The VILLUM Experiment: DKK 71 million for 39 unorthodox research ideas


Conversion of CO2 to climate-friendly material. Cars that change color. Systems that recognize insects without capturing them first. VILLUM FONDEN supports the wildest ideas from 39 bright minds within technical and scientific with DKK 71 million.

It is the first time that VILLUM FONDEN allocates grants within the VILLUM Experiment, which supports the quite unique research idea that challenges the norm and has the potential to fundamentally change the way we approach important topics.

DKK 71 million for 39 unorthodox and potentially groundbreaking experiments. Experiments that span widely in various ways: The researchers behind the experiments range from postdocs to professors - and among these are particularly many associate professors - from both the Technical University of Denmark, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Southern Denmark and Aarhus University. In addition, the degree of originality in the experiments spans wide, however all of them have a fundamental element of innovation - and a technical and scientific background.

The VILLUM Experiment

• Support for the bold research idea that would have difficulty fitting into the conventional peer-review funding system.
• Created for the very special research projects that challenge the norm and have the potential to fundamentally alter the way we approach important topics.
• Ensures that researchers dare to submit their most ambitious ideas without being pilloried by their peers who will be reviewing the proposals, applicants are anonymous to the reviewers. This is also introduced to reduce any bias from the reviewers.
• The reviewers are asked to emphasize the ideas they regard as being genuinely innovative. Perhaps only one in ten projects will prove capable of yielding something unique.
• Each of the reviewers have the opportunity to appoint one application with a desicive vote. If this happens, there must be quite significant arguments from the foundation’s board of directors to reject the project.
• The amount granted is DKK 1-2 million, which is to cover a research period of 1-2 years.
• The program is open to all researchers regardless of nationality and can be applied for by active researchers regardless of any age.
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Need for more funding sources

Not only are the projects experimental: The course of the selection of the experiments is new and different compared to typical research grants. The application is anonymous, and the reviewers have the opportunity to appoint an idea a dicisive vote. This is the idea that they think is extraordinary and which, no matter what others might think, must be selected.

"In an environment of peer reviews and strong competition, researchers may be cautious in launching their significantly different idea. The idea that you may not dare say aloud, which does not fit into the framework of research funding today. However, if you look back and look at the ideas that made a real paradigm shift, then it would have been hard to predict. There must be room for researchers with new ideas and an unexpected approach - and other ways of funding than through the recognized peer review process,” says Thomas Sinkjær, Director of Science, VILLUM FONDEN.

Focus on the good idea

Professor Marcos Gonzalez-Gaitan from Université de Genève in Switzerland is one of the external reviewers who participated in the selection of the experiments:

"It has been exciting and challenging to read the anonymous applications. It is a completely new way to access the research. A very interesting "experiment" that has expanded my scientific horizon and forced me to focus solely on the research idea. Great praise to VILLUM FONDEN for their willingness to take risks. For who knows maybe only one of 10 experiments will turn out to create something unique.”

“A single experiment is worth more than 1000 expert views”.

The founder of THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS, Villum Kann Rasmussen, graduate engineer, conceived this motto. As an imaginative and innovative inventor, he was continually experimenting. Tables, chairs, coffee machines, wind turbines and, of course, his most famous invention, the VELUX roof window.

"Villum Kann Rasmussen held bright initiatives and bright ideas in the highest regard. With the VILLUM Experiment, we hope to award funding to those bright minds that might come up with a wild new and bold research project. The researchers, who see that things can connect in ways other than we believe, and can conduct the bold projects that may confirm or dismiss their wild idea," says Jens Kann-Rasmussen, chair of VILLUM FONDEN.

The 39 VILLUM Experiments:
Technical University of Denmark

Haitham El-Ella, DTU Physics, A Diamond-Encased Bose-Einstein Condensate, DKK 1.9 million.

Hugh Simons, DTU Physics, Turning x-ray microscopy inside out, DKK 1.6 million.

Kent Kammer Hansen, DTU Energy, Electrochemical NOx-reduction with a novel tri-functional cathode, DKK 1.5 million.

Kaare Hartvig Jensen, DTU Physics, Sugar harvesting from plant veins (SHARP), DKK 2 million.

Nikolaj Sorgenfrei Blom, DTU Chemical Engineering, DireWaves - Disarming resistant microbes with resonant fields, DKK 2 million.

Nikolaus Sonnenschein, DTU Biosustain, Hands-off biology: towards full automation of life science experiments in the cloud, DKK 2 millon.

