More scope for new paths and exploring boundaries: The Volkswagen Foundation's activities in 2018

In 2018, the Foundation approved EUR 207.2 million for scientific research projects and events. Compared to 2017, this represents an increase of 30.7% – and is at the same time the second highest funding amount in the history of the Foundation. The focus was on realigning the funding portfolio in order to offer new pathways and more scope for creative research.

Geschäftsstelle VolkswagenStiftung
The Volkswagen Foundation is based in Hannover. (Foto: Thomas Bach for Volkswagen Foundation)

The three funding initiatives "Momentum – Funding for Recently Tenured Professors", "Artificial Intelligence and the Society of the Future" and "Global Issues – Integrating Different Perspectives on Social Inequality" are examples of the underlying motif that the Volkswagen Foundation pursued in the course of realigning its funding program in 2018; namely, to allow researchers fundamentally new ideas – and, where called for, to venture into unusual constellations of collaboration.

In the initiative "Momentum – Funding for Recently Tenured Professors", for which the first round of funding was in 2018, academics could apply for funding to further develop the content and strategy of their field soon after taking up their first tenured professorship. The high number of applications underscores just how great the desire is for more freedom to pursue new ideas in research and teaching in everyday university life.

The expansion of one's own perspective and competence through interdisciplinary cooperation is the focus of "Artificial Intelligence and the Society of the Future". The initiative, in which approvals were granted for the first time in 2018, calls for early cooperation between the engineering sciences and the social sciences and/or humanities in the development of AI applications – against the background of the rapid pace of innovation and responsibility towards society.

The aim of the "Global Issues" initiative is to jointly address global challenges in international constellations. The call in 2018 was dedicated to the topic of social inequality. New approaches, based on the different perspectives of researchers from low- and middle-income countries and high-income countries, are given top priority in this funding initiative. The scheme is supported by the Foundation together with other European funding organizations.

In 2018, the Volkswagen Foundation strengthened and further expanded its ties with other European and international funding partners. "Our funding portfolio has been made more sustainable, more creative and more cooperative. At a time when nationalism and populism are on the rise, it is more important than ever that science funding organizations and foundations also work together across borders and form strong alliances," declares Dr. Wilhelm Krull, Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation.

Breakdown of the total amount of approvals (EUR 207.2 million)

Funding totals by area

  • General Funding: EUR 70.8 million (previous year: 81.3 million)
  • Niedersächsisches Vorab : EUR 133.1 million (previous year: 73.6 million)
  • Foundation's own projects/events: EUR 3.3 million (previous year: 3.6 million)

Approvals by subject area in "General Funding"

  • Humanities and the social sciences: EUR 34.4 million (48.7% of funds granted) for 201 projects
  • Life sciences, including medicine: EUR 19.6 million (27.7% of funds granted) for 67 projects
  • Natural sciences and mathematics: EUR 13.2 million (18.6% of funds granted) for 69 projects
  • Engineering: EUR 1.8 million (2.5 % of the budget) for 13 projects
  • Field combinations: EUR 1.8 million (2.5 % of the budget) for 10 projects.

In the year under review, a total of 1,663 General Funding applications were reviewed. The approval rate was 21.7 % (360).

Development of the Foundation's assets

In 2018, income from the Foundation's asset management amounted to EUR 260.6 million. Of this amount, EUR 10.7 million was added to the capital as reserves in order to maintain the value of the foundation's assets.

With EUR 3.2 billion in endowment capital and a claim to the dividends accruing from around 30 million VW shares (to which the Foundation is entitled from the participation of the State of Lower Saxony in the Volkswagen Corporation) the Volkswagen Foundation is one of the largest foundations in Europe and by far the largest private science-funding foundation in Germany.

More Information

The full annual report of the Volkswagen Foundation can be found via "Volkswagen Foundation Annual Report". For further information about the Foundation, please see "Foundation".