Strategy 2025 – Research

Principles of good research, challenges, derived goals and measures

In recent years, the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena has accomplished significant successes in research and teaching. In order to secure these achievements and continue the positive development, a strategy process has been set up, which should also take into account the changing framework conditions.

Research profile

Friedrich Schiller University Jena is a research-oriented university boasting a broad range of subjects and a dense network of cooperations on a regional, national, and international level. Its research success builds on discipline-oriented individual projects and on interdisciplinary, coordinated research networks.

The University of Jena bundles its research into three profile areas: LIGHT, LIFE and LIBERTY. Together, they form the basis for the future development of the university, reflecting both its long-standing tradition and its commitment to cutting-edge research.

  • LIGHT: In the nineteenth century, Carl Zeiss, Ernst Abbe, and Otto Schott collaborated and turned Jena into a renowned centre of optics which laid the foundation for cutting-edge research in the field of photonics. The University of Jena’s main research areas are: optics, photonics, innovative materials, and energy storage.
  • LIFE: In the mid-nineteenth century, the work of Matthias Schleiden, Ernst Haeckel, and Hans Knöll established a research focus on botany, ecology, and microbiology in Jena. The University of Jena’s main research areas are: microbiology, natural product chemistry and infection research, biodiversity, bio-geo interactions, and ageing research.
  • LIBERTY: Around 1800, the University of Jena evolved into a centre of literary studies and humanities, owing to the work of Johann W. von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and Georg W. F. Hegel. The University of Jena’s main research areas are: enlightenment, romanticism, contemporary history, Eastern Europe, and social change.

The profile areas are open to all university members and serve as an innovative space where ideas can grow beyond disciplinary boundaries, connecting main research areas and developing new, cross-faculty research topics. This way, our profiles facilitate a continuous exploration of new fields of study and research.

The univerity’s ten faculties form the basis for the continuous development of the profile areas. They offer resources for individual and for disciplinary research activities. Research centres help to connect activities across faculties. This interplay between faculties, research centres, and profile areas contributes to strengthen and develop the university’s main research areas even further.

Friedrich Schiller University Jena as part of Jena’s sience hub and the national and international research community

Close cooperation across institutional boundaries has become the hallmark of Jena as an academic and science region. Home to the University of Jena, the University Hospital, three Max Planck Institutes, three Leibniz Institutes, two Helmholtz Institutes, two Fraunhofer Institutes, a federal research institute, and a University of Applied Sciences, today’s Jena offers a dynamic and developing research landscape. The University of Jena also collaborates with the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorial Foundation, the Ettersberg Foundation, and the Klassik Stiftung Weimar.

Joint appointments not only create strong links between external (research) institutions and the university, they also promote extensive teaching cooperations and early career researchers (e.g. through joint graduate schools). Sharing research infrastructures has become a daily practice in the science hub Jena. Outside of Jena, the university jointly coordinates activities with partners in the University Alliance Halle—Jena—Leipzig. In cooperation with these partners, the University of Jena also maintains the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

Friedrich Schiller University Jena actively promotes a national and worldwide network of leading universities and supports researchers who want to participate in joint activities. With around two hundred cooperation agreements in more than fifty countries, the University of Jena is an integral part of a large international research network. The university is open to new partnerships motivated by a shared passion for research and teaching.


Research at Friedrich Schiller University Jena is governed by the ethical principles laid down in its constitution. The university is committed to the freedom of research, good scientific practice, and the promotion of the highest research standards.

  • Friedrich Schiller University’s goal to conduct cutting-edge resreach on the highest level is reflected in both individual projects and in joint research networks.
  • Friedrich Schiller University engages in a wide range of research activities ranging from basic to applied research.
  • Friedrich Schiller University considers it important to transfer knowledge to society and industry.
  • Friedrich Schiller University is  committed to the unity of research and teaching.
  • Friedrich Schiller University uses the diversity of its subjects to explore and open up new research topics.
  • Friedrich Schiller University considers itself part of a national and international academic community.

Challenges, goals and measures

Challenge: Securing the capability for future research and thematic renewal

Promoting the continuous exploration of new research topics is central to advancing the university’s research profile. The measures needed to achieve this goal must be supported by organizational, communication, and management structures tailored to the needs of academia and science. Digital transformation—described in a separate strategy paper—plays a key role in this process.

Goal: Advancing the profile areas LIGHT, LIFE, and LIBERTY

In recent years, Friedrich Schiller University Jena succeeded in building an internationally visible research profile by focusing on three areas: LIGHT, LIFE, and LIBERTY. Highlighting research activities in these profile areas has contributed to building a clear research profile.

For members of the University of Jena, the profile areas serve as an open space for shared ideas, while also offering creative funding tools. All three profiles boast outstanding national and international research achievements. They also support strong research alliances that cut across profile areas like recently practiced in the profile areas LIFE and LIGHT.