Roar R. Søndergaard, DTU Energy, In situ solution synthesis and 3D structuring of multi-property nanocomposites, DKK 2 million.

Seunghwan Lee, DTU Mechanical Engineering, ArthroLube: A new approach to improve the biocompatibility and longevity of articular joint implants, DKK 2 million.

Tim Dyrby, DTU Compute, 3D reconstruction of neuronal connectivity in the mouse brain, DKK 2 million.

Xiaolong Zhu, DTU Nanotech, Plasmon-heated nano-tip: A lightsaber for nanoscience, DKK 1.7 million.

University of Copenhagen

Alexandra Muñoz, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Beyond the genome: Re-theorizing the cellular system, DKK 2 million.

Anand Ramesh Sanadi, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, A Unique Technique, Combined with Smart Structural Design to Develop a New Class of Biobased Fiber Composite Material, DKK 1.6 million

Dimitrios Stamou, Department of Chemistry, Na+-K+ ATPase: The predominant consumer of ATP in the brain, studied at the single molecule level, DKK 2 million.

Enrico Cappellini, The Natural History Museum of Denmark, Pushing exploration of Human Evolution Backward by Palaeoproteomics, DKK 2 million.

Jan W. Thomsen, Niels Bohr Institute, Superradiant atomic clock with continuous interrogation, DKK 1.7 million.

Jesper Lund Pedersen, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Quickest detection problems going nonlinear, DKK 1.8 million.

Jozef Mravec, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Instant architect of the wall: is plant body shaped by an elusive cell wall-located pathway?, DKK 2 million.

Jørgen Olesen, The Natural History Museum of Denmark, The adult Y-animal - a 100+ year old enigma in marine biology, DKK 2 million.

Kell Mortensen, Niels Bohr Institute, Persistent homology as a new tool to understand structural phase transitions, DKK 2 million.

Leila Lo Leggio, Department of Chemistry, A universal approach for structure determination of peptides to medium size proteins by X-ray diffraction, DKK 2 million.

Marcus Thomas Gilbert, The Natural History Museum of Denmark, Was animal domestication driven by gut microbiome humanisation?, DKK 2 million.

Nadja Møbjerg Jørgensen, Department of Biology, Tardigrade CRISPR genome engineering: Exploring the secrets of latent life and extreme stress tolerance in animals, DKK 1.9 million.

Peter Ditlevsen, Niels Bohr Institute, Physics of the unexpected: Understanding tipping points in natural systems, DKK 1.6 million.

Simon Dusséaux, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Harvesting light to convert carbon dioxide into green materials using a unique two-species adaptive evolution approach, DKK 1.7 million.

Sophia Häfner, Biotech Research & Innovation Centre, Deciphering the ribosome code, DKK 1.7 million.

Thorbjørn Joest Andersen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, MicroPlastDynamics, DKK 1.3 million.

Tue Hassenkam, Department of Chemistry, Elements from the origin and evolution of early life, DKK 1.7 million.

The University of Southern Denmark

Jonas Sandby Lissau, The Mads Clausen Institute, Integrated Molecular Plasmon Upconverter for Low-cost, Scalable, and Efficient Organic Photovoltaics (IMPULSE-OPV), DKK 1.8 million.

Morten Andersen, Department of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Environmental Technology, Endolith Bioculture in 3D Printed Environments (EndoBio3D), DKK 1.7 million.

Poul Nielsen, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy, A DNA molecular motor, DKK 1.8 million.

Aarhus University

Henrik Birkedal, Department of Chemistry, Tunable photonic materials inspired by chameleons and copepods, DKK 2 million.

Kasper Urup Kjeldsen, Department of Bioscience, FISHing for the ancestors of the eukaryotic cell, DKK 2 million.

Lars Henrik Andersen, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Quantum nature of retinal proteins, DKK 1.5 million.

Leendert Vergeynst, Department of Bioscience, Exploring the oil degradation capacity of microbes in pristine Arctic environments, DKK 1.8 million.

Mads Sloth Vinding, Department of Clinical Medicine, Novel deep penetration hyperthermia methodology: can we treat deep-seated tumors with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)?, DKK 2 million.

Richard Balog, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Solid-state QED with STM, DKK 1.8 million.

Toke Thomas Høye, Department of Bioscience, Automatic Insect Detection (AID), DKK 2 million.

Witold Kot, Institut for Miljøvidenskab, New letters to the DNA alphabet, DKK 2 million.

Yonghui Zeng, Department of Environmental Science, Searching for Photosynthetic Archaea in Arctic Permafrost, DKK 2 million.