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UniSysCat - How to Understand and Utilize Networks in Catalysis

More than 85 percent of all products come into contact with a catalyst during production. Catalysis research is therefore not only regarded as one of the most important research areas in chemistry, it is also the main driver of “green chemistry,” which focuses on sustainability and resource conservation. The UniSysCat Cluster of Excellence, proposed by Technische Universität Berlin, will play a key role in Germany and can build on ten years of outstanding work by UniCat, the previous cluster of the Excellence Initiative.

The cluster spokespersons Prof. Dr. Matthias Driess (l.), Prof. Dr. Peter Hildebrandt (m.) and Prof. Dr. Arne Thomas

Individual catalytic reactions are already well understood in many cases. The challenge now is to decipher reaction networks in chemical and biological catalysis in space and time so that they can then be controlled, predicted and modified. Which key parameters enable and control chemocatalytic and biocatalytic networks? How can chemical and/or biological processes be coupled to create catalytic systems with new functions? These are the central research questions of UniSysCat.

“We are delighted about the cluster´s approval and the possibility to conduct innovative research,” says Matthias Driess, Professor of Chemistry at Technische Universität Berlin and one of UniSysCat’s three spokespersons. “We will work in five interdisciplinary research areas on the elucidation and evolution of catalytic networks. The aim is to fundamentally understand how reactants, intermediates, and reaction products come into customized contact with the various catalysts involved,” explains Arne Thomas, also cluster spokesperson and Professor of Chemistry at Technische Universität Berlin. Among other things, the scientists can build on the previous UniCat cluster’s wide range of experimental and theoretical methods.

UniSysCat has set itself three essential structural goals: first, to sustainably support early-career researchers. Within UniSysCat, the young PhD students have an opportunity to work in an outstanding research environment, such as in the further developed Berlin International Graduate School of Natural Sciences and Engineering (BIG-NSE 2.0) within the framework of the Einstein Centre for Catalysis (EC2). Targeted recruitment strategies, including internationally competitive tenure options, as well as the Chemical Invention Factory (CIF), the first incubation center for start-ups in Green chemistry in Germany, help open up various career paths for young talents. “We want to optimally prepare young scholars for their professional careers, both inside and outside of university,” emphasizes Peter Hildebrandt, Professor of Physical Chemistry at Technische Universität Berlin and the cluster’s third spokesperson.

The second strategic goal is to achieve gender equality for women in science and to increase the proportion of women in professorships and the postdoctoral qualification phase.

The third focus is to expand national and international cooperation. Matthias Driess explains, “as a large network, we are aiming to cooperate with other large networks, such as other Clusters of Excellence in catalysis around the globe, and to jointly develop projects with them.”


Prof. Dr. Matthias Driess (Technische Universität Berlin)
Phone: +49 30 314-29731

Prof. Dr. Arne Thomas (Technische Universität Berlin)
Phone: +49 30 314-28875

Prof. Dr. Peter Hildebrandt (Technische Universität Berlin)
Phone: +49 30 314-21419
Applicant university:
Technische Universität Berlin

Partner institutions:
Freie Universität Berlin
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Universität Potsdam
Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (FHI)
Max-Planck-Institut für Kolloid- und Grenzflächenforschung (MPI-KGF)
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP)
Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB)

Most important cooperation partners:
National: Leibniz Institute for Catalysis at the University of Rostock (LIKAT Rostock); Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Energiekonversion in Mülheim/Ruhr (MPI CEC)
International: Aix-Marsaille Universität (France), Catalan Institute for Catalysis (ICIQ) in Tarragona (Spain), Catalysis Hub & Oxford University (Great Britain), ETH Zürich, Kaist Consortium for Catalysis (Korea), Monash Catalysis Center in Melbourne (Australia), Northwestern University in Evanston (USA), Schwedisches Konsortium für Photosynthese (Sweden), Stanford University (USA), Universität Zürich.

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