Dioscuri Centres of Scientific Excellence
A program initiated by the Max Planck Society to support scientific excellence in Central and Eastern Europe
Dioscuri aims to establish internationally competitive research groups at Central and Eastern European scientific institutions with the support of partners from Germany. The person-centered program was initiated by the Max Planck Society and is funded by the German Federal government as well as the government of the respective host country.
Dioscuri was initiated by the Max Planck Society to support the development of centres of scientific excellence in Central and Eastern Europe. The program seeks to support outstanding scientists who would like to establish and lead a highly visible research group in this region. Dioscuri Centres are established at research institutions that are capable of providing adequate infrastructure and that offer an environment for cutting-edge research. Centres are supported by experienced partners from Germany. Each Centre is funded with up to € 300,000 per annum for an initial five years and can be extended for a further five years after successful evaluation by external experts. Funding is provided equally by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the government of the respective country.
The Dioscuri Programme aims to strengthen international standards of scientific excellence in the region and to support the on-going transformation processes in the EU-13 countries. By helping to overcome the existing performance gap between Western and Eastern European science, MPG contributes to the overall strengthening of the European Research Area.
Three more Dioscuri Centres
On 28 March 2023 three more Dioscuri Centres were officially opened at the Jagiellonian University. Three Polish-born scientists, previously working in Germany, Switzerland and the USA, are now establishing their innovative research groups at one of Poland’s leading universities thanks to the attractive package offered by Dioscuri. “These are exactly the kind of talents and research topics that we had in mind when launching the program here in Krakow back in 2017.”, said Martin Stratmann, President of MPG and initiator of Dioscuri. The opening ceremony was held in the historic Collegium Novum Assembly Hall and attended by about 130 guests from a number of research institutions, as well as members of local authorities and diplomatic corps. “Even within the very dynamic and broad cooperation that we have between Poland and Germany, it is not every day that we can celebrate the start of such extraordinary projects”, stressed the Ambassador of Germany to Poland Thomas Bagger, while President Stratmann pointed out that the Jagiellonian University is well prepared to host the Dioscuri Centres. “In our latest call it just so happened that the three best qualified candidates with the most innovative research proposals all applied to established their research centres at the Jagiellonian University. This is not surprising, given the excellent reputation and the recent investments in infrastructure at this famous institution”, said Stratmann.
Interim balance after five years of Dioscuri
Five years after the Dioscuri Programme was officially launched and three years after the first Dioscuri Centres in Poland opened, there are now six Dioscuri Centres in Poland.Two more are set to be established over the next year in Krakow. After the program’s successful start in Poland, Dioscuri has been extended to the Czech Republic, where a first call for Dioscuri Centres is currently ongoing. In summer 2022, the leaders of the Polish Dioscuri Centres came to Munich for a workshop, during which they met with President Martin Stratmann to share their experiences.
“I didn't expect the Dioscuri centers to develop so well in such a short time," says a delighted Max Planck President Martin Stratmann.– “Setting up their labs, recruiting international team members, acquiring further funding, especially given their start during the pandemic. One major insight of our joint discussion was that we need to support to the DC leaders not just with funding but also with access to the networks and programs that the Max Planck Society has to offer.” This then also identifies important points for the further development of the program.
Kick-off in Poland
Dioscuri is being implemented as a first step in Poland, where the program is jointly managed by the Max Planck Society (MPG) and the National Science Centre (NCN). Starting in 2017, MPG and NCN have published several calls for Dioscuri Centres (DCs) in all scientific disciplines. The calls resonated with applicants from all over the world, also some that had no prior connection to Poland. What makes Dioscuri attractive beyond the region is the solid financial support of the centres, generous funding from the host institutions and additional support from experienced partners from Germany, as well as the proven scientific quality of the program.
The first Dioscuri Centres opened in Warsaw in 2019. Up to ten centres of excellence will be established in Poland in the coming years. The funding for the Polish DCs is shared equally between the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Polish Ministry of Education and Science.