We consider the Prototype Fund a prototype itself. The program is the first public funding program by a German Federal Ministry that specifically aims at freelance open source developers. We are continuously engaged in improving and adapting the program. After each funding term, we will conduct an evaluation for which we rely on your feedback in order to make the next term even better. We want to learn a lot, share our experiences with you, and help you achieve your plans and projects.

You can only apply in German.

The basics

Who can apply?

  • You’re a German resident, self-employed and paying German taxes. (German citizenship is not required.) ✓
  • Your project is being published under an Open Source license. The code is publicly accessible, for example via GitHub or Bitbucket. ✓
  • You’re a legal adult. ✓

What does the Prototype Fund offer?

  • Up to €47,500 in funding over six months.
  • Professional coaching in user-centered design, project management, security and business, and mentorship by our expert network.
  • Media outreach through our network.

Beyond offering the above, our goal is to grow a network of civic tech projects. During the project term, we’ll connect the participants with investors, potential partners and other support programs. Sustainability is very important to us and we want to help participants secure long-term support for their projects.

Which kinds of projects can get funding?

Civic Tech: building digital tools for citizens, e.g.

  • New models or applications for creating, sharing and using (open) data
  • Data visualization and storytelling
  • Social engagement, transparency and citizen participation

Data Literacy: apps for the use and analysis of (open) data; tools that promote the ability to read, create and communicate data.

Data security: code that focuses on privacy, secure communications or data transmission and data minimisation.

Software infrastructure: tools that enable and facilitate the operation of software like the above.

What is the focus of the next round?

The eleventh round has no focus topic.

What does the schedule look like?

Each application period lasts 2 months. The eleventh application rounds is open from August 1 – September 30, 2021. We will notify you 8-12 weeks after the deadline whether your application has been successful. Note that it might take us more time to give all the projects fair review if the number of applicants exceeds our expectations. Once you’ve made it into the final round, we will work with you to file the required paperwork with the Federal Ministry for Education and Research during our application workshop. The project term of the round starts with our Kick Off Workshop in Berlin, and all participants will be invited. After the kick off workshop, you will work on your projects for the next six months until our Demo Day, where we present all projects to the community.

From when till when can I apply?

There are eight funding rounds.

  1. 1st round: 08-01-2016–09-30-2016
  2. 2nd round: 02-01-2017–03-31-2017
  3. 3rd round: 08-01-2017–09-30-2017
  4. 4th round: 02-01-2018–03-31-2018
  5. 5th round: 01-08-2018–30-09-2018
  6. 6th round: 01-02-2019–31-03-2019
  7. 7th round: 01-08-2019–30-09-2019
  8. 8th round: 01-02-2020–31-03-2020
  9. 9th round: 01-08-2020–30-09-2020
  10. 10th round: 01-02-2021–31-03-2021
  11. 11th round: 01-08-2021–30-09-2021
  12. 12th round: 01-02-2022–31-03-2022
  13. 13th round: 01-08-2022–30-09-2022
  14. 14th round: 01-02-2023–31-03-2023
  15. 15th round: 01-08-2023–30-09-2023
  16. 16th round: 01-02-2024–31-03-2024

Can I apply with a project that already exists?

Yes, you can. However, your proposal ought to be clearly defined and and have its own degree of novelty, e.g. you plan to expand or enhance your preexisting project with a new module. In any case, you need to make clear what you will be working on during the 6-month project term.

Who will assess my idea?

A jury of experts evaluates the submitted projects and proposes approximately 25 per round for funding. The final funding decision after application is made by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

By what criteria will my project be evaluated?

The jury will pay particular attention to the following:

  • Does the project belong in the field promoted by the Prototype Fund; does is perhaps address the focus topic of the round?
  • Scope and social impact of the project – How many people benefit from your project?
  • Innovation – How new and exciting is your idea?
  • Realizability – Do you have the necessary skills to implement the idea, and is the idea realizable within 6 months?

You can find more about this under Funding Criteria.

Can I submit my proposal in English?

Unfortunately, no. We only accept submissions in German, as the program is funded by a German ministry. The formal application, which is submitted after the successful application, must also be written in German. In addition, the documents of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as well as the Deutsches Luft- und Raumfahrtzentrum, which are provided to the grantees during the funding period, are in German.

How is the grant sum made up and how does it relate to the total number of working hours?

The maximum subsidy of 47,500 € is calculated on the basis of the total working hours of a full-time job for one person, i. e. 950 working hours at an hourly rate of max. 50 € for the entire subsidy period. If the hourly rate is to be higher, the number of hours must be reduced accordingly. Teams name and price work packages which, when added together, must not exceed the maximum funding amount (see above). Important: The stated number of hours must be in reasonable proportion to the project idea. Think in advance about the time you will need to invest in order to implement the proposed prototype. Realistic planning of the project scope is also one of the jury’s evaluation criteria.

You want to apply as a student or retiree?

As a student, you must observe the working student regulations: You cannot work full-time on the project while studying full-time, but only to the extent of max. 20h/week during the semester for 6 months. For those interested in funding at retirement age, the following applies: Only those who have reached the so-called Regelaltersgrenze may earn an unlimited amount in addition to their statutory pension. The standard retirement age is defined in the Social Security Code VI (§ 35 Sentence 2 SGB VI) and is reached at the age of 67. For those who have entered retirement earlier, earnings limits apply. From 2022, this limit will (presumably again) be € 6300 per calendar year. More information here.

The Details

I am working on my project as part of a team, is there anything I should be aware of?

