'Freigeist' Fellowships

Deadline October 12, 2017
Freigeist-Fellow Jonas Rose examines the intelligence of crows (Photo: Mirko Krenzel).

A great opportunity for junior researchers in all disciplines: The 'Freigeist' initiative is directed toward enthusiastic and charismatic scientists and scholars with an outstanding record: through a highly flexible funding scheme junior researchers are given the opportunity to enjoy maximum freedom in their early scientific career.


A 'Freigeist' fellow: for the Volkswagen Foundation this means a young researcher with a strong personality, a creative mind, an ability to identify and use freedom, dedicated to overcoming resistance. If necessary, he or she will be a free spirit, enjoying the unexpected, even unexpected difficulties. A 'Freigeist' fellow opens up new horizons and combines critical analysis with imagination and innovative solutions. By thinking ahead the 'Freigeist' fellow will act as a catalyst in overcoming existing disciplinary, institutional and even national boundaries.

Scope of Funding

The 'Freigeist' scheme is deliberately left open to all disciplines and topics. The main focus is on junior researchers (up to 5 years of postdoctoral experience) working at the borders of neighbouring fields or disciplines. The 'Freigeist' initiative offers freedom for creative thinking, whilst at the same time providing security for at least 5 years and in the long run the opportunity to establish a career within a scientific research organization or university in Germany. The initiative even incorporates the possibility to apply for additional components during the funding period (e.g. funding of staff positions, travel expenses etc.).

Details of conditions and the application procedure can be found under Information for Applicants. Applications must be filed electronically via the application portal.


The 'Freigeist' initiative builds upon the previous funding scheme for junior research groups and the Dilthey- and Schumpeter Fellowships which were terminated recently. These will be integrated into the 'Freigeist' initiative, providing continuous support for scholars from the humanities and social sciences but at the same time offering new chances for the sciences as well. The 'Freigeist' Fellowships and the Lichtenberg Professorships complement each other using a different approach and structure.