First selection phase for Helmholtz European Partnering: New impetus for the European Research Area

The Helmholtz Association is strengthening collaborative research in Europe – especially in Eastern, Central, and Southern Europe – through its new "Helmholtz European Partnering" funding program. The institutional partnership with a Helmholtz Center on a forward-looking research field will give valuable momentum to the projects even for a sustainable development of the local research systems. Three projects were selected during the first call for applications. These projects will be granted up to 250,000 euros per year from the Helmholtz Association’s Initiative and Networking Fund.

The selected project partners come from Malta, Slovenia, and Croatia. They will now work intensively on a specific research topic with Helmholtz Association Centers for three years. This is the result of the first call for applications for the newly created Helmholtz European Partnering program. "I offer my warmest congratulations to the researchers," says Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association. "They will make innovative contributions to sustainable groundwater management and materials, energy, and environmental research using high-performance computers and researching novel carrier systems for vaccines." The intensified cooperation with countries, especially in Eastern, Central, and Southern Europe, will also make an important contribution to further develop the local scientific systems, thereby strengthening the European Research Area as a whole. "The institutional partnership with one of our centers particularly provides excellent chances to evolve forward looking research and local research systems comprehensively and sustainably. In view of global competition, especially for the best talent, this is of enormous importance for our future," Wiestler continues.

The Helmholtz European Partnering program  will pursue joint research projects. During the program, the scientists can spend research periods with their partner institutions, participate in joint symposia, or work on publications. In particular, talented young researchers will be supported through mobility, research, and qualification programs. "In this way, we also help to promote young talents in their particular country," says Wiestler. The respective Helmholtz Centers participating in the programs also help the partner institutions to further develop strategically important research projects, management, and infrastructures. Knowledge transfer is intensified through events such as mutual visits, joint training, and participating in management teams and advisory boards.

The Helmholtz European Partnering program will have three calls for applications. Up to three initiatives can be funded per call. Potential projects should last for three years and are given an option to extend funding for an additional two years after passing an evaluation. The maximum amount that a project can apply for from the Helmholtz President's Initiative and Networking Fund is 250,000 euros per year.

Nine proposals were submitted during the first call for applications. Based on the results of a written evaluation, six of them were invited to a selection meeting with an international panel of experts led by the Helmholtz President. The following three projects were selected:

  • GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and University of Malta (Malta); Sustainable Management of Offshore Groundwater Resources (SMART):

Groundwater resources in coastal regions are under tremendous strain from population growth, increasing environmental pollution, and climate change. SMART will lead to a fundamental change in the methodology used to characterize offshore aquifers (freshwater bodies below the seabed) and will increase our understanding of how this alternative freshwater source can be used sustainably. Contact: GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel; Bradley Weymer, email: bweymer(at)

  • Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and Jožef Stefan Institute (Slovenia); Crossing borders and scales – an interdisciplinary approach (CROSSING):

The project is comprised of four sections in interdisciplinary research fields. These include the integration of ion technologies in correlative analytical microscopy, research on the propagation and interaction of nanoparticles in the soil, the use of high-performance computers for the simulation of complex processes to increase safety in large-scale technical facilities, and pooling complementary competences in the field of ion beam research in a virtual ion beam center. Contact: Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), Johannes von Borany, email: j.v.borany(at)

  • Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), University of Rijeka, and University Clinic Zagreb (Croatia); New cytomegaloviral vaccine vector concepts:

This project will investigate the potential of cytomegalovirus – a ubiquitous virus from the herpes family – as a carrier for vaccines against infections with other viruses such as hepatitis C, Hanta, or Chikungunya. The project team consists of outstanding scientists from Croatia and Germany. Contact: Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI); Prof. Luka Cicin-Sain, email: Luka.Cicin-Sain(at)

The second call for applications will be announced on September 10, 2018.

The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving great, pressing questions facing society, science, and business with top scientific performances in six research fields: Energy; Earth and Environment; Health; Key Technologies; Matter; and Aeronautics, Space, and Transport. With 39,000 employees at 18 Research Centers and an annual budget of more than 4.5 billion euros, the Helmholtz Association is Germany's largest scientific organization. Its work follows the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894).