History of the Elite Network of Bavaria

Bavaria can look back on a long tradition of support for gifted young people. Indeed, this history extends as far back as 1852, when King Maximilian II of Bavaria founded the Maximilianeum Foundation, which exists to this day. In 1966, the Bavarian state govern­ment introduced the Bavarian Act to Promote Gifted Students (BayBFG), another state-funded instrument to support gifted young people in Bavaria. In 2004, a legal reform in­te­grated this law into a new overall concept to support gifted young people. The Elite Net­work of Bavaria was, and remains, a core element of that concept.



    International Junior Research Groups in the spotlight

    In the course of the year, three new Inter­na­tional Junior Re­search Groups with a fo­cus on the hu­mani­ties and social sci­ences began their work. In addi­tion, new Inter­na­tional Junior Re­search Groups fo­cus­ing on the natu­ral and engi­neer­ing sci­ences, math­emat­ics and com­puter sci­ence as well as the life sci­ences were an­nounced and se­lected. The six suc­cess­ful new junior re­search group lead­ers will take up their work in the course of 2024.

    New coat of paint for the Max-Weber-Program

    The Max-Weber-Program’s logo is given an updated color scheme to match the Elite Network's brand label, which was updated in 2022.

    The scientific community in lively exchange

    In 2023, the Elite Net­work once again fo­cused inten­sively on the ex­change be­tween its mem­bers. In addi­tion to the annu­al events such as the New Year's recep­tion of the Max-Weber-Program, the Elite Cup and the Get To­gether for new mem­bers, an Elite Net­work of Ba­varia FO­RUM on the topic of neu­rosci­ence was held at the TU Mu­nich and a group of alum­ni visit­ed the Mu­nich Na­tional Thea­tre.


    Networking face to face again

    It was par­ticu­larly pleas­ing that in 2022 nu­mer­ous events of the Elite Net­work of Ba­varia could once again take place in pres­ence. While the New Year's recep­tion of the Max We­ber Pro­gram in Janu­ary still took place virtu­ally, teams from vari­ous pro­grams of the net­work were final­ly able to demonstrate their skills on the ball again at the Elite Cup in June 2022. In early sum­mer, the alum­ni met for a guid­ed tour of the Ohel-Jakob Syna­gogue in Mu­nich. The new mem­bers of the net­work also came to­gether to find out about their (fund­ing) op­por­tuni­ties in the Elite Net­work of Ba­varia at the Get To­gether inside the Tech­nical Uni­versi­ty of Mu­nich, fol­lowed by a con­vivial ex­change over music and a buf­fet. Final­ly, in­stead of virtu­al con­gratu­la­tions in front of their home screens, our grad­uates re­ceived their certif­icates in per­son again this year from State Min­ister Markus Blume.

    Four new Doctorate Programs

    2022 marked the start of four new Inter­na­tional Doc­torate Pro­grams in Natu­ral Sci­ences, Engi­neer­ing, Math­emat­ics and In­for­mat­ics as well as Life Sci­ences.

    A new look for the Elite Network

    In Feb­ruary of this year the new logo was pub­lished, giv­ing the Elite Net­work of Ba­varia an up-to-date and dis­tinc­tive new em­blem.


    Another challenging year

    2021 was an­other year de­fined by the ongo­ing coro­na­virus pan­demic – with new chal­leng­es, im­pon­dera­bility and crea­tive ad hoc prob­lem solv­ing.

    Three new Doctorate Programs

    Nev­erthe­less, three new Inter­na­tional Doc­torate Pro­grams in the Hu­mani­ties, Social Sci­ences and Eco­nom­ics were suc­cess­fully im­ple­ment­ed.

    Growth in the Marianne-Plehn-Program

    Our new Mari­an­ne-Plehn-Pro­gram, which con­tinued and re­placed our Re­search Scholarship Pro­gram in the pre­vious year, was fur­ther im­ple­ment­ed. Al­ready half of the one hun­dred avail­able posts were grant­ed to scholarship hold­ers in the pro­gram’s first year.

    A part-time em­ployment of 25%, at any Ba­varian uni­versi­ty, is at the heart of the pro­gram. The post is fund­ed by the Elite Net­work of Ba­varia and sup­ple­ment­ed by a Ba­varian excel­lence pro­gram as well as a PhD scholarship by the Ger­man Aca­demic Scholarship Foun­da­tion.

