Junior Research Groups

Two researchers inspecting a white substance

Outstanding young junior researchers, who should generally have between two and four years of postdoctoral research experience, can realise their own research project as leader of an independent junior research group and thereby qualify themselves for a professorship or other leading position. Large German research organisations and universities – often working together – fund the establishment of junior research groups through their own programmes or with support from the German Research Foundation (DFG) or other sponsors (such as the individual German states).

These junior research groups are attached either to universities – often as part of DFG special research programmes – or to institutes of the large research organisations.

Where are vacancies advertised? 

  • Job portals
    As a rule, universities and institutes advertise vacancies for heads of junior research groups on their websites. The Internet offers numerous job exchanges.
  • Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft 
    Fraunhofer advertises all vacancies in the jobs & career section of its website. 
  • Helmholtz Association
    The Helmholtz Association also funds leaders of junior research groups in six research areas. The researchers should have between two and six years of – also international – postdoctoral research experience. Information about current vacancies also for leaders of junior research groups at all Helmholtz Centres can be accessed using the job vacancies database.
  • Max Planck Society
    Scholarships and jobs for junior researchers at Max Planck Institutes can be searched in a central job database or at the website of its 80 MPG institutes.

Funding programmes for leaders of junior research groups

There are numerous support programmes for junior research group leaders. The support programmes of the large research organisations – the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Society – generally fund the training of outstanding junior researchers to top management level for up to five years.

  • The Max Planck Society offers gifted young scientists and researchers the opportunity to engage in independent scientific work through its Max Planck Research Groups.
  • The Attract Programme by the Fraunhofer supports outstanding junior researchers who have postdoctoral research experience in realising innovative ideas with considerable market potential. The leadership role is linked with a separate budget for staff and material as well as appropriate basic equipment. As a rule, applications are submitted to the respective institutes. Posts are usually advertised on the website of the respective organisations.
  • Experienced junior researchers can also apply to the DFG Emmy Noether Programme. In addition to research and teaching duties, leadership of such a research group involves assuming responsibility for staff and budget of the research project, supervising doctoral students and performing other management tasks. As a rule, these junior research groups are funded for up to five years. The DFG expects foreign applicants to continue their research careers in Germany after funding ends. Junior research groups can also be integrated in Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs).
  • The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation honours outstanding international researchers with the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award. Endowed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, this prize enables researchers to develop independent junior research groups at research institutions in Germany.
  • At the European level, the European Research Council (ERC) offers the Starting Independent Researcher Grant to fund research projects of highly qualified postdoctoral researchers. The programme aims to enable them to realise their own research projects in an independent research group. Research projects can be supported with up to two million euros for a period of up to five years.