In late October, the Helmholtz Association selected a total of 17 excellent young researchers to receive assistance in setting up their own research groups. The researchers will receive annual funding of €250,000 for the next five years. Eight of the successful applicants have come from outside Germany, including five Germans returning from research stays abroad to work at a Helmholtz centre.
A total of 250 researchers applied to become a Young Investigators Group leader. “There were many outstanding scientists from top international locations among the candidates,” says Helmholtz Association President Otmar D. Wiestler.
“This shows that Germany is regarded internationally as an extremely attractive research location. We are delighted to have gained such outstanding young talent from across the world for our centres – and thus for the German research system as a whole.”
The funding programme is aimed at highly qualified young researchers who obtained their doctorate two to six years ago. The successful applicants can look forward to extraordinary prospects: “They benefit from the top-quality infrastructure at our centres as well as being integrated into an international working environment,” says Wiestler.
The Helmholtz Association conducts an interim assessment of all of the groups after about four years. If the evaluation is very positive, the group leaders can usually be assured of a long-term position at the centre. The programme also strengthens links between Helmholtz centres and universities, as the young scientists teach at partner universities alongside their research work, thus also qualifying them for an academic career. A tailored training and mentoring programme gives the successful applicants the support they need to successfully assume leadership responsibilities.
A total of 25 researchers (ten female and 15 male) were selected for the multi-stage competition, which involved them being evaluated by external experts and holding presentations before an interdisciplinary jury. Six of the 17 successful applicants are female, which equates to 35 percent.
“I am very happy that we are able to offer so many talented young female researchers the opportunity to combine family and career and to flourish in leading positions in science,” says Wiestler. “One of the Helmholtz Association’s most important tasks in the future will be to further increase the percentage of women in science.”
Including this year’s winners, the Helmholtz Association has supported a total of almost 200 Young Investigators Groups in twelve selection rounds to date. The Helmholtz President’s Initiative and Networking Fund provides half the necessary funds; the other half is covered by the Helmholtz centres.
With the money they receive, the leaders of the Young Investigators Groups are able to cover their own salaries, conference-related travel costs, and some of their equipment. They are usually also able to hire three or four members of staff. Two of the new Young Investigators Groups will be located within the Energy research field, three in Earth and Environment, and six in Health. The Key Technologies research field will gain another two groups and Matter another four.
The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving major challenges facing society, science and the economy with top scientific achievements in six research fields: Energy; Earth and Environment; Health; Key Technologies; Matter; and Aeronautics, Space and Transport. With some 38,000 employees in 18 research centres and an annual budget of approximately €4 billion, the Helmholtz Association is Germany’s largest scientific organisation. Its work follows in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894).
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