    Launch of the Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor­ship Pro­gram

    The Inter­na­tional Commis­sion of the Elite Net­work of Ba­varia with its out­stand­ing scien­tific ex­per­tise has been ac­com­pany­ing the selec­tion pro­cess in the new fund­ing pro­gram ”Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor­ship“ since 2021. This pro­gram was estab­lished as part of Ba­var­ia's High-Tech Agenda. The dis­tin­guished and inde­pen­dent scien­tific ex­perts in the Inter­na­tional Commis­sion select the best appli­cati­ons to launch dis­tin­guished pro­fes­sor­ships at Ba­varian uni­versi­ties.

    The aim of the Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor­ship Pro­gramme is to sup­port Ba­varian uni­versi­ties in at­tract­ing par­ticu­larly out­stand­ing re­searchers to Ba­varia by offer­ing them inter­na­tion­ally com­peti­tive top con­di­tions.

    Net­work­ing in the sec­ond year of the pan­demic

    All our events - the Get To­gether for our new mem­bers, the Grad­uation Cer­emony, the New Year Re­cep­tion or the Max We­ber Day for our Max We­ber scholarship hold­ers –had to take place online again in 2021. Even though the spe­cial mo­ments and mem­ories of face-to-face events are hard to re­place, our alter­native offers were very popu­lar with our mem­bers.


    A year full of challenges

    At the be­gin­ning of the year, nobo­dy could have pre­dicted that 2020 would offer unfo­reseen chal­lenges - until the corona pan­demic made previ­ous plans obso­le­te.

    For exa­mple, com­ple­tely new ap­proa­ches had to be taken in the orga­niza­tion of net­work events such as the Get Toge­ther for new mem­bers, the Graduation Ce­re­mony for the graduates of the Elite Net­work of Bava­ria, or even within the framework of the Soft Skill Semi­nars. Furthermo­re, it was neces­sary to react prag­mati­cally and fle­xibly to corona-rela­ted chan­ges and chal­lenges in the im­ple­men­tation of the indi­vidual pro­grams in the five fun­ding lines as well as in the quali­ty as­surance of the Elite Net­work of Bava­ria.

    Against this back­ground, the suc­cess­ful Go­Live of the com­ple­tely revi­sed webs­ite of the Elite Net­work of Bava­ria was all the more gra­tifying, as was the publi­cation of the newly de­sig­ned in­for­mati­on bro­chure on the Max We­ber Pro­gram.

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    Launch of the Marianne-Plehn-Program

    Struc­tural­ly, the fur­ther de­velopment of the Re­searchScholar­ship­Pro­gram into the Marianne-Plehn-Program was also com­plet­ed. Start­ing this year, the Mari­an­ne-Plehn-Pro­gram will pro­vide addi­tional sup­port for out­stand­ing young scien­tists dur­ing their PhD schol­arship by the Ger­man Aca­demic Scholarship Founda­tion. A part-time em­ploy­ment of 25%, at any Ba­varian uni­versi­ty, is at the heart of the pro­gram.The post is fund­ed by the Elite Net­work of Ba­varia and sup­ple­ment­ed by a Ba­varian ex-cel­lence pro­gram.


    The Elite Network of Bavaria celebrates its 15th anniversary

    The Elite Network of Bavaria celebrates its 15th anniversary on May 17th at a festive event at the Max Joseph Hall in the Munich Residence. The five programs of the Elite Network of Bavaria include Elite Graduate Programs, International Doctorate Programs and Junior Research Groups as well as the Max Weber-Program and Research Scholar­ships. The Elite Network of Bavaria supports exceptionally talented students and young researchers. It now has well over 10,000 members.

    In his speech, the Bavarian Minister of Science emphasizes the network concept and the outstanding importance of promo­ting talented people at the highest level: "The Elite Network of Bavaria is a true suc­cess story. I am very proud of what we have achieved over the past fifteen years and we are looking forward to further developing our programs. We need problem solvers and visionaries. They deal with the questions of tomorrow and, with their talents, play a key role in shaping our progress.”


    Redeveloping the Research Scholarship program

    Following the recommendation of the Elite Network’s full-scale Evalua­tion Commission, it was decided that the Research Scholarship program should be redeveloped in order to ensure that doctoral researchers continue to enjoy the best possible conditions in future. The aim is to create an innovative and more attractive scholarship program and thereby attract the most talented junior researchers and ensure they remain in academia.

