status 2023 – Annual report of the Volkswagen Foundation

Broschüre mit Aufdruck "status 2023" vor rotem Hintergrund

In 2023, the Volkswagen Foundation approved more than EUR 600 million for scientific projects. Figures, data and facts from our 2023 annual report.

Download: status 2023

"status 2023" is the annual report of the Volkswagen Foundation. The complete report can be downloaded here.

status 2023 (PDF, 360.6 KB)


At a glance: The most important figures, data and facts

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The foundation

The Volkswagen Foundation is probably the largest private research funding organisation and one of the largest foundations in Germany. Its purpose is to support the humanities, social sciences and natural, life and technical sciences in research and higher education. It was founded by the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Lower Saxony more than 60 years ago as an independent charitable foundation under private law. Its headquarters are in Hannover.

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Capital and funding

At present, the Foundation’s capital amounts to approx. 4.1 billion euro. The resources available for funding are generated from asset investment and allocated mainly in the area of "General Funding". Added to this are profit entitlements from 30.2 m Volkswagen trust shares held by the Federal State of Lower Saxony (mainly dividends). These funds are awarded to research in the programme zukunft.niedersachsen, which is jointly managed by the foundation and the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science. In 2023, the foundation received a one-off payment of 576.3 million euro from a special dividend of Porsche AG. This amount will be approved in the medium term in the programme zukunft.niedersachsen.

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Four profile areas structure the funding portfolio:

  1. Exploration,
  2. Societal transformations,
  3. Understanding Research – Evaluation and Science Practice,
  4. zukunft.niedersachen.

There is also a focus on the cross-sectional area Science in Society.

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Funding concept

The Foundation has developed four guidelines for its funding practices.

  • Providing impetus: The Foundation aims to play a pioneering role by supporting highly innovative pilot projects.
  • Taking risks: It creates experimental spaces for upcoming top researchers.
  • Crossing borders: Transnational, inter- and transdisciplinary projects characterize its funding activities.
  • Shaping structures: The Foundation aims at generating sustainable effects. These are systematically analysed in order to benefit from lessons learned and subsequently shared with others.
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Investing sustainably

In the area of asset management, the Foundation began taking sustainability aspects into account as early as 2011. Since then, the entire equity and bond portfolio is the subject of continuous analysis to determine whether ESG criteria are met. ESG defines a standard that can be used to check how sustainably a company is positioned. The challenge for the Foundation is to shape its investment strategy so it achieves the highest possible level of sustainability without jeopardizing the mandate set out in the statutes, which is to invest its assets as profitably as possible. 

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The Volkswagen Foundation currently employs around 110 people, mainly in the three departments of Funding, Investment, Finance and Administration. Four staff units report directly to the Secretary General, Dr. Georg Schütte, who heads the Foundation. The Board of Trustees is made up of 14 personalities from the scientific community and other areas of civil society. The Board of Trustees usually meets three times a year to decide on strategy issues and funding applications.  

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The Foundation and the government of the State of Lower Saxony recently joined forces to create their own funding programme to boost research and education in Lower Saxony. The aim of zukunft.niedersachsen is to make Lower Saxony a much more visible science location in national and international competition. The focus is on quality-assured selection procedures and the ongoing identification of cutting-edge fields of research. Three key areas are currently being specifically promoted: Digitality, transformation, and research excellence.

Jahreszahl 1962


The Foundation owes its existence and its name to an agreement concluded between the Federal Republic of Germany and the state of Lower Saxony in 1961. The then ‘Volkswagenwerk GmbH’ was converted into a stock corporation, thus settling the dispute over the unresolved ownership relationships. The proceeds from this privatization were used to establish the Foundation, which began its work in Hanover in 1962 as an independent, private, and public benefit foundation under civil law – and not as a corporate foundation. 



Picture gallery: Figures and graphics

annual report: diagram "grants" and "allocation of funds"
annual report diagram: grants in general funding
annual report diagrams: development of assets, asset classes in portfolio
statement of income and allocations of funds
annual report: balance


News from the Foundation

Funding opportunities 

In the three areas of general funding (‘Knowledge about Knowledge’, ‘Societal Transformations’, ‘Exploration’), these calls for proposals were launched in 2023: 

See all current funding offers at "Our funding portfolio"


Thanks to a special dividend from Porsche AG, the Volkswagen Foundation was able to grant a record sum for the promotion of science and education in Lower Saxony in 2023. In the joint program zukunft.niedersachsen created by the Foundation and the government of the state of Lower Saxony, 'Strategic development of potential' is the financially strongest funding program to date. 265 million euros are available for proposals from universities in Lower Saxony that want to design and implement long-term development strategies. More information and all funding opportunities can be found on the new website:


With the goal of climate neutrality, the Foundation is constantly striving to improve its carbon footprint and align its business operations with aspects of sustainability. A new milestone has now been reached on this path: using data from 2023, the first report has been produced in accordance with the formal criteria of the German Sustainability Index. It provides a sound basis on which the foundation will develop new measures to make its impact as climate-neutral as possible.  More information about sustainability in the activities of the VolkswagenStiftung at sustainability.

Keyword: Academic freedom 

The Volkswagen Foundation is concerned about the growing pressure to which researchers in Germany and abroad are exposed. And is resisting this development not only with words, but also with deeds. For example, in 2022, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it created a million-euro funding program for scientists who had fled the country in just one week - as it had previously done in the case of Turkey and Afghanistan. Following the terrorist attack by Hamas, the Foundation and the state of Lower Saxony increased the budget for the 'Research Cooperation Lower Saxony - Israel' program as a sign of their solidarity with researchers in Israel. In addition, the 'Social Transformation' focus area bundles funding projects that the foundation hopes will provide validated impetus on how to counter the radicalization of subpublics. The Foundation is convinced that free science needs an open society. 

Who we support - three exemplary portraits

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New climate models for reliable future scenarios

#Freigeist Fellowship #Sustainability

Climate researcher Niklas Boers works on optimizing climate models with the aim to improve predictions about extreme weather events and potential tipping points in the Earth system – out of a deep sense of responsibility for future generations.

Frau schaut von historischer Bahnbrücke in die Ferne

Happy ending or apocalypse?


Narratives can either drive or discourage people. Transformation researcher Karoline Augenstein is convinced of this. She wants to find out how narratives of the future can impact on the way it is shaped.

Frau im Labor lächelt in die Kamera

Quantum technology: Computing with light

Stefanie Kroker works in the field of nanometrology, creating the tiniest structures and developing techniques to measure them as precisely as possible. Research on quantum computing could also benefit from this. A portrait.