Research in Ice Age fauna, next-generation batteries, exoplanets, mathematical approaches to quantum physics, optical communication and convective precipitation.
The list of granted projects in VILLUM FONDEN’s programme for technical and scientific research funding over the past many years is striking for the diversity of research topics represented.
One of the more substantial investments in 2016 was in aid of a significant commemorative initiative to mark the VKR Group’s 75th anniversary with the establishment of an ambitious research centre. This being the VILLUM Center for the Science of Sustainable Fuels and Chemicals, which will receive total funding of DKK 150 million over the next eight years (for details of this initiative, see separate article).
In addition, VILLUM FONDEN has funded a number of research outreach initiatives to stimulate interest in science and technology among schoolchildren.
Science and technology form the backbone
“Science and technology research has always been focal for VILLUM FONDEN’s funding activities”, says VILLUM FONDEN’s Director of Science Professor Thomas Sinkjær:
“Firstly, each year, we confer the ‘Villum Kann Rasmussen Annual Award in Science and Technology’, worth a substantial DKK 5 million, on one of Denmark’s most outstanding researchers. In our anniversary year 2016, however, the award was made to two researchers. A total of 35 researchers have received this sizeable grant, which recognises the long-standing and dedicated achievements of a talented researcher within a notable field of research. And naturally we will be continuing this award!
Secondly, VILLUM FONDEN has been funding research in science and technology by means of a wide array of instruments for a good many years. From 2016, we will be focusing on curiosity-driven research, meaning the ideas the researchers themselves are most taken up with investigating. We hope in this way to attract the best researchers with the best ideas, and in so doing encourage the research breakthroughs that can make a big difference to society”, says Thomas Sinkjær.
“The Young Investigator programme gives up-and-coming scientists a valuable and substantial early kick-start to their research career. The grants enable them to consolidate their research area faster by expanding their research team with new staff. This boosts their potential for making novel and significant breakthroughs and findings that will potentially benefit society at large”.
Anders Overgaard Bjarklev, Rector of DTU – Technical University of Denmark.
VILLUM FONDEN funds:
Since 2012, the VILLUM Young Investigator programme has been a productive and vital initiative enabling no fewer than 95 early-stage researchers to set up their own first research team based on the ideas they are most passionate about, and thus allowing them to come out of the ‘shadow’ of well-established professors.
For many young investigators, this has led to acclaimed research and thereby improved their career prospects and capacity to attract even more research funding.
The grant amount is DKK 7-10 million, it can be awarded once only, and the timeframe is five years. A large proportion of the funding is spent on salaries for the Danish and foreign PhD and postdoctoral researchers recruited to the research team.
“The University of Copenhagen welcomes the VILLUM Investigator funding programme. This funding instrument is an amazing opportunity for experienced and outstanding investigators from both Denmark and abroad to advance their research in science and technology”.
Thomas Bjørnholm, Prorector for Research and Innovation, University of Copenhagen
VILLUM Investigator: The object of this programme is to fund researchers who gain the potential to make a significant contribution to science and technology research by establishing an international research centre at a Danish research institution. This programme is for researchers who have demonstrated considerable originality and excellent research results. The ideal applicant is an active investigator who for ten years or more has been recognised for international, pioneering research of the highest scientific standard.
This programme is advertised every other year in an open competitive call for proposals. The grant is for six years, after which period, the grantees are permitted to reapply in competition with other applicants. The grant total is up to DKK 40 million, including start-up costs. A proportion of the grant can be used for hiring a secretary, assistant or the like to relieve the researcher of administrative burdens. If the researcher is already employed at a Danish educational institution, this may be selected as the researcher’s base, but there is also the option of relocating to another Danish institution if relevant for the research.
VILLUM FONDEN hopes to receive promising applications also from international elite researchers and expects to award grants to around ten VILLUM Investigators starting from mid-2017.
“Original research ideas and internationallyranked talents are imperative for the advancement of Denmark as a knowledgebased society. I greatly appreciate VILLUM FONDEN’s new funding instruments centred on the investigator’s personal capabilities. The VILLUM Experiment based on the nonmainstream idea blazes a new trail among grant-making bodies that will undoubtedly lead to innovation and unexpected breakthroughs”.
Professor Niels Chr. Nielsen, Dean of Science and Technology, Aarhus University
THE WILD NEW IDEA:
The VILLUM Experiment: for bold research ideas that have difficulty fitting into the conventional peer-review funding system. This programme is open to all researchers regardless of nationality and may be applied for by active researchers of any age.
The programme was created in support of exceptional research projects that challenge norms and possess the potential to fundamentally alter our approach to key topics.
To ensure that researchers dare to submit their most ambitious ideas without being pilloried by their academic peers who will be reviewing their research idea, applicants are anonymous to their reviewers. The reviewers are asked to give preference to ideas they regard as being genuinely innovative. Perhaps only one in ten projects will prove capable of yielding something unique.
The granted amount is DKK 1-2 million, which is to cover a research period of 1-2 years. The funds must be spent primarily on the researcher's own salary, equipment and materials.
Ideas must be put to the test
”A single experiment is worth more than 1000 expert views”. This motto was conceived by the founder of THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS, Villum Kann Rasmussen. 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.
All nationalities are welcome
All three funding instruments are open to all researchers, regardless of nationality. The only condition is that the proposed research must be based at a Danish university or other Danish research institution.
Innovative research must be pursued on the investigators’ own terms
For the Director of Science, the bar is set high:
“Our goal is to incentivise world-class research platformed at Danish universities and research institutions. As a non-profit, private charitable foundation, we award ‘independent’ funds, and have the means to give curiosity-driven, talented researchers a secure framework for conducting ground-breaking research. By funding the most talented, we ensure that the money follows the investigator rather than the project. We are in a position to take more chances and invest in research that may fail at the first attempt or be unable to provide solutions to known challenges until well into the future.
At the Danish universities especially, scope and financial resources are needed for those creative minds that are capable of driving research breakthroughs as they are typically the ones who take the lead in delivering crucial results and blazing a trail in new fields of research. Ultimately, the aim is for those results to justify the investment and prove its worth to Danish society”, says Thomas Sinkjær. /