Freethinker Fellowships

Subject: all subject areas
Type of funding: own position (junior research group leader)
Project-related up to 2.2 million Euro for both funding phases
Max. 5 (+3) years or 6 (+2) years
excellent junior scientists who want to pursue exceptional, risky science between established research fields
Requirements: Promotion before max. four years; Connection to a research institution in Germany; successful change of academic environment; stay abroad
Additional services: promotion of science education and communication; special family benefits; Additional funding for refugees who have fled; Training

Free Spirit Fellow Patricia Kanngießer examines from a cross-cultural perspective how children in different societies develop an understanding of social norms. (Photo: Mirko Krenzel)

Goal of the initiative

A Freigeist Fellow – for the Volkswagen Foundation, this is a young researcher who knows how to use free space and overcome resistance. She floats – if necessary – against the tide and enjoys creative dealing with the unexpected, even with unforeseen difficulties. A Freigeist Fellow opens up new horizons and combines critical analysis skills with extraordinary perspectives and solutions. Through proactive acting, the Freigeist Fellow becomes the catalyst for overcoming professional, institutional and national boundaries.

support program

The offer is aimed at exceptional researchers who wish to move between established research fields and engage in risky science. Young researchers with up to four years of research experience after obtaining a doctorate will be given the opportunity to optimize their scientific work with maximum freedom and a clear temporal perspective.

Further information on the conditions of the tender and the application can be found under  Information on the application (pdf) . Applications are submitted in electronic form via the application portal.


The initiative is aimed at young scientists 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 reliable career paths for the coming generation of scientists. Since 2014, ten to fifteen Freigeist Fellows have been selected each year.

Visit the official link

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