Centres for Innovation Competence – The programme

The "Centres for Innovation Competence" (German: Zentren für Innovationskompetenz) programme develops outstanding research methods at universities and research institutes in East German states into internationally renowned centres.


Started in 2002, the “Centres for Innovation Competence: Create excellence – Secure talent” (German: Zentren für Innovationskompetenz: Exzellenz schaffen – Talente sichern – ZIK) programme aims to establish long-term international high-performance research centres. The basic research carried out in these centres is oriented towards future high-technology markets and forms the basis for successful processes and technology innovations. At the forefront of the support are groups consisting of young scientists from all over the world.

The programme has been successfully proven to comprehensively strengthen the profile development of East German research sites and embed strategic and structural thinking in the area of science. These days, the centres for innovation competence have unique scientific selling points, an interdisciplinary and international focus, and are able to secure young talent based on comprehensive qualifications and long-term planning security for the centres.

Up to 2018, the Federal Ministry for Education and Research is allocating a total of EUR 271.6 million for six centres in the first round of funding, eight centres in the second round of funding and a total of five Joint Centres for Information and Communications Technology (ZIKs).

Two funding rounds, two funding phases

The programme is module-based: initially (ZIK I from 2002, ZIK II from 2006), twelve centres that were selected upon recommendation by the Federal states were supported in their strategic development with a maximum of EUR 250,000 each. The following four success parameters were critical to the development of the centre concept: strategic orientation, organisation and networking, financing and framework conditions. In the first funding phase (ZIK I: 2004 to 2010, ZIK II: 2009 to 2014/15/16), the BMBF supported six (ZIK I) and eight (ZIK II) centres, which had been positively rated by an independent expert panel in the implementation of their strategic ideas. The focus was on financing two groups of international young scientists in each case.

Despite success already gained in the first funding phase, all the experts involved agreed that a comparably short funding timeframe of five years was not enough to give the centres a solid footing at the top of international research. Thus, the Ministry provides the ZIKs involved in both funding rounds with further support in the form of new young research groups. (ZIK I from 2009, ZIK II from 2016)

New centres for innovation competence are no longer being selected; however, it is still possible to apply for joint projects of existing ZIKs with external partners.

Further Information