Volkswagen Foundation Freigeist Fellowship for Young Researchers 2018

Volkswagen Foundation Freigeist Fellowship for Young Researchers 2018

Deadline: October 11, 2018

Applications are accepted for the Volkswagen Foundation ‘Freigeist’ Fellowship for Young Researchers. They are looking for excellent junior scientists who want to pursue exceptional, risky science between established research fields. Young researchers with up to four years of post-doctoral research experience will have the opportunity to optimally organize their scientific work with maximum freedom and a clear temporal perspective.

The Volkswagen Foundation promotes science: stimulating, interdisciplinary and cross-border. A ‘Freigeist’ Fellow: for the Volkswagen Foundation means a young researcher with a strong personality, a creative mind, an ability to identify and use freedom, dedicated to overcoming obstacles. A ‘Freigeist’ Fellow opens up new horizons and combines critical analysis with imagination and innovative solutions.

The Freigeist funding initiative provides an opportunity for outstandingly qualified, creative and independent early career researchers to conduct their own research. It aims to encourage exceptional research personalities to embark on visionary, risk-taking research projects at the intersections between established fields of research. The flexible funding scheme and clear time frame are designed to ensure maximum support for their self-chosen research topic and thus help them develop an entirely independent research profile.

General Conditions

  • The initial five-year funding period focuses on developing the grantee‘s research profile and proficiency in independent research.
  • The funding scheme is financially flexible and can be adjusted according to the course of the project and the personal development of the grantee.
  • A second funding period of up to three years can be applied for in the fourth year of funding and depends on the results of a review meeting.
  • The purpose of this extension is to secure a permanent position for the fellow at an academic institution in Germany.
  • A clear strategy to establish a permanent position for the fellow must be part of the application for the second funding period. There is a high degree of flexibility here, too, since the program also foresees the possibility of moving to another institution for the second funding phase.


Ten to fifteen Fellowships will be awarded per year. The number of grants depends on the quality of the applications.

The initial funding period is five years; depending on the field of research and career experience, projects in a total amount of up to 1,000,000 Euro can be applied for:

  • The Fellow’s position (salary scale TV-L 14, comparable to similar junior research group leaders)
  • Positions for scientific personnel (doctoral students, PostDocs)
  • Non-personnel costs relevant to the project (e. g. consumables, travel expenses, equipment)

In case the maximum amount of funding has not been fully taken up with the initial application, additional funds (so called modules) can be applied for during the course of the Fellowship to provide flexible support (e. g. for personnel, resources, sojourns abroad, cooperation measures, translations, workshops, stays at institutions representing other research fields).

A second funding period of up to three years may be provided. This requires a positive evaluation (by the Foundation), generally at the end of the fourth year, and a clear perspective for a permanent position for the Fellow at the host institution. The maximum funding for this second period amounts up to 400,000 Euro.


Anyone can apply who identifies with the goals of a ‘Freigeist’ Fellowship and whose proposed research project fits in with the aims pursued by the Freigeist initiative. Candidates must, however, conform to the following conditions:

  • Their doctorate must have been obtained not longer than four years but at least one year previously (with regard to the date of the defense relative to the deadline of the initiative).
  • The Fellowship must be integrated within a university or an extra-mural research institution in Germany.
  • Candidates must already have changed their academic environment and moved to a new location – at the latest when starting the Fellowship. A return to the working context of the doctorate will only be accepted under exceptional circumstances.
  • A previously completed research sojourn abroad, at the latest integrated in the proposed research project.

Applications have to be submitted in English, as the review panel is recruited internationally.

Selection Criteria

  • the applicant’s personal qualifications
  • the scientific quality and originality of the project
  • accuracy of fit between the project proposal, applicant’s personal profile, and aims of the funding initiative
  • a capability for independent research
  • the potential for breakthroughs, new methodological approaches, interdisciplinary cooperation
  • a constructive approach to possible risks


Research-minded? Every year, they are looking for excellent post-doctoral students with future-oriented and risky research ideas from all fields of expertise.

Applications must be submitted via the Foundation‘s Electronic Application System. Instructions on how to proceed can be found online.

For more information, visit ‘Freigeist’ Fellowship.