“We have to seek out the brightest minds from all over the world,” says Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association. “For us, this is an essential component for making important contributions to solving major challenges facing society through cutting-edge research.” Helmholtz therefore offers young, internationally experienced scientists an attractive research environment including a funding program for Young Investigators Group leaders. “In this year’s round of selections, we once again received numerous fantastic applications. I am very pleased that we were able to select a total of 13 brilliant young scientists.” The long-term success of Helmholtz, Wiestler adds, depends significantly on being a magnet for the best minds from all over the world.
After an assessment procedure involving a total of 38 applications, 22 scientists were invited to present their ideas to a top-class interdisciplinary jury in the current selection round. In October, 13 of them were finally selected. Over a period of six years, they will each receive financial support of at least 300,000 euros per year to establish their own research groups at one of the 19 Helmholtz Centers.
The fact that these candidates included many outstanding scientists who had previously conducted research at international locations shows how attractive Germany and Helmholtz are, Wiestler went on to say. Seven of those selected are German scientists returning from abroad. Helmholtz was able to recruit four foreign scientists from well-known universities.
The funding program is aimed at highly qualified young scientists whose doctorates date back two to six years and who have international research experience. “Our funding will allow them to establish their own research groups under excellent conditions and prove themselves as managers,” says Wiestler. In order to gradually ease them into their management duties, they will be supported by a customized Helmholtz Management Academy training and mentoring program. After approximately five years, all groups will be subjected to an interim evaluation. If this is convincingly positive, the group leaders will be given a long-term prospect at Helmholtz.
A further goal of Young Investigators Groups is to strengthen the networking between Helmholtz Centers and universities: The young scientists will also teach at partner universities and train doctoral students together with universities.
With this year’s selection. Helmholtz has enabled 243 Young Investigators Groups in a total of 16 selection rounds. Half of the costs are covered by the President’s Initiative and Networking Fund. The other half is provided by the Helmholtz Centers at which the Young Investigators Group leaders conduct their research. The funds essentially allow them to finance their own positions and those of three or four employees, conference trips, and the purchase of parts of their equipment. Five of the new Young Investigators Groups will be in the Research Field Earth and Environment, four in Health, and two in Matter. One Young Investigators Group will be dedicated to each of the Research Fields Key Technologies and Energy.
Helmholtz contributes to solving major challenges facing society, science, and the economy through top-level scientific achievements in six Research Fields: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Matter, and Aeronautics, Space, and Transport. With more than 40,000 employees at 19 Research Centers and an annual budget of around 4.8 billion euros, Helmholtz is the largest scientific organization in Germany. Its work is rooted in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894).