Participation in the European Union’s Framework Program for Research

Successful EU projects

The University of Stuttgart is involved in numerous projects of the European Union’s framework program for research and innovation. The aim of the program is to build on the science and technology foundations of EU industry and to strengthen its global competitiveness.

In the ending programme Horizon 2020 the University of Stuttgart has raised more than 92 million Euro and is involved in 174 projects. Many innovations from these projects have now found their way into industrial applications. So the European Commission has recognized the University of Stuttgart as a "Key Innovator" for its contribution to innovative developments, which is represented on the "Innovation Radar" platform with more than 30 highlight innovations (February 2021).

Prof. Oliver Röhrle's ERC-Grant focuses the biomechanical simulation of the human body.

European Research Council (ERC)

The ERC funds groundbreaking, visionary research and is oriented toward top-flight researchers at various career stages. Success in ERC grants has come to be recognized as a hallmark of international competitiveness for European universities.

ERC Grants at the University of Stuttgart

European Research Council projects and subventions fall into categories:

  • Starting Grants for young scientists beginning an independent research career and wishing to start a working group.
    Funding per grant: up to 1.5 million euro (in exceptional cases additionally up to 1 million euro)
  • Consolidator Grants for researchers whose working group is in its consolidation phase.
    Funding per grant: up to 2 million euro (in exceptional cases additionally up to 1 million euro)
  • Advanced Grants for established investigators with an outstanding research track record. The Advanced Grant is one of the world’s most prestigious research grants.
    Funding per grant: up to 2.5 million euro (in exceptional cases additionally up to 1 million euro)
  • ERC Synergy Grants support teams of two to four promising scientists. The ERC Synergy Grants are aimed at excellent young scientists as well as established active researchers with outstanding scientific achievements. The projects should lead to discoveries at the interfaces between established disciplines and to substantial progress at the frontiers of knowledge.
    Funding: up to 10 million euros (in exceptional cases additionally up to 4 million euro)

University of Stuttgart's scientists beeing awarded by an ERC Grant up to now:

Starting Grants Recipients

Prof. Andreas Bulling
Prof. Andreas Bulling

Even after three decades of research on human-computer interaction, current general-purpuse user interfaces still lack the ability to atribute mental states of their users, i.e. they fail to understand users' intentions and needs and to anticipate their actions. This drastically restricts their interactive capacities.

ANTICIPATE aims to establish the scientific foundations for a new generation of user interfaces that pro-actively adapt to users’ future input actions by monitoring their attention and predicting their interaction intentions – thereby significantly improving the naturalness, efficiency, and user experience of the interactions.

  • Project recipiant: Prof. Andreas Bulling, Institute for Visualization and Interactive Systems, chair for Human-Computer Interaction and Cognitive Systems
  • Project: Anticipatory Human-Computer-Interaction (ANTICIPATE)
  • Term: 2019 - 2024

Tim Langen will use the ERC Starting Grant to investigate novel quantum mechanical superposition states of solid and superfluid, so-called supersolids.

Whether such a supersolid can really exist had - until recently - been intensely debated for more than 60 years. Only in 2019, its very existence was finally proven by Langen and Tilman Pfau at the University of Stuttgart, and several other international teams, by experimentally studying the behavior of magnetic atoms at temperatures close to absolute zero. This first experimental proof initiated a completely new research field that now aims to understand the properties of supersolids in more detail.

However, the possibilities to do so using existing experimental approaches are very limited. In his ERC project, Langen will therefore establish a new experimental platform to study supersolids. Instead of magnetic atoms, he will be studying molecules in his experiments. 

Project recipiant: Dr. Tim Langen, Institute of Physics (5)
Project: Supersolids and beyond: Exploring new states of matter with laser-cooled dipolar molecules (NEWMAT)
Term: 2021-2026

Press Release

DR. Marcel Pfeiffer, IRS

With his grant, Marcel Pfeiffer is going to research non-equilibrium effects in gas and plasma dynamics, a fundamental topic for understanding the physical processes in many applications and fields of industry. 

