We conduct research and promote young researchers at the highest international level in five strategic research areas through top-quality collaborative research projects and central academic institutes, as well as effective support for individual third-party funded research projects.
The University's founding generation already pursued a vision of close collaboration between historians and sociologists, and a focus on theoretical and methodological questions has brought the disciplines ever closer together. The Bielefeld school of social history, research on historical semantics, and systems theory have become hallmarks. The establishment of the joint Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology (BGHS) in 2007 represented an important step towards long-term consolidation of this interdisciplinary cooperation. With the initiative for a Cluster of Excellence "Communicating Comparisons: From the Onset of Modernity to World Society" historians and sociologists in Bielefeld have adopted a common research programme and widened interdisciplinary cooperation to include law and philosophy.
Education science and psychology along with history, literature, law, health sciences, philosophy, theology, as well as the internationally renowned Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG - Institut für Interdisziplinäre Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung) all participate in this strategic research area. It concerns the complex processes of human development, encompassing child development and all the social interactions and institutions that shape human existence in different societies and contexts. Sophisticated interdisciplinary and international research uncovers the causes and consequences of individual harm and destruction in private and public institutions associated with collective ethnic/cultural, religious, political, and institutional violence.
This strategic research area focuses on gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms that allow humans, animals, and artificial systems to act autonomously in complex environments and to communicate with each other. Research, in which computer science, biology, psychology, sports science, linguistics, and physics are all involved, currently concentrates on four key issues: motion intelligence, attention, situated communication, and memory and learning. This is primarily pure research, but with an eye to application and the intention to bring about the development of prototypes. There is close cooperation with national and international industrial partners (e.g. Miele, Bertelsmann, Honda), as well as with important partners in the health sector. The heart of this strategic research area is the Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) Cluster of Excellence approved in 2007.
In this broad field the University has carved itself a nationally and internationally prominent niche with a focused profile at the intersection of physics, chemistry, biology, and bioinformatics. Current research focuses range from nanolayers and single-molecule processes through to bacterial, plant, and animal cells. They are driven by interdisciplinary collaboration, in part located at the Centre for Biotechnology (CeBiTec). Even if this strategic research area is largely about toplevel pure research, it has often led to high-level industrial collaboration, e.g. with E.ON, Miele, Schüco International, and Siemens.
Close cooperation between mathematics, theoretical physics, and business administration and economics (especially the Institute of Mathematical Economics, IMW - Institut für mathematische Wirtschaftsforschung) has a long tradition in Bielefeld that has produced a series of major collaborative projects. Additionally - and this is probably unique in Germany - pure and applied mathematicians work closely together in a DFG Collaborative Research Centre. Important current research interests in the theoretical sciences are spectral structures and topological methods, stochastics and modelling of real systems, economic behaviour and interaction models, and the theory of quantum fields and strongly interacting matter.
The strategy of interdisciplinary networking within and between the strategic research areas has created dynamic, integrative research structures. No area at Bielefeld - not even the smallest departments (e.g. Philosophy, Sports Science) - is per se detached from these trendsetting developments.