The Volkswagen Foundation is Germany's largest private, non-profit organization engaged in the promotion and support of academic research. Even though its name might suggest otherwise, it is not a corporate foundation and not affiliated to the Volkswagen automobile manufacturer.
The Foundation's funding programs address projects in the humanities and social sciences as well as science and technology in higher education and research – both in Germany and abroad. The Foundation’s administrative office is located in Hanover.
The Foundation capital amounts to 3.98 billion euros. In 2021, almost 240 million euros were approved for scientific projects.
Our funding programs are aimed at outstanding scholars and scientists in Germany and abroad who seek to advance research and higher education with groundbreaking ideas. We are not afraid of taking risks – a rare characteristic for a funding body – and realize that promising projects may not always reach their goal. Notwithstanding, we take steps to ensure that the highest quality is ensured in all funding decisions.
Four key guidelines determine our funding activities, which are designed to provide:
- Stimuli for new ideas
The Foundation seeks to play a pioneering role by supporting innovative pilot projects that prepare the ground for subsequent, broad-based funding on the part of others.
- Funding for risk-laden projects
The Foundation creates experimental spaces for scholars and scientists whose ideas demonstrate the potential for developing a basis for continuing research as well as for societal applications.
- Support across borders
The Foundation helps to overcome borders – both between academic disciplines and research fields, as well as between countries and cultures.
- Impetus to reshape structures
The Foundation reflects systematically on the intended impact of its funding activities and shares its findings not only with the scientific community but also with the public at large.
For more information, see funding strategy.
After the Second World War, there were various claims with regard to the future of the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, which had been built by the National Socialists primarily for the production of armaments.
The governments of the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Lower Saxony finally agreed to convert the then Volkswagenwerk GmbH into a stock corporation and to use the proceeds from the company going public to set up a foundation.
Equipped with an endowment capital of one billion deutschmarks, the Volkswagen Foundation was founded in Hanover in 1962.
See our chronology for more information on our history.