Supporting the continuous exploration of new topics within the profile areas

New structural measures ensure that the profile areas continuously evolve. These measures include promoting a systematic exchange with faculties, regularly appointing new members to steering committees (including spokespersons), and offering an incentive system for developing new lines of inquiry.

Each profile area has its own budget, which allows to appoint project coordinators and to establish networks of early career researchers. This strengthens existing or prospective research collaborations and allows for the exploration of new, cross-faculty research topics. The steering committees are renewed every three years. These teams are comprised of researchers who participate in distinctive research centres and large coordinated projects. They also ensure the broadest possible representation of subjects. Each profile area has a seat and a vote in the University Senate.

Goal: Attract and retain the best minds in order to open up new areas of research

The key to research success lies in recruiting the best and brightest talents. At the University of Jena, a strategically oriented recruitment policy is one of the central instruments in building a strong research profile. It is the best minds who develop innovative research topics and attract new talents. Between 2020 and 2025, a total of sixty professors will retire. When making new appointments, the University must be able to respond to current developments in order to open up new research areas and reinforce existing strengths.


Measures for a strategic appointment policy 

Friedrich Schiller University Jena pursues a strategic appointment policy and strives for top appointments at all levels. Headhunting and active recruitment are important tools for attracting potential candidates. The Executive Board of the university and the ten faculties jointly develop attractive offers for outstanding prospective academic staff. In exceptional cases, the University permits extraordinary appointment procedures for scientists and scholars of special strategic importance. In order to retain outstanding staff, the university develops attractive retention offers in consultation with its faculties.

Friedrich Schiller University also particularly welcomes the recruitment of early-career researchers who receive funding from competitive programmes such as the ERC Grants, the Emmy Noether Programme, the Heisenberg Programme, or the Sofja Kovalevskaja Prize. The Programme for Women Professors of the Federal States and the German Government as well as the Federal States Programme for the Promotion of Early Career Researchers (Tenure Track Programme) are also important instruments. The University of Jena also continues to promote joint appointments with external partners.

Challenge: Strengthening the international visibility of the University of Jena

While individual disciplines enjoy high international recognition, the overall visibility of Friedrich Schiller University Jena as a centre for science, academia, and research remains comparatively low. One of the university’s main objectives is, thus, to attract top international researchers. The University of Jena competes for excellent staff and innovative ideas.

Goal: Enhance international visibility and appeal


Measures to improve visibility on an international scale

The cooperation agreements between Friedrich Schiller University Jena and its partner institutions focus on close cooperation. The university supports researchers involved in international projects. The university has established a fellowship programme targeted at individuals with exeptional international reputation and excellent postdocs (Jena Excellence Fellowship Programme). These fellows not only conduct research during their stay in Jena, but also help to establish long-term partnerships and communicate the attractiveness of Jena as a research hub in their countries of origin. Furthermore, by hosting international congresses, the university strengthens its position in the global research landscape.

Measures to increase the university’s international appeal

The Forum, a communication centre in development right next to the University Main Building, will offer an attractive space for interdisciplinary dialogue and accommodation for international fellows. Fellows will be supported by a designated Welcome Service for (international) guests in the Forum to help remove administrative hurdles on arrival in Germany and at Friedrich Schiller University Jena.

A coordinated welcome concept for the science hub Jena will be developed in close cooperation with the recently established cross-institutional network JenaVersum. JenaVersum aims to facilitate the shared use of local infrastructures, to strengthen the dialogue between academia, society and industry, and to become the starting point for joint marketing efforts that will put Jena on the global map.

Challenge: Regional networks and dialogue with society

Universities are important pillars of society. As such, academic education is one of the most important transfer achievements of Friedrich Schiller University Jena. The university’s teaching strategy is detailed in a separate paper. Networking with local institutions from academia, culture, and industry is central to the university. In order to unleash the full potential of the science hub Jena, the university expands its strategic alliances with its partner research institutions.

Goal: Further connect the academic and economic region of Jena and promote the dialogue with society


Networking and outreach measures

The University of Jena establishes the cooperative cross-institutional network JenaVersum togehter with external research institutions, foundations, Jena University Hospital, the University of Applied Sciences, the research industry, and the City of Jena. This network will further strengthen the successful cross-institutional and interdisciplinary cooperation in the city and region. JenaVersum will be located in the Forum (communication centre).

The university will promote knowledge transfer by sharing its research results with the businesses and society, by supporting patenting and spin-offs as well as start-ups and young companies. Actively reaching out to academics and scientists (scouting) for an effective application of research results (including patenting and spin-offs) is a central tool to support knowledge transfer.

The university will enhance its exchange and dialogue with society. In this context, the university’s collections and museums play a particularly important role. The University of Jena will strengthen existing outreach activities, such as lecture series, the University for Children, lectures for senior citizens, exhibitions, and the ‘Long Night of the Sciences’. Similarly to the Inselplatz Campus, the university’s future Life Science Campus ‘Bachstraßenareal’ will be open to the public to better enablecitizen science projects. The university’s strategy for boosting knowledge transfer will be detailed in a separate transfer paper.