Penn State, University of Freiburg commit to strategic partnership

President Eric J. Barron and Rector Hans-Jochen Schiewer sign agreement for large-scale joint venture

A strategic collaboration between Penn State and the University of Freiburg in Germany will support research in living materials through the Convergence Center for Living Multifunctional Material Systems. Pictured at the signing to kick off the partnership are, from left, Juliane Besters-Dilger, vice president for academic affairs, University of Freiburg; Eric Barron, president, Penn State; Hans-Jochen Schiewer, rector, University of Freiburg; and Robert Crane, interim vice provost for Global Programs, Penn State. Credit: Patrick SeegerAll Rights Reserved.

FREIBURG, GERMANY — Penn State and the University of Freiburg have signed an agreement for a large-scale joint venture to support research in living materials — embracing biological principles to develop infrastructure for a more sustainable society. The signing took place during Penn State President Eric J. Barron’s visit to Freiburg, July 22-25.

“Our relationship with the University of Freiburg advances critical areas of research, and today’s announcement represents a new approach to strategically partnering with institutions across the world,” said Barron. “Together our complementary strengths enable significant opportunity to accomplish what wouldn’t be possible alone.”

With the signing of today’s agreement, Penn State and Freiburg are committing to a joint venture to bring large-scale change, such as the creation and manufacturing of life-saving human tissue; creating self-healing materials that could revolutionize the medical industry; working with artificial intelligence in the realm of health care; and exploring the ethical implications of living materials research.

“Through this agreement we have laid the foundation for a joint and bold collaboration in materials research, which provides answers to manifold global challenges of our time,” said University of Freiburg Rector Hans-Jochen Schiewer. “We are very pleased to have the Pennsylvania State University as a strong international partner, with whom we have been connected for a long time and who is prepared to take on this challenge with us together.”

This strategic partnership supports the Collaboration Development Program, a program that grants seed monies to researchers who seek to work together across both institutions in key strategic areas. The program began in 2016 and continues to the present day, with nine research projects funded through the program, including three in 2019.

Additionally, Penn State and Freiburg are exploring a program in the area of virtual learning to create a joint virtual element to one of their classes — an example of an innovative way to build global competency.

Penn State and Freiburg faculty have been collaborating since 1998, and the full strategic partnership of the two universities began in 2014, through the guidance of Global Programs leadership. Barron’s visit this week, accompanied by Rob Crane, interim vice provost for Global Programs, was one of many recent leadership visits between the two universities, including by Freiburg’s Schiewer and Vice President for Research Gunther Neuhaus to Penn State, and Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas Jones to Freiburg just this past spring.

For more information on the partnership, contact Alexandra Persiko, strategic initiatives coordinator at Penn State, at; or Anja Hausmann, associate director of the International Office at the University of Freiburg, at

Last Updated July 24, 2019