant for society as a whole. Go to the Website


frias-3x2.pngFreiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS)

The Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) is the international research college of the University of Freiburg. As an integral part of the university, the Institute unites under its roof the humanities and social sciences, medicine, the natural and life sciences, and engineering. FRIAS offers leading academics as well as outstanding early-stage researchers from Freiburg and around the world the opportunity to concentrate exclusively on their individual or joint research projects for a certain period of time. It is in this way that the Institute creates a unique space and atmosphere for research within the university. Go to the Website