The competition for two new major research centers in Germany has been decided. The Center for the Transformation of Chemistry (CTC) is being built between Leipzig and Halle, and the German Center for Astrophysics (DZA) is being built in East Saxony. Each center will receive a total of 1.2 billion euros for construction and operation by 2038. This lavish investment in research is intended to support the structural change in the region that will become necessary with the end of lignite mining. Both institutions are dedicated to long-term research topics. The centers will work closely with existing scientific institutions. Five new professorships are planned at the TU Dresden together with the DZA.
The CTC builds on the long tradition of chemistry in Germany. Chemistry is at the beginning of almost all value chains, says the initiator of the center, Peter Seeberger. 97 percent of all products come from this branch of industry. But the traditional raw material for plastic, paint, medicine and fertilizer is gas or oil, and the production processes are often energy-intensive. In order to remain competitive, fundamental changes are needed: a switch to a sustainable production method, without toxic waste and with low energy requirements. The research for this should take place in the central German area, where the traditional industry is located in Leuna, Schkopau or Bitterfeld, for example, and the new processes can be immediately transferred to the application. Seeberger mentions wood-based molecules for pharmaceuticals as examples of a sustainable circular economy.
Under the designated founding director Günther Hasinger, the DZA will promote green digitization on a campus in Görlitz. This includes hardware concepts with low power consumption and intelligent systems that select large data streams. This is being researched using data from radio telescopes. According to Hasinger, the findings will also be needed for smart cities or the Internet of Things in the future. Other research fields are in optics, sensors and semiconductor electronics. In addition, an underground laboratory is planned at a depth of 200 meters north of Bautzen, in which seismic calm prevails. Under these conditions, high-precision measuring and structuring devices can be developed, which are required, for example, in quantum technology or for microchips. Technology for the gravitational wave detector planned in Europe, the Einstein telescope, is also to be developed. With the founding of the DZA, Saxony is also coming into play as a possible location for the underground detector, the construction of which is expected to be decided in 2025.
The new centers each create 1,000 to 1,500 jobs in research, technology and administration, as well as apprenticeships in promising professions. Further effects are expected in the regions through settlements and spin-offs. Hasinger refers to Garching, where a research reactor was built on a greenfield site in 1957. Today the site is an important research campus and a magnet for high-tech companies.