    In 2018, after approving a further six Elite Graduate Programs and four Junior Re­search Groups to join the Elite Network of Bavaria, the Net­work’s overall portfolio grew further still to include over 50 programs of research and study and around 1,800 Max Weber Program scholarship holders


    Second full-scale evaluation: a wholehearted success

    The second full-scale evaluation of the Elite Network of Bavaria was the defining event of 2017. The Commission led by Prof. Birgitta Wolff, President of the Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main, comprised various pre-eminent figures. In its final report, the Com­mis­sion issued a very positive judgement: “The Com­mis­sion considers the Elite Net­work of Bavaria to be utterly exemplary in terms of support for gifted and elite students, and congratulates the Free State of Ba­va­ria on this out­stand­ing program. The Free State of Ba­va­ria has hereby set clearly visible milestones in the academic land­scape.”


    Support and funding approved for further programs

    The feedback received regarding the Elite Network of Bavaria’s funding programs con­ti­nued to be extraordinarily positive. With this in mind, the Elite Network of Bavaria ap­pro­ved funding for two Junior Research Groups and four new Elite Graduate Pro­grams in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Economics. “In Bavaria, a location for education and research, we attach great importance to providing support for junior aca­de­mics,” said Science Minister Dr Ludwig Spaenle. “Through the Elite Network of Bavaria, we enable academically outstanding students and researchers from around the world to ac­cess attractive career prospects at Bavarian universities and, in doing so, secure the long-­term competitive power of the Bavarian academic and industrial sectors.”

    In the same year, we approved an application to extend another Elite Graduate Program, with the universities involved providing the financing themselves. This meant that 15 of the 20 Elite Graduate Programs in the first tranche of courses were extended at the end of their ten-year funding term, with ongoing funding provided by the respective universities.

    Scholarships’ financial support improved

    We increased the financial support provided through scholarships. In October, the Max Weber Program Semester Allowance increased to €1,290 per semester. From No­vem­ber onwards, new Research Scholar­ships were awarded on the basis of improved con­di­tions, including increased basic funding of €1,400.


    New overall concept to support gifted and talented students

    Over several months, the State Ministry for Educa­tion, Culture, Science and the Arts de­ve­lo­ped an overarching concept to provide support for gifted students, in which the Elite Network of Bavaria was to play a crucial role. This concept covered the entire school and higher educa­tion system. The concept was then introduced at both federal and state level and aims to ensure that no talent is wasted and to actively encour­age peop­le to ap­p­ly their potential, regardless of their social or educa­tional background.

    New Elite Graduate Programs set up

    Following a call for applications to set up further Elite Graduate Pro­grams in the Na­tu­ral Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics and Infor­matics, we approved six new Elite Graduate Programs for funding through the Elite Network of Bavaria.


    The Elite Network of Bavaria turns 10

    The Elite Network of Bavaria commemorated its tenth year in existence with a celebration at the Nymphenburg Palace. The anniversary event reflected the Elite Network’s net­work­ing mindset, bringing leading figures from academia, politics and wider society together with talented students. Science Minister Dr Ludwig Spaenle and State Secretary Bernd Sibler both attended the celebration. “We have been providing talented students with cut­ting-edge support for ten years through the Elite Net­work of Bavaria,” they said in an address. “In doing so, we offer support that enables talented young students and re­search­ers from around the world to combine their creativity, passion and in­qui­si­ti­ve­ness with academic study and to tackle the chal­lenges of tomorrow by pursuing innovative approaches and moving beyond conventional methods.”

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    The event at the Nymphenburg Palace to celebrate the Elite Network of Bavaria’s ten-year anniversary brought talented young students together with leading representatives from the fields of academia, industry, politics and wider society, initiating a stimulating dialogue on a range of topics.


    Strategy Group founded

    The Elite Network of Bavaria worked to improve its quality assurance measures. In addition to its existing bodies – the International Commission and the Advisory Board – the Strategy Group was established with the aim of addressing over­arching structural issues within the Elite Network of Bavaria and helping to further raise quality standards.

    Extension phase enabled

    We introduced an option to allow universities to extend Elite Graduate Programs which would otherwise end following their ten-year term of funding from the Bavarian State Ministry of Science and the Arts. This option enables Bavarian universities to con­tinue to offer established Elite Graduate Programs under the umbrella of the Elite Net­work of Bavaria for a limited additional period; dur­ing this period, the Elite Graduate Programs remain subject to the Elite Network’s quality con­trols and are funded by the respective universities. In addition, six Inter­national Doctorate Programs concluded at the end of their ma­xi­mum eight-year term, while four new Doctorate Programs and four Junior Research Groups were approved for funding.

