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Successful EU projects

Participation in the European Union’s Framework Program for Research

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 programme Horizon 2020 the University of Stuttgart has raised more than 96 million Euro in 179 projects, putting the university on place 11 out of a total of 4,000 institutions in Germany for both criteria. More than 45 projects with a volume of more than 27 million euros have already been acquired in the 9th framework programme Horizon Europe. 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 35 highlight innovations (March 2023).

Local heat controls the nucleation process in liquid-to-solid thin films, part of Michael Saliba's project LOCAL-HEAT

ERC Grants at the University of Stuttgart

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. European Research Council projects and subventions fall into 4 categories: starting grants, consolidator grants, advanced grants and synergy grants.

ERC Starting Grants

ERC Starting Grants support scientists in an early career phase for innovative projects in basic research. The funding amounts up to 2.5 million euros.

Starting Grants Recipients:

How do surfactants from glyphosate formulations affect microbial degradation of the herbicide glyphosate in soil? And how do surfactants affect important environmental cycles related to the emissions of climate-relevant gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide? For her research into these questions, Prof. Sara Kleindienst is receiving one of the prestigious ERC Starting Grants awarded by the European Research Council.

The overall goal of this research is to be able to replace glyphosate surfactants with less harmful alternatives or even develop biological alternatives produced entirely by microorganisms. Kleindienst is convinced that: “Our research will allow us to decipher the impact of surfactants on microorganisms in the environment and could have a lasting effect on policy, society, technology, and science.”

Project recipiant: Prof. Dr. Sara Kleindienst

Press release

How could drugs be used in the body in a more targeted way in the future? Biomedicine could provide an answer. Dr. Tian Qiu is researching tiny robots that travel through the human body. Tian Qiu and his team already succeeded in steering nanorobots through the dense tissue of an eyeball for minimally invasive drug delivery, which had never been achieved before. 

In the "VIBEBOT" project, Qiu and his team are taking this approach further: They are going to build the first micro-sized robot that can actively propel and wirelessly sense in deep biological tissues. For the project, Qui was inspired by nature: "We know that worms, for example, can penetrate human skin to infect humans. Why can't we build a similar-sized robotic system that can penetrate soft tissue to treat disease?" Research on this holds enormous potential for future minimally invasive medicine, "such as targeted drug delivery for tumor therapy," Qiu said.

Project recipiant: Dr. Tian Qiu
Project: VIBEBOT
Term: 2023 - 2028

Press release

Michael Saliba's LOCAL-HEAT project (Controlled Local Heating to Crystallize Solution-based Semiconductors for Next-Generation Solar Cells and Optoelectronics) seeks to use light to control the fundamental nucleation and crystallization kinetics of semiconductor films when transitioning from the liquid precursor to the final solid-state. This light will create local heat packages that will result in controlled grains and thin films.

He is using perovskite, a promising raw material for solar cells, light-emitting diodes, or detectors in the field of medical technology. In particular, perovskite thin films can be processed by crystallization from a solution. However, current crystallization methods often result in uncontrolled film growth. Prof Michael Saliba aims to control this growth using light.

Project recipiant: Prof. Michael Saliba, Institute for Photovoltaics (ipv) 
Project: Controlled Local Heating to Crystallize Solution-based Semiconductors for Next-Generation Solar Cells and Optoelectronics (LOCAL-HEAT)
Term: 2022-2027

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

Prof. Michael Pradel

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

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

ERC Consolidator Grants

ERC Consolidator Grants" support excellent promising scientists whose own independent research group is in the consolidation phase. The funding amounts up to 3 million euros.

Consolidator Grants Recipients:

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

ERC Advanced Grants

ERC Advanced Grants are among the most prestigious research awards worldwide. They are aimed at established researchers with an outstanding scientific track record. Funding amounts to up to 3.5 million euros.

Advanced Grants Recipients:

With his ERC Advanced Grant “Designing Democracy on Mars and Earth (DDME)”, Prof. André Bächtiger is looking into the future of democracy, its values and, in particular, its institutional architectures. In doing so, he relies on an experimental, co-creative, and deliberative design: In a “Mars” group and an “Earth” group, representatively selected citizens from Germany, the US, and India discuss online with democracy experts democratic values such as freedom, equality, justice, sustainability, and efficiency as well as the desirable design of democratic institutions. The point is that the “Mars” group will have the task to design democracy on the red planet, while the “Earth” group will be doing the same in the context of their own countries. 

