"A national lighthouse casting its beam over international waters" is how the Federal Minister for Education and Research, Dr. Annette Schavan, described the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS) at the opening ceremony in the auditorium of the University of Bamberg. Headed by Professor Dr. rer. pol. Dr. h. c. Hans-Peter Blossfeld, the NEPS cluster of excellence is studying educational processes and competence development from infancy to retirement age. The project has been evaluated scientifically by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG), and is receiving both federal and state government support. It is being financed by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Federal Ministry of Education and Research, BMBF). The NEPS is not only expected to decisively improve the framing conditions for empirical education research in Germany but also to provide an empirical basis for advising policymakers.