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Research Group Linkage Programme

In the framework of its alumni programme, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation offers the opportunity to form institutional partnerships, combining various activities that lead to a long-term collaboration between foreign alumni of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation programmes (please see current list of countries) and German academics. The aim of the programme is to build a sustainable basis for long-term international academic collaboration, also integrating (doctoral and post-doctoral) junior researchers who are potential candidates for an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation research fellowship.

Joint research projects can be sponsored to the value of 55,000 EUR over a period of up to three years. The funding may be used to finance reciprocal research visits lasting up to three months, conferences and workshops, consumables, printing costs, and, to a limited extent, academic auxiliary staff and equipment for the institute abroad. Up to 15% of the funding may be utilised as an administrative lump-sum for the German partner institute. Please refer to the programme information and FAQs for further important information.

To apply, please only use the application documents which can be downloaded here.

Further information

Application requirements

How many partners may be involved in a Research Group Linkage?

As a rule, a research group linkage involves one institute abroad and one in Germany. The maximum number of institutes involved in a collaboration is two institutes on each side. Because financing institutional partnerships is a tool of our alumnisponsorship, only alumni of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellowships and award programmes ("Humboldtians") at institutes abroad are eligible to apply.

I am an alumnus of an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellowship or award programme (Humboldtian). May I apply for funding for a research group linkage if I am currently sponsored in one of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation's other programmes?

No. For the duration of the institutional partnership you may not receive a research fellowship or any sponsorship in the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation alumni programme (such as funding for a renewed research stay in Germany, a return fellowship, or funding for conferences, equipment, books or printing costs).

I am already being sponsored in the Research Group Linkage Programme. May I apply for funding for another institutional partnership?

No. As a rule, funding for another instutional patrtnership is not possible until three years after funding in the current Research Group Linkage Programme has ended.

How long do I, as a Humboldtian, have to wait after funding in the Research Group Linkage Programme has ended before I can apply for other sponsorship in the alumni programme?

As a rule, for all Alexander von Humboldt Foundation alumni programmes, there is a three-year waiting period after funding in the Research Group Linkage Programme has ended.

I am a Humboldtian who was sponsored in a Alexander von Humboldt Foundation alumni programme and now want to apply for funding in the Research Group Linkage Programme. Is there a waiting time for the application?

No. Funding in the Research Group Linkage Programme may be requested immediately after sponsorship in the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation alumni programme.

Can I, as a German academic, apply for funding in the Research Group Linkage Programme if I work for a German-financed institute abroad?

No. The aim of the collaboration in the Research Group Linkage Programme is to integrate the academics involved into the German research environment as much as possible. This is not feasible if the German partner in the collaboration is not actually based in Germany.

Can I, as an alumnus, apply for funding in the Research Group Linkage Programme if I am working at a German institute abroad?

No. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation cannot fund collaborations between German institutes abroad and institutes in Germany.

I am a Humboldtian from a country that is on the list, but I am currently not in this country, but on a long-term assignment in another country. May I apply?

No. The foreign applicant must be working in a country on the list and have his or her residence in this country for the duration of the linkage.

I am a professor emeritus. May I apply for funding in the Research Group Linkage Programme?

Yes, if you are still administratively linked to and academically active at your own institute. In addition, you must have access to the necessary resources for a research visit by academics from your partner institute. This fact must be confirmed by the director of your institute in his or her statement accompanying the application.

Do junior researchers have to be integrated into the collaboration?

Our emphasis on reciprocal academic exchange also includes junior researchers. Integrating junior researchers is therefore a selection criterion, but not doing so will not formally disqualify your application. The Humboldt Foundation is aware of the fact that not all institutes are able to include junior researchers.

How should we structure our research plan?

The individual research activities in the Research Group Linkage Programme will vary from application to application. As a general rule, however, your research plan should present the proposed research project, the preparations, and the type and form of collaboration between the applicants in a manner that can be assessed academically. Furthermore, experience has shown that the following aspects have an impact on the selection:
• What are the special significance and objectives of the proposed research project? What are the central questions addressed? How does the planned project fit into the current "research landscape"?
• Why are the academics involved particularly qualified to participate in the project? What preparatory work has contributed to this?
• Which types of collaboration are planned? What form will collaboration take (planned reciprocal research visits, workshops/conferences and their significance for the topic and the collaboration)? What gains do you expect from the collaboration?
• How will junior researchers be integrated into the collaboration?
• Which central results do you expect within the time frame planned for collaboration? Is any further collaboration planned? What effects will the collaboration have on building lasting structures?
• For applicants from developing countries: What is the relevance of the proposed research project for the development of the home country?

What should be included in the confirmation from the institutes?

There is no special form for the required confirmation. The respective institute director's confirmation should address the concrete research collaboration and its viability. The institutes should support the project and make all necessary resources (e.g. equipment, library) available to the participants. If the applicants themselves are the directors of the applicant institutions, no statements are required.

Which information should the budget plan contain?

The budget plan must list the projected expenses of the project based on current estimates. It is therefore helpful to structure the budget plan in a way that will enable peer reviewers to understand the composition of the individual budget items in the "time and expenses schedule". You should make realistic, if possible, reproducible estimates.