    Overview: concluded International Doctorate Programs

    Academic areaProgramLead university
    Humanities, Social Sciences and EconomicsIncentives – Bavarian Graduate Program in EconomicsFriedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
    Natural SciencesIdentification, Optimization and Control with Applications in Modern TechnologiesFriedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
    Engineering and InformaticsMaterials Science of Complex InterfacesTechnical University of Munich (TUM)
    NanoCat: Nanodesign of High-Performance CatalystsTechnical University of Munich (TUM)
    Quantum Computing, Control and CommunicationTechnical University of Munich (TUM)
    Life SciencesProtein Dynamics in Health and DiseaseLudwig Maximilian University of Munich


    Junior Research Groups program line launched

    The Elite Network of Bavaria introduced a new program line in 2012: Junior Research Groups. This extended the Elite Network’s support and funding from the point pupils leave school through to the postdoc phase. Art historian Dr Philippe Cordez led the first Junior Research Group – Premodern Objects. An Archaeology of Experience – at LMU Munich.

    At the launch of the new program, Science Minister Dr Wolfgang Heubisch commented as follows: “Highly qualified junior aca­dem­ics are the most important resource we have for ensuring a viable future for our state. By introducing Junior Research Groups, a fifth fun­ding line under the umbrella of the Elite Network of Bavaria, we are establishing ano­ther sustainable method that affords junior academics in Bavaria extraordinary op­por­tunities.”

    New International Doctorate Programs approved for funding

    After five International Doctorate Pro­grams completed their maximum term of eight years, funding was approved for four new International Doctorate Programs in the Hu­ma­nities, Social Sciences and Economics.

    Overview: concluded International Doctorate Programs

    Academic areaProgramLead university
    Humanities, Social Sciences and EconomicsStructure, Reactivity and Properties of Oxide MaterialsUniversität Bayreuth 
    THESIS: Complex Processes in the Earth: Theory, Experiment, SimulationsLudwig Maximilian University of Munich
    Natural SciencesLead Structures of Cell FunctionUniversity of Bayreuth
    NanoBio­TechnologyLudwig Maximilian University of Munich
    Life SciencesLead Structures of Cell FunctionUniversity of Bayreuth
    NanoBio­TechnologyLudwig Maximilian University of Munich


    The Elite Network of Bavaria offered support for schools

    For the first time, a Soft Skill Seminar was offered to gifted school pupils in top streams at Bavarian Gymnasium schools through cooperation with the State Ministry for Edu­ca­tion and Culture. In addition to early stud­ies, “uni days”, modified final year classes and se­mi­nars during school holidays, this event represented a further instrument to support gifted pupils approaching the tran­si­tion between school and higher edu­ca­tion.

    The Elite Network also increased the Se­mes­ter Allowance for Max Weber Program scho­lar­ship holders to €900 per semester.


    Excellent outcome for the Elite Network of Bavaria

    A Commission chaired by Prof. Elmar W. Weiler, Rector of Ruhr Univer­sity Bochum, con­duc­ted the first full-scale evaluation of the Elite Net­work. The verdict was extremely positive: “In the Elite Net­work, Bavaria pos­sesses a funding program that binds out­stan­ding talent to Bavarian universities and bears enormous influence.” The report also said that the Free State of Bavaria should firmly maintain the Elite Net­work of Bavaria and expand it wherever pos­sible. On the basis of the rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Com­mis­sion in its report on the full-scale evaluation, the Free State of Bavaria con­ti­nued to ex­pand the Elite Net­work progressively in the years that followed.


    Soft Skill Seminars

    Soft Skill Seminars are offered through a colla­bo­ra­tion between the Elite Network of Ba­va­ria and the Weiterbildungszentrum of LMU Munich. In these sessions, they not only learn key skills but also have the op­por­tunity to become acquainted with other members of the Elite Network of Bavaria.

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    First Bavarian Night at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

    The Elite Network of Bavaria hosted the first Bavarian Night at the Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau. This went on to become an es­tab­lished fixture in the program of events that accompany the annual meeting.

