Awarded! New centre of excellence and research building for collective behaviour

Flagship €27m building, as part of a €32m investment, cements the University of Konstanz’s place at the frontier of research in collective behaviour.

An ambitious plan to create the world’s first centre of excellence and research building for the study of collective animal behaviour is now a reality with a multi-million euro investment into Iain Couzin’s cross-disciplinary program at the University of Konstanz.

The Centre for Visual Computing of Collectives (VCC) will provide a world-leading facility for the collaboration of computer scientists and behavioural biologists to address some of society’s biggest challenges—from insect plagues to disease spread to robotic intelligence.

Funded through a combination of private donations and the research building program of the federal and state governments, the purpose-built centre will bring together internationally-recognized experts from the fields of behaviour, computer graphics and data analysis. With state-of-the-art infrastructure, the VCC will allow visualization and analysis of collective animal behaviour at unprecedented scale and detail, providing fresh insights into the study of swarm behaviour and group dynamics.

A total of 32 million euros were awarded, with 27 million euros for construction of the 3,000-square-metre facility on the north side of the University of Konstanz campus. The funding was approved following a highly competitive nation-wide contest, in which the Science Council’s committee for research buildings gave the VCC proposal a score of “outstanding.”

The new VCC will be one tVCC_imagehe most advanced facilities globally for the study of animal groups, such as fish or insect swarms. In a world first, it will be possible to observe animals in reactive holographic 3D environments (left) and to detect their movements in space and time in completely controlled naturalistic environments. Installation of new imaging, sensor and transmitter technology, combined with high-performance computing, will facilitate fine-scale analysis of animal swarms and observation of global animal movement.

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Rüdiger, Rector of the University of Konstanz, thanked the private donor that provided additional funds:

“We are immensely proud and honored that the Hector Foundation II contributed 6 million euros towards the construction of the VCC. Without their support, this center would not have been possible. Josephine and Hans-Werner Hector are longstanding supporters of our university and have an excellent sense for scientifically outstanding projects. By promoting the VCC, they create the basis for a new understanding of collective behaviour that can have broad applications, from prevention of agricultural pest outbreaks to understanding the spread of disease to autonomously moving robots and vehicles.”

The joint exploration of collective behaviour by biologists and computer scientists is another example of the interdisciplinary approach of the University of Konstanz. To place Konstanz at the forefront of research on collective behaviour, the University of Konstanz has been working with the Max Planck Society to attract internationally leading scientists working in this growing field.