Non-equilibrium effects in gases and plasmas always occur when there are large local differences in ambient conditions, for example, when there are large temperature differences. Such effects are negligible for flows around a car or an airplane. However, if the differences become extreme, effects occur that cannot be described analytically, or only with great effort.

Against this background, the aim of the funded MEDUSA project is to develop stochastic, particle-based multi-scale methods for simulating gases and plasmas in thermochemical non-equilibrium. The aim is to raise the observation of the gas from the microscopic to the mesoscopic level, a middle range of visibility, which is located between the micro- and the macrocosm.

Project recipiant: Dr. Marcel Pfeiffer, Institute of Space Systems (IRS)
Project: Multiscale Fluid and Plasma Dynamics using Particles (MEDUSA)
Term: 2021-2026

Press Release

Programming errors in software can be expensive and in extreme cases can cost lives. Previously they were detected using testing software, but this method is not foolproof. Prof. Michael Pradel, Professor of Programming Languages at the Institute of Software Technology at the University of Stuttgart, is focusing on artificial intelligence when it comes to detecting errors.

Previously, software errors were detected using testing software, which is based on the “program 1 analyses program 2” principle. These pieces of testing software are still made by human beings though, and can only detect errors which are already known. In order to be able to also predict and prevent future errors, Michael Pradel is focusing on artificial intelligence in his software lab. “The core idea is using the many existing software errors out there to learn how new errors can be detected automatically”,  explains Pradel. “This is why we're developing machine learning models which predict whether a piece of program code will be correct or will have errors in it.”

In order to achieve this, Pradel and his team want to develop new methods as part of the ERC project which will enable a computer to “understand” a program and the idea behind it. This uses the so-called “deep learning” method, which scientists implement in the program and develop in a way which has not been done before. The names in the source code are of course an important indicator of errors. Artificial intelligence looks at a huge number of lines of code and learns how the names are commonly used. If it then comes across an inadvertent link between the variables “length” and “color” for example, then it presumes it to be an error.

Project recipiant: Prof. Michael Pradel, Institute of Software Engineering
Project: Learning To Find Software Bugs (LearnBugs)
Term: 2020 - 2025

Consolidator Grants Recipients

Prof. Hans Peter Büchler
Prof. Hans Peter Büchler

Normally, interactions such as light refraction or reflection only occur with photons and atoms. In his SIRPOL project, Prof. Hans Peter Büchler investigates a method that can call forth a strong interaction between individual photons (light particles). It originates with the observation that there is a strong interaction between Rydberg atoms (atoms with a specific electron charge) and that they change their wave function in the presence of a photon.

  • Recipient: Professor Hans Peter Büchler, Institute of Theoretical Physics III
  • Project: "SIRPOL: Strongly-interacting Rydberg Slow Light Polaritons"
  • Term: 2016 - 2021
Prof. Blazej Grabowski

The acronym “Materials 4.0” is inspired by the concept of “Industry 4.0”, which denotes a new era of industrial processes that are connected by means of data exchange. Likewise, “Materials 4.0” is to herald a new era in material design, in which quantum mechanical simulations allow a significantly improved prediction of thermodynamic and kinetic material properties. In particular, the objective is to compute highly accurate phase diagrams, which are considered a fundamental tool in material design.

For some time now, these so-called ab initio methods have been used within materials science. Until now, however, the methods and applications have been severely limited, since most calculations had to assume unrealistic ambient conditions, in particular very low temperatures near absolute zero (-273 °C). Within the first ERC grant, Grabowski showed that improved methods, supported by concepts from machine learning, allow an efficient yet highly accurate computation of material properties under relevant ambient conditions. These methods will be further developed and used within “Materials 4.0” to provide high-quality databases of material properties for future material design.

