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The goal of this program is to understand the role of molecules, heavy elements and dust for star formation, and how these species affect the properties and evolution of early galaxies. Possible approaches to answer these questions will be discussed by a diverse group of astrophysicists working on star formation, galaxy formation and evolution, star bursts in extreme environments, both locally and at the highest redshifts. The timeliness of the topic is evidenced by the unprecedented millimeter/submillimeter data that is constraining key physical processes governing star formation and metal and dust enrichment in the first billion years of cosmic history. Observations of local and distant starburst galaxies indicate the existence of a tight connection between the star formation rate and molecular gas fraction, which is primarily controlled by the abundance of dust and by the intensity of interstellar far-ultraviolet radiation field. We are thus likely to witness a major breakthrough in this field during the next couple of years, as the sensitivity of the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) will provide an unrivaled probe of the first stars and galaxies emerging from the cosmic Dark Ages.