TUM Innovation Networks

Transdisciplinary teams, collective creativity, new ideas – and the freedom to pursue them: We investigate groundbreaking research questions and explore high-potential innovation fields at the interfaces of the classical disciplines.

Creative transdisciplinary projects

In TUM Innovation Networks seven to ten Principal Investigators (PIs) work together closely on an transdisciplinary basis to explore new fields of research and make early progress in shaping critical mass for future innovation hotspots.

TUM supports each of these transdisciplinary initiatives for four years. The Innovation Network teams consist of as many as ten doctoral candidates and postdocs in addition to the PIs. Each project has an overall scope of approximately 3 million euros. The TUM Innovation Networks are a central component of our Excellence Strategy TUM Agenda 2030.

All TUM Innovation Networks at a glance

Creating sustainable energy storage solutions and at the same time producing novel materials for regenerative medicine: Both is possible when using the right supramolecular chemical compounds. The TUM Innovation Network for Artificial Intelligence powered Multifunctional Material Design (ARTEMIS) is aiming at the guided discovery of such molecules and at developing them as a unique toolbox for different applications, using Machine Learning and Additive Manufacturing.

Potential applications range from electrocatalysis for hydrogen production to guided tissue regeneration and ‘smart’ coating of medical implants. Data-driven prediction represents a novel and powerful way to boost the discovery, synthesis and the design of new multi-functional materials, as well as for scaling-up and fabrication of devices.

Principal Investigators


  • Barbara Asam, Secratry at the Professorship for Simulation of Nanosystems for Energy Conversion: barbara.asam(at)tum.de

Disorders of mental health are amongst the most pressing medical problem that our society faces. Phenomena such as cognitive deficits, depression or chronic pain are caused by disorders of the nervous system, but the mechanisms remain unclear. The TUM Innovation Network for Neurotechnology in Mental Health (Neurotech) develops new approaches and technologies to improve the precision of clinical diagnoses and the success of treatments for mental dysfunction.

The team uses electrophysiological methods to record and modulate brain activity at an extraordinary level of detail and combines them with cutting-edge tools from data science. The aim is not only to better understand and differentiate mental disorders, but also to create new, individualized treatment strategies for patients. The researchers are following strict ethical guidelines in all steps of their work and also investigate the ethical implications of disruptive technological innovations in mental health for the individual and entire societies.

Principal Investigators


How did life emerge? Could it exist elsewhere? Could we even synthesize life – a system that is self-sustaining, self-replicating and evolving? The TUM Innovation Network for Robot Intelligence in the Synthesis of Life (RISE) aims to develop a radically new approach to these centuries-old questions, combining machine learning and robotics with chemical and biophysical experiments.

Robots will not only take tedious tasks out of the scientists’ hands, but actually become part of the experiments. By allowing the robots to observe data in real-time, let them analyze experiments, and, via artificial intelligence, change the course of the experiments, the scientists anticipate that a self-learning experiment evolves towards a system that displays the essential hallmarks of life. It is a development with the potential to revolutionize research and development in both industry and academia.

Principal Investigators


Application and selection process

All proposals for a TUM Innovation Network undergo a multi-phase selection process. After submitting an initial abstract, the teams with the most promising project ideas are invited to an Exploratory Workshop at the TUM Institute for Advanced Study.

After an assessment of the proposals, taking external assessments into account, the TUM Innovation Networks Board forwards a short-list of potential topics to the TUM Board of Management for a final decision on the TUM Innovation Networks to be supported.

Every year, two new transdisciplinary research initiatives with project teams comprising seven to ten principal investigators (TUM professors and/or TUM junior fellows) will be be chosen to receive funding to onboard an additional group of up to ten PhD candidates/postdocs and to cover equipment/resources for a total of four years. The TUM Innovation Networks strategically explore high-potential, future-focused research topics that are still in their infancy.

  • Human resources: Each TUM Innovation Network may include up to ten PhD candidates and postdocs. Due to the strong focus on supporting PhD candidates, generally two thirds of personnel resources are reserved for PhD positions.
  • Equipment/resources and travel expenses: Each Innovation Network is provided with up to EUR 100,000 for equipment/resources and undergraduate assistants. Each young scientist receives EUR 10,000 for the four-year funding period of the TUM Innovation Network. This funding is theirs to use for conference trips, speaker opportunities and trips abroad in line with IGSSE guidelines.
  • Matching principle: One-third of the PhD/postdoc resources must be contributed by the project team (matched contributions where project principal investigators can also contribute existing PhD/postdoc positions that align with the research focus).

TUM professors with their own cost center are entitled to submit applications acting as coordinator (TUM Innovation Network Coordinator). In the first instance, three to five principal investigators based at TUM are required to submit an initial project idea. These may be TUM professors or TUM Junior Fellows.

Further principal investigators from TUM may then be added later on when the planned TUM Innovation Network is being finalized in an Exploratory Workshop (in total, a maximum of seven to ten principal investigators); external scientists or researchers can also be included as associate members (not funded by TUM).

During an annual call for proposals, project partners must submit a project idea of no more than three pages in length via their coordinator using the online ideas inbox (log in with your TUM ID). The submission should include a description of the idea and the motivation behind it as well as a brief insight into the relevant research landscape.

The submitted project ideas are then evaluated by the TUM Innovation Network Board, which is made up of the following members:

The TUM Innovation Network Board sends the TUM Board of Management a short list of topics suitable for further development in Exploratory Workshops. Once the TUM Board of Management has made a decision, the teams who submitted the most promising project proposals are invited to participate in a dedicated, project-specific Exploratory Workshop at the TUM-IAS. During the two-day workshop, the project concept is developed further and finalized. Where necessary, further principal investigators can be included in the initial project team.

The Exploratory Workshop are held approximately six weeks after the call for proposals cut-off deadline. The TUM Innovation Network Board may invite other internal TUM scientists and external scientists/researchers to the Exploratory Workshops. However, usually no more than 20 people may participate in an Exploratory Workshop.

Project teams must submit a 10-page concept paper through their coordinator to the TUM Innovation Network Board no later than two weeks after the Exploratory Workshop. This paper will be used as the final basis for making a decision about funding. The paper must list a total of seven to ten proposed principal investigators to be funded by TUM and also outline their respective roles and subprojects. Other external self-funded partners (universities, non-academic research institutes, businesses) may also be included as associate members.

The TUM Innovation Network Board evaluates the final concept papers and draws up a written opinion with rankings for the TUM Board of Management, recommending which funding applications should be accepted and which should be rejected. The board may also suggest alternative funding formats (e.g. concrete preparation for a Collaborative Research Center initiative). The TUM Board of Management makes the final decision on the award of funding for up to two TUM Innovation Networks per year.

All PhD candidates in a TUM Innovation Network are members of the International Graduate School of Science and Engineering (IGSSE). They complete the IGSSE’s coordinated qualification program and are supervised by two principal investigators (tandem supervision).

A mid-term review is carried out after two years by the IGSSE in collaboration with the TUM Innovation Network Board and selected experts. The review helps the project team and young scientists define focus areas, further strengthen the TUM Innovation Network and define its strategic direction.