  • Recipient:  Prof. André Bächtiger, Institute for Social Sciences, Dep. Political Theory and Empirical Democracy Research
  • Project: Designing Democracy on ´Mars´ and ´Earth´: Exploring Citizens´ Democratic Preferences in a Deliberative and Co-Creative Design" (DDME)
  • Duration: 2022 - 2027


In qMOTION, the researchers will be using magnetometers that are commercially available. Preliminary studies show that measuring the magnetic field is a promising option, especially when a so-called high-density magnetomyographic (HD-MMG) measuring system is available, i.e. a measuring system consisting of a grid-like array of up to 100 sensors. (see figures c and d)

The main objective of qMOTION is setting up a HD-MMG measuring system for the decoding of neuromuscular activity during movement. This is possible only because the HD-MMG data is also suitable for the development of novel functional imaging methods. 

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

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. The funding amounts up to 14 million euros.

Synergy Grant Recipients:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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
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
The EU project FutPrInt aims technologies which enable the use of a hybrid-electric aircraft with up to 50 seats for commercial purposes.

EU projects with consortium leadership of the University of Stuttgart

EU projects combine the expertise of numerous European and non-European research and industrial partners and they are funded by the European Union with many millions of euros. The following projects are coordinated at the University of Stuttgart:

Promising innovations in biotechnology often end in the "valley of death" despite advanced methods, as cell line development is confronted with an overly complex solution space of possible modifications. The BIOS project, aims to biointelligently optimize the conventional "Design-Build-Test-Learn" (DBTL) cycle and increase the speed and success rates in bioengineering.

Coordination: Prof. Ralf Takors, IBVT

EU-Project BIOS

The European Union is largely dependent on imports of white phosphorus (P4), a strategic raw material for the food and pharmaceutical industries. To tackle this challenge, the EU-funded project FlashPhos – led by the University of Stuttgart – will recover at a large scale high-quality white phosphorus and other raw materials. The aim of FlashPhos is to demonstrate at a large scale a thermochemical process to sustainably produce high-quality white phosphorus using sewage sludge as input material.  

Press release

Coordination: Matthias Rapf

Project website FlashPhos

EuroCC2 continues the work of the EuroCC project, under which participating countries established a national center of excellence (NCC) in high-performance computing (HPC) in their respective countries. EuroCC2 funds the National Competence Centers for High Performance Computing (NCCs for HPC). The centers serve as the first point of contact for users of and people interested in high-performance computing and they also maintain a network of vendors and service providers in the sector. Furthermore, the NCCs themselves offer a broad service portfolio with training, services and consulting, as well as access to computing systems, aimed at users of all target groups.

Coordination: High-Performing Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS)

Project Website

CASTIEL2 continues the Coordination and Support Action (CSA) CASTIEL and coordinates the National Centers of Excellence for High Performance Computing (NCCs for HPC). It focuses on training, industrial interaction and cooperation, business development, awareness of HPC-related technologies, and expertise. In CASTIEL2, a number of Centres of Excellence (CoEs) have also been newly added. While NCCs bundle competencies on a regional level (per country), CoEs bundle competencies per sector (e.g. engineering). CASTIEL2 was created to enable coordinated exchange and targeted collaboration between these infrastructures.

Coordination: High-Performing Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) 

Project Website

FF4EuroHPC is a European initiative that is helping to facilitate access to all high-performance computing-related technologies for SMEs, thus increasing the innovation potential of European industry. Whether it is running high-resolution simulations, doing large-scale data analyses, or incorporating AI applications into SMEs´ workflows, FF4EuroHPC connects business with cutting-edge technologies by funding pilot experiments and producing success stories.

Coordination: High-Performing Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) 

Project website

The overall research objective of SECRET is to drive the understanding of the mutual regulation of the secretory pathway and signaling in breast and colorectal cancer, which will serve as a platform to identify and interrogate novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. Eighteen partners from nine countries are involved. 

Coordination: Dr. Angelika Hausser

Project website

The heart of the project GREAT are grating waveguide structures, which allow improving lasers beams by tailoring their temporal, spectral and spatial properties, improving their application possibilities in industry and science.

Coordination: Dr. Marwan Abdou-Ahmed

Project website

EXCELLERAT P2 continues the fruitful partnership of Europe's leading HPC centres, application specialists and other supporting partners, with the second phase of the project also being coordinated by HLRS. The centre of Excellence is responsible for scaling important codes for high-tech engineering to larger computing architectures and supporting the technology transfer that will enable their uptake in industry. EXCELLERAT P2 focuses its development on six selected use cases, requiring the full range of HPC usage profiles.

Coordination: Höchstleitungsrechenzentrum Universität Stuttgart (HLRS)

Project website


Saskia Zocher


Acting Head of Department

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