Wanted: scientific frontrunners for "Pioneering Research - Exploring the Unknown Unknown"

Illu mit zwei Personen, im Hintergrund ein Mikrofon

Dr. Theresa Greupner and Dr. Pavel Dutow are the program directors of the funding initiative "Pioneering Research – Exploring the Unknown Unknown".

The new call for proposals for "Pioneering Research - Exploring the Unknown Unknown" offers higher funding amounts and longer funding periods. Pavel Dutow and Theresa Greupner explain what has changed and who can apply. Application deadline for the program is Sept. 3, 2024.

What is the Volkswagen Foundation aiming for with this initiative?

Theresa Greupner: With "Pioneering Research - Exploring the Unknown Unknown", we primarily want to support research projects from all disciplines that open up hitherto unexplored areas of basic research. We want to encourage scientists to pursue unconventional ideas and develop bold visions on a scientific basis - approaches with a "science fiction" character, so to speak, but within the bounds of scientific plausibility. On the other hand, ideas that belong more to the "fantasy" genre are explicitly not welcome. The risk of failure is of course high, but we firmly believe that this type of research can lead to significant breakthroughs.

Pioneering Research – Exploring the Unknown Unknown

With the program "Pioneering Research – Exploring the Unknown Unknown", the Foundation supports groundbreaking and risky research ideas with high scientific relevance. Deadline for applications is Sept. 3, 2024.

To funding offer

There have been some revisions in the current round of the funding program. What exactly has changed? 

Pavel Dutow: Firstly, we have raised the budget cap from 500,000 euros to 1.3 million euros. This allows for larger collaborative projects. Of course, the budget limit can also be significantly undercut. The decisive factor is that the costs are in line with the project objectives and that the project embodies the desired pioneering spirit. We have also made the maximum funding period more flexible, with a range of 3 to 5 years. This gives the project teams more freedom to carry out their research in the best possible way.

Theresa Greupner: We have also thoroughly revised all the information related to the application process, including the template for the draft proposal, and listed the criteria that a pioneering research project should fulfil, and which should be included in the draft proposal. This will make it easier for us and for the applicants to assess whether the idea is suitable for the funding initiative.

Who can apply?

Theresa Greupner: We are looking for creative scientists who are not afraid to pursue risky research ideas outside the mainstream. Postdoctoral researchers from German universities and other research institutions from all disciplines are eligible to apply. We expressly welcome collaborative projects, including those with international project partners and of an interdisciplinary nature.

What should applicants pay particular attention to?

Pavel Dutow: The response to the last call for proposals was pleasingly high, but unfortunately, we also received many submissions that did not fit the funding program and that we had to reject. Therefore, we would like to ask everyone who would like to submit a draft proposal: Check carefully that your project fulfils the criteria for a pioneering project and does not have any 'exclusion criteria' that would prevent funding. These criteria are listed in detail in the Information for applicants (PDF, 179.2 KB). There you will also find all information on the application and selection procedure.  

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