  • Recipient: Prof. Blazej Grabowski, Institute of Material Science, Department of Material Design
  • Project: MATERIALS 4.0: Advancing materials design by high-accuracy finite-temperature first principles calculations accelerated by machine learning potentials
  • Term: 2021-2025

Advanced Grants Recipients:

Prof. Peer Fischer
Prof. Peer Fischer

Acoustic waves exert forces when they interact with matter. Sound, and in particular ultrasound, which has a wavelength of a few hundred microns in water, is a benign and versatile tool, that has been successfully used to manipulate, trap and levitate microparticles and cells. The acoustic contrast between the material and the medium, and the spatial variation of the ultrasound field determine the interaction. Resonators and arrays of a few hundred transducers have thus far been used to generate the sound fields, but the former only yields highly symmetrical pressure patterns, and the latter cannot be scaled to achieve complex fields.

Our radically new approach uses a finely contoured 3D printed acoustic hologram to generate pressure fields with orders of magnitude higher complexity than what has been possible to date. The acoustic hologram technology is a route towards truly sophisticated and 3D sound fields. This project will research the necessary computational and experimental tools to generate designed 3D ultrasound fields. We will investigate ways to use acoustic holograms for rapid manufacturing, the controlled manipulation of microrobots, and the assembly of cells. The 3D pressure fields promise the assembly and fabrication of an entire 3D object in “one shot”, something that has not been realized to date. We will also study the formation of 3D cellular assemblies, and more realistic 3D tumour models. This project will develop the technology, materials, processes, and understanding needed for the generation and use of sophisticated 3D ultrasound fields, which opens up entirely new possibilities in physical acoustics and the manipulation of matter with sound.

  • Recipient: Prof. Peer Fischer, Institute of Physical Chemistry / Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems 
  • Project: Holographic acoustic assembly and manipulation (Holoman)
  • Term: 2019 - 2024
Prof. Jörg Wrachtrup
Prof. Jörg Wrachtrup

Illustration of electrical fields of single molecular charges by means of quantum sensors

For the second time already the European Research Council, ERC, is awarding the physicist, Professor Jörg Wrachtrup from the University of Stuttgart one of the renowned ERC “Advanced Investigator Grants“ for experienced excellent researchers.

For some time now it has been known that quantum sensors set new sensitivity records and that single protons, for example, can be “weighed”. However, up to now this was only possible under very special ambient conditions, for example in an ultra-high vacuum and at very low temperatures. As a result of the first ERC grant, the contents of which was the use of atomic defects in diamonds for quantum technology, Professor  Wrachtrup and his team succeeded in also using these methods under ambient conditions. With this a multitude of applications fields, particularly in materials sciences and biomedical diagnostics, were developed. 

Some of these findings will now be continued and intensified in the framework of the new ERC grant. "I wish to use this grant to show how it is possible with the aid of quantum sensors to track electrical fields with to date unachieved sensitivity and spatial resolution and with this to track, for example single electrical charges“, emphasised the scientist. In so doing Professor Wrachtrup wishes to pursue two application directions. “On the one hand we will investigate chemical, respectively biochemical reactions to the nanometre scale, even in very complex environments, such as for example in cells. With this we wish to track, among other things, the spatial dynamics of action potentials in nerve cells and understand through this how nerve cells work together in the brain, for example. On the other hand we will make precision measurements on the interaction of electrical charges and search for ‘new interactions‘, that could, for example, be responsible for the explanation of the dark matter in the universe. 

  • Recipient: Professor Jörg Wrachtrup, Institute of Physics (3)
  • Project: Electric field imaging of single molecular charges by a quantum sensor (SMEL)
  • Duration: 2017 - 2022
Prof. Tilman Pfau

Strongly interacting Fermi gases appear in nature from the smallest to the largest scales — from atomic nuclei to white dwarfs and neutron stars. However, they are notoriously difficult to model and understand theoretically. Prof. Pfau and his team of experts will tackle these challenging fundamental physics problems experimentally with two innovative quantum gas microscopy techniques suited for the detection of strong dipolar quantum correlations in lattices and bilayers and fermionic correlations around impurities and charges.

Prof. Tilman Pfau aims to gain a profound microscopic understanding of the underlying physics of strongly correlated fermionic quantum matter with interactions that range over distances that can only be resolved by new microcopy techniques. 

