The significance of an anonymous application

Villum Experiment is VILLUM FONDEN's programme for researchers who wish to challenge the norm. A new research project will assess whether the programme with the unique application and funding process meets the aim of funding bold and groundbreaking research.

Danish research environments within tecnical and natural sciences have an abundance of creative talents with unorthodox ideas. VILLUM FONDEN has granted funding for two years under the Villum Experiment Programme for bold research experiments at Danish universities.

The programme has funded 92 grants with a total of DKK 171 million.

The Villum Experiment is unique as the applicantion is submitted anonymously. This is to ensure that the focus is on the research idea and to allow the applicants to think freely in relation to their past merits.

"It requires steady nerves to deviate from the usual assessment approaches and to allocate funding for projects - or researchers – that challenge the norm, but on the other hand present the best idea. Therefore, we are very pleased that the researchers have embraced the Villum Experiment programme within a few years, and that more than 90 experiments have been initiated. This indicates that the programme is necessary,” says VILLUM FONDEN's Executive Scientific Chief Officer Thomas Bjørnholm.

Villum Experiment is created for the special research projects that challenge the norm and have the potential to fundamentally change the way we approach important topics.

The applicants are anonymous to the international peer reviewers to sharpen the focus on the research idea and to let the researchers think freely in relation to their past merits. 

The reviewers are asked to emphasise the ideas they perceive as real breakthroughs with a high risk factor in terms of success. Each reviewer has the option of ‘flagging’ one idea i.e. the board of directors  must make strong arguments to reject the idea.

The programme is announced once a year in open competition. We will announce the call at the beginning of the year with deadlines in March and grant approvals in August.

The programme is open to all active researchers regardless of nationality and age.

The grant is DKK 1-2 million and the time frame is up to 2 years. 

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Funding for bold ideas?

A research project will assess the originality of the research compared to other research funding programmes and furthermore evaluate the results and the research process.

“It will take some years for us to know whether the programme really facilitates new ideas. However, as the Villum Experiment Programme differs from the established programmes, it is important to begin collecting data now, so that in a few years we can evaluate whether the aim of providing funding for particularly bold ideas has been achieved,” says Thomas Bjørnholm.

In addition to investigating the purpose of the programme, the research project will investigate whether the anonymous application process is important to the grant recipients including whether there is bias in relation to e.g. gender. Furthermore, the project will investigate if researchers who have received funding are different from what would be expected for a classical peer-review process.

“There will be no immediate result of the project. However, VILLUM FONDEN will follow the programme for some years to ensure a solid basis for the assessment,” says Thomas Bjørnholm.

The Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy is behind the project.

The foundation expects the result of the projet in 2024.

For further information, contact:

Thomas Bjørnholm
Executive Chief Scientific Officer, professor, VILLUM FONDEN
+45 28 75 18 35


Professor Thomas Bjørnholm is responsible for the foundation’s research programmes in technical and natural sciences.
Previously Thomas Bjørnholm was Prorector for Research and Innovation and Deputy Rector at the University of Copenhagen with overall responsibility for research and innovation across all disciplines at the university.

He is a professor of Materials Chemistry and the founding director of the Nano-Science Center at the University of Copenhagen.

Thomas Bjørnholm is a member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, the Danish Academy of Technical Sciences and he has served on numerous boards and committees.

As a scientist, he has published more than 200 articles in scientific journals and books including contributions to the highly-recognized journals Nature and Science. He has given more than 150 invited talks at conferences and research institutes around the world and received research awards, including the Ole Rømer Foundation Award, the Ellen & Niels Bjerrum Award and gold medal, and the Director Ib Henriksen Award.

See more extensive CV

Karen Skytte Larsen
Senior Adviser, Head of Programme, VILLUM FONDEN
+45 21 55 09 08