Which expenditures are considered "auxiliary staff for the collaboration"?

Up to 20 % of the funding amount may be earmarked for auxiliary staff. The basic idea is that you will need support to carry out your activities. Sometimes you will need additional temporary support for the preparation of conferences or workshops. It is important that the tasks for which you plan to use auxiliary staff in the context of your joint activities are described and delimited in detail.

Can we request funds for the travel and accommodation expenses of our partner institute's staff?

It is possible to request funds for reciprocal research visits and for attending conferences and workshops for the applicants and their academic staff (who must be at least doctoral candidates). We cannot cover travel and accommodation expenses for students, post-graduates or auxiliary staff working on the collaboration.
You will need the prior written consent of the Humboldt Foundation in order to integrate any additional academic staff not mentioned in the application into the collaboration.

Do you fund reciprocal research visits of any duration?

In the context of the Research Group Linkage Programme application may be made on behalf of each of the academics involved for travel and accommodation expenses for reciprocal research visits to the partner institute lasting up to three months per annum.

Should I, as applicant, make a research visit to the partner institute?

As one of the applicant partners you are also responsible for the collaboration. Therefore you should plan to make research visits to your partner yourself. A research visit by your academic staff to the partner institute is not sufficient.

How much funding can we request for travel and accommodation expenses?

You should base your financial planning (and subsequent use of the funding amount) on the standard legal general conditions governing the use of public funding at the collaboration partner's own institution in Germany. This also applies to the use of material resources, in particular travel expenses. If you use part of the funding amount abroad, you should abide by the local legal general conditions for the use of public funding. Any remunerations may only be paid at the level that is customary in the respective country or location; this also applies to the use of funds for material expenses (in particular travel expenses).

Who is a "junior researcher" in the context of this programme?

Junior researchers who are integrated into an institutional partnership should be at least doctoral candidates and potential applicants for a Humboldt Foundation research fellowship.

Can we integrate junior researchers from other institutes into the collaboration and request funds for their travel and accommodation expenses?

As a rule, junior researchers should be working at the respective applicants' own institutes. It is possible to integrate junior researchers from other departments at the same institution if it makes sense from an academic point of view. Junior researchers from other research institutions cannot be taken into consideration.

Can we integrate junior researchers who are currently receiving Alexander von Humboldt Foundation sponsorship?

Yes. However, should a junior researcher be granted a Humboldt Foundation research fellowship while his or her institution is receiving funding in the Research Group Linkage Programme, his or her travel and accommodation expenses will be covered by the research fellowship and cannot be funded within the Research Group Linkage Programme.

Which expenses can be included for (specialist) conferences and workshops?

You may include all expenses ensuing form the organisation and realisation of (specialist) conferences and workshops. This includes travel and accommodation expenses for the participants (who must be at least doctoral candidates) as well as rental of facilities and technical equipment. Please bear in mind that the funding of (specialist) conferences and workshops is limited to 20 % of the total funding amount.

In which country can we hold (specialist) conferences and workshops?

As a rule, the organisation and realisation of conferences and workshops can only be funded if they take place in the applicants' countries. Participation in other conferences/workshops will only be funded in the applicants' own countries.

Which equipment expenses can be funded?

Only the institute abroad may request funding for equipment to the value of 20,000 EUR. The request for scientific equipment must be related to the joint activities.

Do we need to submit estimates along with our request for equipment?

Yes. Estimates must be submitted either in German or English. If you intend to buy equipment from Germany or another country abroad, we recommend that you check customs formalities in advance.

How should we use the administrative lump-sum?

The collaborative partner's own institution in Germany can receive an administrative lump-sum of up to 15 % of the funding amount. It may be used to cover all costs resulting from the use of existing and/or specifically acquired material or specially created personnel infrastructure. This includes, for example, general institute facilities, laboratories or workrooms, operating and maintenance costs, finance and personnel management and auditing. The administrative lump-sum may only be requested for the German partner institute because it bears the responsibility for using the funds in accordance with the grant provisions.

Who will read and review our application?

Your application will be checked for formal correctness by the Humboldt Foundation headquarters and then forwarded to several external peer reviewers who, as experts, will assess its academic quality. The Humboldt Foundation draws on a pool of approximately 3,000 researchers in Germany as well as other European countries. We therefore recommend that you draft your joint application in a manner that is clear and comprehensible for academics in your immediate research area.

Which criteria are relevant for deciding on our application?

In reviewing individual applications from a variety of different disciplines, the Humboldt Foundation makes every effort to ensure the greatest possible comparability. Vital criteria in the evaluation of all applications are the applicants' expertise and the scientific relevance and originality of the project, but also how well the project promotes long-term collaboration, the possibility of integrating junior researchers, and the extent to which the individual activities are conducive to the realisation of the research project. An internal selection committee of the Humboldt Foundation will decide which projects are to be funded.

When can we expect to receive funds after a positive decision?

The binding award letter will be sent to the German partner as soon as possible, usually within two to three weeks after the decision of the internal selection committee of the Humboldt Foundation. Experience has shown that the funding amount will be available to you in accordance with the time and expenses schedule approximately two months after selection.