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In the Running for Two Clusters

The university has submitted proposals for the Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies (CIBSS) and Living, Adaptive, and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS)

In the Running for Two Clusters

Photo: Sandra Meyndt

Home stretch in the Clusters of Excellence funding line: The University of Freiburg has submitted proposals for two clusters in the Excellence Strategy competition being held by the German federal and state governments, thus setting strategic priorities for its further development well into the coming decade. “The Excellence funding we have received these past ten years and our broad basis of collaborative research have paid off: We are proud to be entering the second round of the competition in the Clusters of Excellence funding line with the Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies (CIBSS), an initiative that will expand on our strengths in biological signalling research, and with Living, Adaptive, and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS), an initiative representing another internationally competitive research priority in bioinspired materials research,” says Rector Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer. The decision as to which cluster initiatives ultimately succeed in the competition will be announced on 27 September 2018. Funding for the new Clusters of Excellence will begin on 1 January 2019.

CIBSS – Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies

Biological signalling research explores the fundamental processes of life, such as how cells react to diverse conditions and cues and communicate with one another to make up a functioning organism. Scientists know that individual signalling processes are influenced by metabolism, stress, injuries, and disease mechanisms. However, it is still unclear how the plethora of signals are integrated across various levels – from the molecule to the cell and the organ – to orchestrate the development from a single cell into a healthy, mature organism.

The CIBSS research concept will address these major open questions by studying signalling across broad biological scales, and by unravelling how signalling processes are integrated with metabolic and environmental cues in order to control cellular decisions and organismal function and adaptation. CIBSS research will thus give unprecedented insight into biological signalling, and will pave the way for the development of novel strategies to precisely control signalling and correct errors that can drive disease. CIBSS will also investigate how signals between plant cells control the growth and health of plants and how this enables plants to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

The proposal for funding was submitted jointly by scientists from the university and from the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, who will unite their diverse expertise in an interdisciplinary effort to achieve the goals of CIBSS.

Living, Adaptive, and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS)

The cluster initiative Living, Adaptive, and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) develops bioinspired materials systems that adapt autonomously to various environments and harvest clean energy from their surroundings. The intention of these purely technical – yet in a behavioral sense quasi-living – materials systems is to meet the demands of humans with regard to pioneering environmental and energy technologies. The societal relevance of autonomous systems and their sustainability will thus play a crucial role in their development.

There are myriad potential applications for these materials systems. One example is “soft” machines that can recognize and grasp objects by feeling them, without the help of a computer. The capability of a materials system to adapt itself to temperatures, lighting conditions, or pressure opens up perspectives in a wide range of areas, such as protective clothing like helmets and back protectors or prostheses that can adjust themselves to fit the wearer automatically and without needing batteries – for instance through the use of body heat. Other ideas include packaging materials that grow stronger automatically when placed under stress and building envelopes that level out temperature differences, for example to prevent overheating.

livMatS will use the ideas factory IDEASfactory@FIT to implement new forms of scientific exchange and interdisciplinary cooperation. The communication concept “learning from nature in nature” will convey the scientific content at the interface between nature, technology, and society to the general public. livMatS is based on the Freiburg Center for Interactive Materials and Bioinspired Technologies (FIT) and reinforces the university’s strategic alliance with Freiburg’s Fraunhofer Institutes, as exhibited among other things in the jointly operated Sustainability Center Freiburg.

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