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    The 1000th scholarship holder

    The number of scholarship holders in the Max Weber Program con­ti­nued to grow. In No­vem­ber, it welcomed its thousandth scholar­ship holder: Susanne Freund, a student at the of Latin and School Psy­chol­ogy at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt’s Lehr­amt für Gymnasien.

    Thanks to the Max Weber Program – operated by the German Aca­de­mic Scholar­ship Foundation on behalf of the Free State of Bavaria – by 2008, more than 1,000 schol­ar­ship holders had benefited from a Se­mes­ter Allowance, Study Abroad Support and a wide-ranging personal development program.


    Further Elite Graduate Programs and Doctorate Programs set up

    The 2006/2007 Winter semester saw the launch of further Elite Graduate Programs and International Doctorate Programs. This took the total to 21 Elite Graduate Programs and 11 International Doctorate Programs under the umbrella of the Elite Network of Bavaria.


    Advisory Board formed

    In 2006, the Elite Network gained a new body: the Advisory Board. The board was crea­ted to promote students, graduates and post­grad­uate researchers on the basis of the Ba­va­rian Act to Promote Elite Students (BayEFG) and contribute to securing the high quality of the Network’s programs. The inaugural meeting of the Advisory Board was held under the chairmanship of Professor Wolfgang Frühwald, President of the Alexander von Hum­boldt Foundation.

    Celebratory send-off for the Network’s first graduates

    In a formal ceremony at the Würzburg Resi­dence, the Elite Network of Bavaria cele­brated its first 100 graduates, with Science Minister Dr Thomas Goppel also in at­tend­ance. The Elite Network holds its graduation cele­bration in a different Bavarian university city each year.


    Bavarian state support for gifted students reformed

    The Bavarian Act to Promote Elite Stu­dents (BayEFG) entered into force on 1 May 2005, replacing the Bavarian Act to Promote Gifted Stu­dents (BayBFG). The new act re­formed support for gifted and talented stu­dents in Bavaria. In the past, the state’s support had been focused on financial aspects; the re­form shifted the emphasis to include idea­tional, personal support. Talented young stu­dents began to receive individual support to en­cou­rage their personal development.

    The Max Weber Program of Bavaria was officially launched with an opening event on 5 December in Nuremberg’s Neues Museum. Attendees included Science Minister Dr Thomas Goppel and the Pres­ident of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation, Professor Gerhard Roth. In his speech, Dr Goppel stated: “By launching the Max Weber Program, Bavaria is initiating a para­digm shift in support for elite stu­dents. Excellence programs are at the heart of this. The general excellence program will include summer academies, language courses, semesters abroad and mentoring.”

    The German Academic Scholarship Foun­da­tion was tasked with operating the funding program.


    Starting gun fired for the Elite Network of Bavaria

    On 22 November 2004, the starting gun for the Elite Network of Bavaria was fired at Munich’s Pina­ko­thek der Moderne; in attend­ance were Minister President Dr Edmund Stoiber, State Minister Dr Thomas Goppel and the Network’s Founding Committee. Repre­senta­tives of the ten Elite Graduate Programs and six International Doctorate Programs starting in the 2004/05 Winter semester also attended the event.

    In his address, Science Minister Dr Thomas Goppel said: “The Elite Network offers the best students and doctoral researchers a stimulating academic environment of the highest level and the op­por­tu­ni­ty to conduct independent research at an early stage.”

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    The Elite Network of Bavaria is born

    The Elite Network began to take shape over the course of 2003, as the state government and parliament made funding available for 223 high-quality positions. Moreover, thanks to the generous support of the Bavarian Industry Association (vbw), the Elite Network of Bavaria had a budget of €14 million in initial funding at its disposal.

    A Commission made up of pre-eminent fig­ures and led by DFG President Prof. Ludwig-Ernst Winnacker closely monitored the de­vel­op­ment the Elite Graduate Program and International Doctorate Program funding lines, as well as the overall concept for the Elite Network of Bavaria.


    An initiative of the Free State of Bavaria

    The Elite Network of Bavaria was born in 2002 as an initiative of the Bavarian state government. The Elite Network was created to offer the best possible conditions of re­search and study high-achieving students and junior academics.

    A four-person working group – comprising Professor Helmut Altner, Professor Walter Kröll, Professor Olaf Kübler and the President of the DFG, Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker – was commissioned to draw up initial recommendations for the creation of the Elite Network of Bavaria.