Less admin, more research: A new collaboration platform for the Berlin University Alliance
A “collaboration platform” in the form of a corporation under public law (Körperschaft öffentlichen Rechts) is to be established in order to provide administrative support to the Alliance
News from Aug 20, 2020
In 2018, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Technische Universität Berlin, together with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, founded the Berlin University Alliance, which, ever since November 2019, has been funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal State of Berlin as the only successful university alliance in the German government’s excellence strategy competition. In line with the University Alliance's proposal, a “collaboration platform” in the form of a corporation under public law is now to be established in order to provide administrative support to the Alliance. This should not only help to support the Alliance’s Administrative Office and cross-institutional work in the Alliance's most important fields of activity but also facilitate cooperation between researchers at different institutions. The structure of this essential tool for the Alliance has already been discussed in great detail by the academic senates of the respective universities. On August 20, 2020, the Senate Chancellery Higher Education and Research presented a draft law to the Berlin House of Representatives for the establishment of the collaboration platform for the Berlin University Alliance, after the draft was approved by the Senate on July 21, 2020. This could potentially be followed by hearings within the Committee for Science and Research if the plenum refers the draft law to the Science Committee.
The Berlin University Alliance marks the beginning of a new form and level of intensity for research collaboration. The Alliance's ultimate vision is to use the Berlin universities in order to develop the city into an integrated research area that is perceived as one of the leading research hubs in Europe. Cross-institutional research collaboration should be at the forefront of this vision – not only between the Alliance partners but also, for example, with the numerous outstanding non-university research institutions in Berlin, many of which have come together in the Berlin Research 50 group.
“The Alliance’s success will be determined by how it supports and promotes collaboration in Berlin and the way in which it implements the central goals, such as the joint work for grand challenges,” explains Prof. Dr. Günter M. Ziegler, spokesperson of the Berlin University Alliance and president of Freie Universität Berlin. The Alliance has already launched numerous unique projects on topics related to social cohesion and global health within the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. International partnerships with Oxford, Melbourne, and Singapore in particular are continually being strengthened. In July, the University of Oxford and the Berlin University Alliance jointly founded a Centre for Advanced Studies.
Why is a corporation under public law required?
“The integrated research environment should change the collaboration culture within the Berlin research hub. New forms of research collaboration should result in innovative solutions that can tackle the increasingly complex challenges of society,” says Prof. Dr. Christian Thomsen, president of Technische Universität Berlin, summarizing the Berlin University Alliance’s objectives.
A corporation under public law establishes a legal framework which can be used to simplify the administrative aspects of individual processes that categorize the integrated research environment. Without a common legal framework, new agreements, and contracts must be negotiated constantly before research can commence. In the future, the planned collaboration platform should help to support joint research projects of the Alliance partner institutions – Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité – through effective administrative and technical processing. This ranges from questions of cross-institutional service and consideration in joint projects to contract law and access rights to infrastructures.
“The most important tasks the platform is faced with all revolve around creating permeability between the institutions. We want to make use of existing infrastructures for research and jointly operate new structures, together as partners. This enables a completely new level of collaboration quality in the Berlin research hub, and it was a very important part of the joint proposal in the excellence strategy competition. The aim is to minimize the administrative workload for researchers,” emphasizes Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. Sabine Kunst, president of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
The Berlin University Alliance is planning a variety of measures in order to facilitate access to innovative research infrastructures for outstanding researchers. Data collection as well as large-scale research equipment are seen as valuable parts of the infrastructure in this regard. Berlin as a whole has an outstanding innovative infrastructure. However, modern technology, large-scale equipment, and core facilities are only available at a few locations due to their high level of complexity and acquisition costs. The Berlin University Alliance wants to create programs that make better use of these top-level technologies, thus making them more widely available for outstanding research purposes.
Prof. Dr. Heyo K. Kroemer, Chief Executive Officer of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin: “Among other things, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the partner institutions will hugely benefit from the corporation under public law, because it creates new and unbureaucratic opportunities for the joint use of resources. Access to shared infrastructures and services not only makes the day-to-day research efforts of our researchers much easier; it also helps to make Berlin as a research hub even more attractive for prestigious minds from Germany and abroad”.
Important element of the Excellence Proposal
The idea for a collaboration platform was an important element in the Berlin University Alliance's proposal. The tasks of the collaboration platform are to promote cooperation amongst the partner institutions ; to support the partner institutions in implementing a common agenda for joint research; to establish coordinated support structures for the partner institutions and provide appropriate services; to support the partner institutions in the provision, operation and use of research infrastructures, and the provision of other services in support of joint research; to support the partner institutions in the implementation of common cross-cutting themes, particularly in the area of diversity and equality; and to carry out public relations work for the Berlin University Alliance and the collaboration platform.
The Berlin University Alliance
The Berlin University Alliance is a consortium consisting of three major Berlin universities – Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin – and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, established to shape research and education in Berlin. The four partners joined forces to further develop Berlin as a research hub with international drawing power. Together the partners explore major societal challenges, increase public outreach, promote the training of junior researchers, address issues of quality and standards in research, and share resources in the areas of research infrastructure, teaching, diversity, equal opportunities, and internationalisation. The Berlin University Alliance is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the state of Berlin under the Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and the Länder.
Joint press release from Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technischen Universität Berlin along with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Berlin University Alliance
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