The state of Hesse features a dense landscape of universities and research institutes. The 14 state universities (five universities, five universities of applied sciences, three art colleges and the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences as a new type of university) and numerous non-university research institutions (including six Max Planck Institutes) form a dynamic environment for science and innovation. Hesse’s universities are highly autonomous. Reliable funding means they are able to optimise this autonomy for quality assurance and quality enhancement in research and teaching. To this end, through the Hessian Higher Education Pact 2021–2025, the state government has agreed on a 4% annual increase in the basic funding of higher education institutions up to and including 2025. In order to further increase their profiling and strategic capability, which are key success factors for the activities of higher education institutions, a broad strategy process was recently initiated at all Hessian universities with the participation of high-calibre national and international experts. A separate profiling budget supports the implementation of the strategy concepts. Hesse already has national and international visibility in research and is competitive in many fields, such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, cancer research, energy systems, and social conflict and transformation processes. An outstanding example of basic research at non-university institutes is the international accelerator facility FAIR. In the future, around 3,000 scientists will provide new insights into the structure of matter and the evolution of the universe. Cooperation between universities and non-university institutes will be boosted to further expand the performance of cutting-edge research in Hesse. New initiatives are also being specifically funded through Hesse’s own research funding programme, the State Initiative for the Development of Scientific and Economic Excellence (LOEWE). The LOEWE programme has recently undergone comprehensive conceptual expansion. Its budget will be increased to 100 million euros per year by 2025. Among other things, a new funding line was introduced to attract top national and international scientists to Hesse. The budget also established a funding line to provide targeted support for particularly innovative and high-risk research.
Another hallmark of Hesse’s science policy is the targeted promotion of research at universities of applied sciences (HAWs). The state is currently fostering the expansion of its own non-professorial academic staff. In addition, universities of applied sciences have had the independent right to award doctorates in research-intensive subject areas since 2016. The first four doctoral centres at Hessian universities of applied sciences are currently under evaluation. The focus of activities has also shifted to improving the supervision ratio, for instance by creating 300 new W-grade professorships at Hesse’s universities. Hesse also supports the quality of higher education and teaching through its own funding programme. Major impetus is also being given to digitalisation – for example through the Hessian Digital Pact for Higher Education. In this case, the state is supporting the universities by providing 112 million euros to advance digitalisation in the areas of research, education, administration, digital infrastructure, information management, and governance. This has become even more important as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hessian Centre for Artificial Intelligence, for which Hesse has earmarked 38 million euros, deserves special mention in this context: hessian.AI bundles together the AI expertise of 13 Hessian universities and stands for excellent research, promotion of young talent and the transfer of knowledge to the private sector and civil society.