Menu Close

Volkswagen Foundation ‘Freigeist’ Fellowships in Germany

The programme is run by the Volkswagen Foundation and is open to early career researchers (up to 4 years of postdoctoral experience) from all disciplines. It offers the opportunity to establish a career within a scientific research organization or university in Germany.


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.

A ‘Freigeist’ Fellow: for the Volkswagen Foundation this 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 main focus is on junior researchers (up to 4 years of postdoctoral experience) working at the borders of neighbouring fields or disciplines. The ‘Freigeist’ initiative offers freedom for creative thinking, whilst at the same time providing security for at least 5 years and in the long run the opportunity to establish a career within a scientific research organization or university in Germany.


The funding offer encompasses two funding phases with a maximum funding period of eight years and funding of up to 2.2 million euro. The special character of Freigeist projects calls for a high degree of flexibility. Depending on the subject-specific characteristics and level of experience of the applicants, the duration of the funding phases and the financial resources made available can be adapted to the requirements of the respective project. In the first funding phase, priority is placed on the development of independence and a specific research profile, while a second funding phase serves to sustainably establish the position of the Freigeist Fellow at a research institution in Germany.

Every year, 10 to 15 Freigeist Fellowships are awarded. The number of grants depends on the quality of the applications and the project match to the aims of the funding initiative.


Candidates must meet 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 loca-tion – 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 re-search project.


Applications have to be submitted in English, as the review panel is recruited internationally. The Foundation processes the applications submitted in a multi-stage, interdisciplinary and comparative assessment procedure. First, written reviews are obtained. Subsequently, a panel of experts consid-ers the applications and selects the candidates who will be invited to present their plans to the re-viewers. The review panel is composed in such a way that it satisfies both the subject-specific re-quirements as well as the interdisciplinary character of the projects.

Applicants must complete the forms posted in the Electronic Application System, providing details on the applicant, the recipient of funds (future host institution), title, project time schedule, and legally binding declaration. There is also a form for the budget that has to be completed online. Please no-tice the provided pdf-file with information on the average costs for scientific personnel.

Applications must be submitted via the online portal:

For more information about the application process and criteria, see

Contact and Information

For more information visit