First Max Planck schools selected

04.09.2017, 09:41

Max Planck School of Photonics: MPL scientists participating in national network of excellence for photonics research

Federal Minister Johanna Wanka and the President of the Max Planck Society, Martin Stratmann, introduce the first Max Planck Schools



Germany is gaining a new graduate school brand with international appeal. Three select Max Planck Schools will begin their pilot phase in 2018, one of which is the Max Planck School of Photonics (MPSP). Bundling the expertise of the German photonics community, this school aims to support gifted young researchers at the world-class level. Two current directors of the Max Planck Institute for the Science Of Light (MPL), Gerd Leuchs and Florian Marquardt, are participating in the network of excellence. 

The Max Planck School of Photonics brings together more than 30 scientists from several institutes belonging to Germany's four major research organizations: the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the Leibniz Association and the Helmholtz Association. With the coordination center in Jena, Germany, the consortium aims to link important and leading photonics research communities from across the country to create an interdisciplinary network. The national network of excellence wants to align itself with the standards of elite organizations such as Harvard University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US and establish new benchmarks in the field of light research. 

Gerd Leuchs, a founding director of the MPSP and director at the Erlangen-based Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light commented: "The shared vision of the members of the Max Planck School is understanding and having a command of light at every level, and using it to develop solutions for addressing key issues in society." MPL director Florian Marquardt added: "It will be a big, but exciting challenge to develop totally new learning concepts for doctoral students who will be attending this Max Planck School of Photonics across all of Germany." 

Andreas Tünnermann from Fraunhofer IOF in Jena, together with Gerd Leuchs, founding director of the Max Planck School of Photonics, explains: "The MPSP will allow us to achieve a brand new level of cooperation in the field of photonics and accelerate research into leading-edge topics such as attosecond physics or quantum optics. This network illustrates the capability of the photonics community to address major research topics beyond interdisciplinary and institutional barriers." 

Three Max Planck Schools selected for the pilot phase

Three Max Planck Schools came out on top during the competition: the Max Planck School of Cognition, the Max Planck School of Photonics and the  Max Planck School on Physics, Chemistry and Construction of Life. The announcement was made on Monday by Johanna Wanka, Federal Research Minister, Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society and Horst Hippler, head of the German University Presidents Conference.

A committee headed by Mr. Stratmann and Mr. Hippler selected the three pilot schools from eight proposals across a wide spectrum of topic areas. Three representatives each from the participating universities, the Max Planck Society and the other non-university research organizations – the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Leibniz Association and the Helmholtz Association – discussed the proposals submitted. The committee then agreed on the three selected pilots.

The schools represent a new form of collaboration in graduate education. They complement other highly successful regional collaboration formats, such as the German Universities Excellence Initiative Graduate Schools or the International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS), to form a national network. The three pilot Schools will be supported for an initial period of five years by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), with total funding of €9 million per year.

Global visibility for German research excellence

“With the Max Planck Schools, today marks the start of a new instrument for cutting-edge research that builds on the strengths of German science: a diverse landscape of excellent, innovative basic research, housed in a variety of universities and non-university organizations. The resourceful networking of various elements will create a major, world-class entity. As a result, the Max Planck Schools will further promote German science on the international stage and attract exceptional researchers both domestically and from abroad”, said Johanna Wanka, German Federal Minister of Education and Research. 

By bringing leading researchers in future-oriented fields from across the country together in one school, the objective is to enhance global visibility and competitiveness with top international universities in order to attract exceptionally-talented young scientists from around the world.

University and non-academic research organizations join hands

“As supra-regional research and education networks, the Max Planck Schools bring together the best minds in German universities, the Max Planck Society and other non-university research organizations. This much was clear in the impressive draft proposals. I am delighted that the initiative stands on such a broad strong of players in the German scientific landscape”, said Max Planck President Martin Stratmann. 

The Max Planck Schools are an inter-organizational scientific initiative. This is emphasized by their name: “Max Planck Schools – a joint initiative between German universities and the German research organizations”. The three pilot schools’ concepts will be further refined before implementation; the contracts between the respective partners will then be agreed on that basis. Only then can a call for applications be placed in international scientific journals. The evaluation of the pilot phase will show whether a promising architecture has been successfully developed for the Max Planck Schools, and whether the program should be continued.






Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light

Prof. Dr. Gerd Leuchs
E-Mail: gerd.leuchs(at)mpl.mpg(dot)de

Public Relations
E-Mail: MPLpresse(at)mpl.mpg(dot)de
Tel. 09131 7133 807


Further information

Concentrated excellence - first Max Planck Schools selected, Max Planck Society

An interview with MPS Vice President Ferdi Schüth on the Max Planck Schools