All team members that receive funding through the Prototype Fund need to be German residents. Teams can apply as a “Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts”, which is a partnership under German civil law. The GbR always acts as the applicant. You decide on a project lead or team member to act as a director, who validly represents the GbR (and who also takes part in the application workshop and signs the application). We can provide you with a template for a GbR if you make it into the final round. If you want to be funded as a team, you should state the different modules within the project, and assign them to the team members.

Under which license do I need to publish the software that I develop during the funding period?

The software has to be published under an open source license. The code needs to be publicly accessible (through, for instance, a public Github or Bitbucket repository). We recommend using the MIT license.

What does the funding consist of?

Each project will be funded for 6 months at most, and with a maximum amount of 47,500€. The amount of funding always amounts to 95% of the overall project budget. The remaining 5% are your own contribution – meaning the time that you spend on pursuing the project. Through other incomes (e.g. from an employment contract or other orders) and savings, you can prove that you are actually able to invest this time gratuitously.

What costs can be claimed within the grant?

Only personnel and overhead costs are covered by the grant. Personnel costs are calculated by multiplying the hours you work with your approved hourly rate. Overhead costs are all costs that cannot be directly allocated to individual cost units, e. g. costs for office materials. For these costs you can claim a flat rate of 5 % of the personnel costs in the application procedure. According to the funding guidelines, you can apply for 95 % (funding rate) for the sum of personnel and overhead costs you have calculated in advance. As your own contribution, you contribute 5 % of these total costs to the project. At the beginning of the project you have to prove the required amount, e. g. with a positive bank statement.

What can I expect during the project duration?

The Prototype Fund is also a research program: It is important to us to be in active exchange with our projects in order to understand even better how developers cooperate, how innovation is created, and where we can particularly support you on this path. For this reason, there will be update calls every four weeks, short written updates every two weeks, two more detailed interim meetings, and a sustainability evaluation – either in person or over the phone, depending on where you live. We ask all projects to take the exchange seriously as well, because it allows us to address problems more quickly and help you when needed.

If I am a finalist, how does the proposal process work?

If your project is selected by the jury as a finalist, you will then have to submit a more comprehensive formal application in accordance with the funding guidelines of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. We will support you in the application workshop. If you have received conditions from the jury, these will be incorporated here. In addition, some further documents have to be submitted to the funding agency. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research assesses whether a project receives funding on the basis of this application.

What are the payment modalities?

The grant will be paid in instalments based on the work carried out at the beginning of each new quarter. Example: The eligibility period starts on 01.09.2021, therefore you can call for funds at the beginning of the new quarter (in this case, in October) proportionately to the work you performed.

What happens after the project term?

At the end of the 6-month project term we invite all teams to take part in a demo day, which serves to present results/prototypes and to discuss achievements, challenges, and problems. Aside from the teams, we also invite selected guests to take part. All projects will be featured on our website. During the project term we will connect you with mentors, sponsors, and other participants. As a part of the Prototype Fund network, you will remain closely connected to the program even after your project term has ended. Apart from publishing your code in one of the repositories, you will need to write a short and clear project report that will be published as well.

Will I get feedback if my idea is not accepted for funding?

After the jury meeting, acceptance and rejection letters will be sent out to the finalists’ projects. If you have any questions regarding the content of the received rejections, please feel free to contact info@prototypefund.de for feedback. Please understand that we cannot publish any notes from the jury and can only give general statements about the reasons.

Who is ineligible?

Business companies, universities, non-university research facilities and other institutions are not eligible for application.

Can I reapply with the same project if I was rejected the first time?

Yes, you can.

Can I apply with several project ideas at the same time?


Do I have to pay taxes on the grants?

No, you do not have to pay taxes (VAT) on the funding itself. However, experience with the projects has shown that, although no sales tax is due, income tax is usually payable. In order to clarify this with your responsible “Finanzamt” before the start of the funding, you can ask whether this argument is recognized after you have received the grant notice, stating the NKBF 2017 ancillary provisions of the BMBF that apply to you and referring to Section 3 No. 11 of the German “Einkommensteuergesetz”. The Prototype Fund is essentially a program for the promotion of scientific-technical feasibility studies in the field of software, so there is no fixed consideration, but it is about the development of knowledge and the construction of digital prototypes.

Where can I find the final reports of the alumni projects?

All available project reports of the completed funding rounds can be found under this link.

How do I submit my application?

Create an account on the application platform with your e-mail address or log in with your existing account. In the application screen you will see three tabs: “Bewerber*in”, “Bewerbungsformular” and “Skizzeneinreichung”. In the “Bewerber*in” mask you enter your personal data. All fields marked with * are mandatory. You save the information with the “Speichern” button. Note: “Speichern” is not the same as submitting an application. You only save the information temporarily and can, for example, continue the application at another time. In the “Bewerbungsformular” screen, you enter information about your project idea. All fields marked with * are mandatory. All further information will help our jury to better assess your project. Again you save the information with the “Speichern” button. In the “Skizzeneinreichung” screen you can first check your draft for input errors (e. g. missing information) by clicking on the button “Auf Eingabefehler überprüfen”. If no input errors are found, you submit your application by clicking on the button “Jetzt verbindlich einreichen”. You will receive a confirmation of your submission by e-mail. Afterwards you can create further drafts by clicking the button “neu anlegen” on the left side of the page. Note: Your application must be written in German or else will be deemed invalid.

You did not find what you were looking for?

Then please contact us at: bewerbung@prototypefund.de. The FAQ will be extended continuously.