The exploration of exceptionally daring new ideas is not yet really a focal point of the research agenda in Germany, as far as facing challenges and radically transforming common wisdom are concerned. This often requires to establish counterintuitive hypotheses as well as unconventional methodologies or technologies, and to focus on entirely new research approaches. The Volkswagen Foundation’s funding initiative 'Experiment!' tries to pave the way for fundamentally new research topics even though the outcome may be contingent. A concept failure as well as unexpected findings are an acceptable result.
Scope of Funding
The initiative addresses researchers in science and engineering as well as in the life sciences (including immediately neighboring disciplines in the behavioral sciences), who want to put a potentially transformative and risky research idea to the test. They are given the opportunity to demonstrate preliminary evidence for a concept’s potential during an exploratory phase which is limited to 18 months and up to 120,000 Euro. Towards the end of a grant the projects’ progress will be presented at the Foundation’s 'Forum Experiment!'.
A short sketch is sufficient as an application. The foundation is taking a completely new path in the review process. First, the best matching approx. 120-140 proposals are pre-selected internally. An interdisciplinary jury of scientists evaluates only these anonymous ideas (double blind) and rejects qualitatively insufficient proposals. From the pool of proposals which meet the program requirements and the quality criteria the jury selects the most convincing applications (approx. 15-20 grants). Additionally, the same number of projects is drawn in a lottery (15-20 grants). In this way, ideas which are easily overlooked will get a chance, too. The lottery as a new selection element and the entire selection process will be evaluated.
Further details on the conditions and the application procedure can be found under Information for Applicants (pdf). Please also read the answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Applications must be filed electronically via the electronic application system.
After eight successful calls, the funding initiative 'Experiment!' is now closed. The initiative was exceptionally well received with 5.051 applications in total. In the end, 183 bold ideas got granted. The Foundation introduced a partially randomized selection (i. e. additional decision by lot) in 2017; accompanying research on this scheme – undertaken by EVACONSULT, Berlin – will continue until the end of 2022.