Recipient: Prof. Tilman Pfau, Institute of Physics (5)
Project: "LongRangeFermi: A microscopic view of fermionic quantum matter with long-range interactions"
Duration: 2021 - 2026

ERC Synergy Grants

Climate change and urbanization are two global megatrends that transform human life and directly impact each other. There is a fundamental disconnect between how climate and urban system science analyse and model these processes and phenomena.

The new urbisphere project aims to change how the scientific community conceptualises, classifies and predicts the climate system and urban planning in cities. The project will create a deep understanding of socio-economic dynamics and human responses to climate and extreme events as well as urban transformation. The team will explore how urbanization, human behaviour and technology changes in cities will impact climate change and how impacts of climate change will influence urban populations and their vulnerability and their adaptive capacity. It will also provide new insights into associated risks at present and in the future.

The ERC-funded research team will forecast future urban states and climates - while considering weather, air quality, differential exposure and vulnerability of people - from neighbourhood to city scale. These aspects will be explored in different European and global cities, such as London, Stuttgart, Shanghai and Nairobi.

Four researchers based in Germany, Greece and the UK will use their expertise to integrate different computational and observational approaches to create a coupled, dynamic and unified assessment and modelling system to better understand feedbacks between cities and climate change. Physicist Nektarios Chrysoulakis will work with spatial / urban planner Jörn Birkmann and meteorologist/geographer Sue Grimmond, as well as climatologist Andreas Christen. The team will bring expertise from previous work and study in Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Asia and Africa.


Recipiant: Prof. Jörn Birkmann
Project: Coupling dynamic cities and climate (urbisphere)
Term: 2020 - 2026

Expired ERC grants and projects by researchers who now teach at other universities

The behavior of colloidal particles able to actively move in fluids is the subject of research by Prof. Clemens Bechinger and his team. Among other capabilities, such particles can build swarms. Also being investigated are both the preconditions for the creation of these particle swarms and ideal navigation strategies for use in steering the swarms to specified targets. This latter capability could be of great interest for the targeted delivery of drugs in biological systems.

  • Recipient: Professor Clemens Bechinger, Institute of Physics (2)
  • Project: "ASCIR: Active Suspensions with Controlled Interaction Rules"
  • Term: 2016 - 2021

In recent years, plasmonics has revolutionized optics. With the help of metallic nanostructures, light can be concentrated on the smallest dimensions using nanoantennas that are much smaller than the wavelength of light. This has led to new interaction effects between light and matter, e.g., in sensor technology or nonlinear optics Professor Giessen and his group examine the ultimate limits to interactions of individual nanoantennas with separate objects, molecules, and proteins as well as chiral interactions. This work is intended to bridge the gap between basic research and potential application and between the fields of physics, chemistry, and molecular biology.

  • Recipient: Professor Harald Giessen,  Institute of Physics (4)
  • Project: "COMPLEXPLAS: Complex Plasmonics at the Ultimate Limit: Single Particle and Single Molecule Levels"
  • Term: 2013 - 2018


The possibility to produce materials with ultra-strengths could revolutionize materials design. Since 80 years ultrastrength materials are known to exist only theoretically. Now, new experiments show that traditional believe can be overcome by nanostructured design. Yet, while selected experiments point towards this scientifically fascinating and technologically important possibility (e.g., for advances in structural and functional materials), further progress crucially relies on insight from theoretical simulations. The most successful simulation tool is molecular dynamics.

