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Postdoctoral funding opportunities

By Birk Grüling

The number of funding opportunities for postdocs has risen sharply in the last few years, especially with respect to subject-specific scholarships and universities offering their own fellowship programmes. This means it is difficult to provide a comprehensive or even complete overview of all of them. Below, academics.com has put together a list of the largest programmes and those that provide funding across various disciplines. Besides conducting their own internet search, potential applicants are also advised to visit the universities they are applying to and to meet with the postdoc supervisors.

German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - DFG) funding programmes

The German Research Foundation has a large range of funding programmes to support researches in the sciences and the humanities at all stages of their academic careers.

Emmy Noether Programme
The Emmy Noether Programme is undoubtedly the most well-known of the DFG's postdoctoral funding programmes. The award aims to promote academic independence by supporting young researchers in conducting their own research projects and in leading a team of junior researchers. Postdocs with between two and four years of prior research experience and relevant international experience are eligible to apply.

Heisenberg Programme
The Heisenberg Programme can be described as a continuation of the Emmy Noether Programme and is directed at junior faculty. The programme aims to support applicants in becoming qualified for a tenured professorship.

The DFG also provides many other forms of financial support and funding programmes for postdocs. An overview of all DFG programmes is available here:

Marie Curie Fellowships

The European-wide Marie Curie Fellowships aim to support the mobility of young researchers. The programme is open to applicants from any discipline and is therefore divided into separate funding schemes. Early-career researchers can also apply for a Marie Curie Fellowship to support their own individually developed research projects.

Starting Grants

The Starting Grants programme aims to support young researchers in establishing their own independent research teams. Funding can be granted for a maximum of five years for up to 1.5 million euro per grant. Postdocs with a minimum of two years of professional experience since the completion of their doctorate may apply.

Funding programmes of the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst - DAAD)

The DAAD also awards postdoctoral grants for specific research projects abroad.

The DAAD's free scholarship database also provides a good overview of international funding programmes available to scholars and scientists:

Euraxess Germany database

Euraxess Germany is directed at young researchers in Europe. The portal contains practical information regarding professional as well as daily life and offers a large database with job and funding opportunities.

Research in Germany

Research in Germany helps researchers who come directly to Germany after completing their doctorates. The site contains useful information on funding for postdocs at university, research institutes and in German industry.

Humboldt Research Fellowships for Postdocs

The Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdocs is aimed at young scholars from all disciplines and nationalities who are at the start of their research careers (applicants should have completed their doctorates within the last four years). Successful applicants will have the opportunity to carry out their own research project (6-24 months) in collaboration with a research institute of their own choice in Germany.

An overview of other funding programmes provided by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is available here:

Fritz Thyssen Foundation

The Fritz Thyssen Foundation supports young scholars in the fields of "history, language, and culture"; "state, economy, and society"; "medicine and the natural sciences"; "imagery and representation"; and "international relations". The foundation awards funding to scholars with a PhD for the pursuit of specific projects and offers scholarships to young scholars (within two years of completion of their doctorate).

Volkswagen Foundation Lichtenberg Professorships

The Volkswagen Foundation's Lichtenberg Professorships support scholars and scientists in innovative fields of research at German universities. Postdoctoral researchers with a minimum of two years of research experience since the completion of their doctoral degree may apply.

The Volkswagen Foundation also offers other forms of funding for academics and researchers in addition to the Lichtenberg Professorships. Details of these can be found at:

Leopoldina Postdoc Scholarship

The Leopoldina funding programme is a good example of one of the many subject-specific scholarships available for postdoctoral research. Funding is awarded to outstanding young scholars (under 36 years of age) working within the natural sciences and medicine. Scholarship recipients are given the opportunity to carry out their own independent projects abroad at a leading research institute in their field.

The German Education Union (GEW) provides a comprehensive overview of other foundations and their funding programmes.
Research funding at the regional and national level:
www.gew.de/ForschungsfoerderungaufBundes-undLaenderebene2.html (in German)
Research funding at the European level:
www.gew.de/FoerderungaufeuropaeischerEbene2.html (in German)

academics :: May 2012