Freigeist Fellowships for Junior Researchers | Volkswagen Foundation: Are you a young postdoc moving between established fields of research? Do you wish to pursue high-risk research? Then apply for a Freigeist Fellowship from the Volkswagen Foundation. The fellowship helps outstanding young postdocs in all disciplines and of all nationalities to blaze new trails, make the most of their freedom and overcome resistance.

Freigeist Fellowships for Junior Researchers | Volkswagen Foundation

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 resistance. If necessary, he or she will be a free spirit, enjoying the unexpected, even unexpected difficulties. A ‘Freigeist’ fellow opens up new horizons and combines critical analysis with imagination and innovative solutions. By thinking ahead the ‘Freigeist’ fellow will act as a catalyst in overcoming existing disciplinary, institutional and even national boundaries.

Scope of Funding | Freigeist Fellowships for Junior Researchers | Volkswagen Foundation

The main focus is on junior researchers (up to 4 years of postdoctoral experience) working at the borders of neighboring 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.

Details of conditions and the application procedure can be found under Information for Applicants. Applications must be filed electronically via the application portal.

  • area of research: all disciplines
  • type of funding: own position (head of junior research group)
  • depending on the nature of the project, up to 2.2 million euro for two funding phases up to 5 (+3) years or 6 (+2) years
  • outstanding junior researchers who wish to carry out research at the boundaries between established fields of research
  • prerequisites: Ph.D. degree no longer than four years prior to submission; linked to a research institution in Germany; completed change of academic environment and research sojourn abroad
  • additional benefits: funding for communication of science and research; special family-related benefits; additional funding for refugee scholars and scientists; training programs

Background | Freigeist Fellowships for Junior Researchers | Volkswagen Foundation

The initiative focuses on early-career researchers from all disciplines. The aim of the Foundation is to facilitate the implementation of extraordinary research projects and to make a substantial contribution to the establishment of dependable career paths for the upcoming generation of researchers. Since 2014, ten to fifteen Freigeist fellows have been selected each year.

Application and Selection Procedure

  • 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 considers the applications and selects the candidates who will be invited to present their plans to the reviewers.
  • The review panel is composed in such a way that it satisfies both the subject-specific requirements as well as the interdisciplinary character of the projects.

Selection Criteria

  • the applicant’s personal qualifications
  • the scientific quality and originality of the project
  • the 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 Further details of selection criteria can be found in our list of the FAQ.

Normally the Foundation comes to a decision within nine months after the respective application deadline. Candidates who – due to the reviewers’ assessment of the written application – will not be invited to present their projects, will receive a notice approximately 6 months after the deadline.

Who can apply?

Requirements for applicants include the following:

  • Doctorate completed not longer than four years ago
  • Research at a university or non-university research institution in Germany
  • Attachment to a university or non-university research institution in Germany at the start of the fellowship
  • Academic mobility: applicants should already have changed their academic environment or research location
  • Research period abroad already completed or planned
  • University or research institution should share the project costs

Freigeist Fellowships for Junior Researchers | Volkswagen Foundation

Ten to fifteen fellowships are awarded each year.

Additional Information

Deadline: The next closing date for applications is 11 October 2018. The following closing date will be 10 October 2019.

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