Recent advances in hardware allow to tackle trillions of atoms making a comparison with nano-experiments almost possible. The nagging problem is, however, a huge time-scale gap of up to ten orders of magnitude and none of the presently available approaches is able to cope with this discrepancy.TIME-BRIDGE aims at solving the timescale problem by borrowing a concept well known and developed in the field of first-principles simulations: the pseudopotential ansatz. In first principles simulations a similar time scale gap exists between slow and fast moving electrons. The solution is to capture the effect of the fast electrons only effectively within a pseudopotential while retaining the motion of slow electrons important for chemical bonding. An equivalent pseudopotential ansatz is envisioned to be applicable to the fast thermal motion of atoms, the origin of the time scale problem. Capturing the thermal motion in an effective potential will allow to simulate the relevant mechanical processes occurring on microsecond and second time scales. In TIME-BRIDGE high risk and high gains apply: the physics of electrons is distinct from the atomic motion possibly making the pseudopotential ansatz non-transferable, but—based on PI’s distinguished expertise and his recent methodological advancements—a route to bridge the fundamental time scale gap might arise.

Project recipiant: Prof. Blazej Grabowski, Institute for Material Science
Project: Time-scale bridging potentials for realistic molecular dynamics simulations (TIME-BRIDGE) 
Term: 2015 - 2020

Using simulations, Prof. Johannes Kästner studies the quantum mechanical tunneling of atoms, which accelerates certain chemical reactions and even makes reactions possible in frigid space. “I’ve been fascinated by tunneling for years,” says Kästner. “Thanks to the EU funding, I can investigate this effect in a comprehensive manner and also significantly expand my research group.”

  • Grant recipient: Prof. Johannes Kästner, Institute of Theoretical Chemistry
  • Project: "TUNNELCHEM: Atom tunneling in chemistry"
  • Term: 2015 - 2020

Controlling long range interactions in quantum gases

Quantum systems with long-range interactions offer new possibilities for secure data transmission and quantum computing. Prof. Tilman Pfau and his team study the transformation of photons in atomic gases through efficient absorption. This interaction is crucial for data transmission.

  • Recipient: Professor Tilman Pfau, Institute of Physics (5)
  • Project: "LIQAD: Long-range Interacting Quantum Systems and Devices"
  • Term: 2011 - 2016

Professor Oliver Röhrle works on biomechanical simulations of the body. The computer models he developed among other things help to simulate the motion sequences of people with leg amputations. “In this way, we can make a valuable contribution to improving the interaction between stump and shank,” Röhrle explains.

  • Grant recipient: Prof. Oliver Röhrle, Institute of Applied Mechanics (Civil Engineering), Chair II
  • Project: “LEAD: Lower Extremity Amputee Dynamics: Simulating the Motion of an above-knee amputee’s stump by means of a novel EMG-integrated 3D musculoskeletal forward dynamics modelling approach”
  • Term: 2012 - 2017

Prof. Albrecht Schmidt supervises the AMPLIFY project that deals with enhancing human perceptivity through interactive digital technologies. The objectives are artificial cognitions and synthetic reflexes that can be deployed intuitively and naturally to give humans new computer-aided capabilities.

  • Recipient: Prof. Albrecht Schmidt, Institute for Visualization and Interactive Systems
  • Project: "AMPLIFY: Amplifying Human Perception through Interactive Digital Technologies"
  • Term: 2016 - 2021

Professor Hans-Joachim Werner and his team experimentally measure as precisely as possible molecular physical and chemical properties in order to understand how molecules react with one another. Werner summarizes his research this way: “Our goal is to develop theories and computer programs for simulating chemical reactions. Starting from the fundamental physical laws and natural constants, we want to predict the properties and reactivity of molecules without utilizing empirical information.”

  • Recipient: Prof. Hans-Joachim Werner, Institute of Theoretical Chemistry
  • Project: ASES: Advancing computational chemistry with new, accurate, robust and scalable electronic structure methods"
  • Term: 2013 - 2018

Increasing miniaturization in the form of atomically precisely structured solids and the integration of optical, mechanical and electronic components mean that quantum mechanical phenomena can be observed and exploited in new ways. This was used in the SQUTEC project to process or transmit information particularly quickly or to construct sensors with unprecedented sensitivity - with a material known for its special hardness and optical transparency: diamond.

Translated with (free version)

  • Projekt: "SQUTEC: Solid State Technology and Metrology Using Spins"
  • Laufzeit: 2011 - 2016


This image shows Heinke Claß

Heinke Claß

Head of Department

To the top of the page