Last modified on 2018-03-21 04:43:35
The Volkswagen Foundation is an independent foundation incorporated under private law with registered office in Hanover. Its overall funding volume of around 150 million euros per year makes it Germany‘s largest private research funding foundation, and indeed one of the country’s largest foundations altogether. Since it was founded more than 50 years ago, the Volkswagen Foundation has allocated more than 4.2 billion euros in support of over 30,000 projects. It is thereby one of the largest common benefit foundations under private law in all of Germany.
A strong basis for a foundation of knowledge
The founding capital for the Volkswagen Foundation was provided by the German Federal Government and the Federal State of Lower Saxony with proceeds generated from the privatization of what is now the Volkswagen AG automobile company. The Volkswagen Foundation is neither a corporate foundation nor affiliated to the company; its decision-making bodies are autonomous and independent.
The funds allocated by the Foundation are, on the one hand, generated from its capital and assets of currently about 2.7 billion euros (mainly benefitting the “General Funding” category). On the other hand, the funds stem from the dividends earned from the circa 30 million Volkswagen AG shares held by Lower Saxony with the Foundation as beneficiary (part of “Niedersächsisches Vorab”). The Foundation’s Board of Trustees and the Secretary General decide how the funding is allocated; funding within the context of “Niedersächsisches Vorab” is provided in close cooperation with the government of Lower Saxony.
Impulses for science
In accordance with its statutes, the Volkswagen Foundation supports the humanities and social sciences as well as science and technology in higher education and research by providing targeted impulses through its funding. The Foundation develops its own funding initiatives with a focus on pioneering future-oriented fields of research. The Foundation’s initiatives provide the framework for its funding activities as well as topics for the events organized by the Foundation. The number of funding initiatives is deliberately restricted as part of a strategy to ensure the funds are put to the best effect. A main objective is to make sure the themes addressed by each initiative become firmly anchored in the scientific community by the time the respective initiative has run its course.
The Volkswagen Foundation perceives a special mission in providing support for junior researchers and fostering cooperation between researchers across the borders of disciplines, cultures, and national states. Another strong emphasis is placed on facilitating structural improvements to education and research in Germany. Frequently, the Foundation’s objectives are pursued in collaboration with other foundations and public funding organizations.
The Volkswagen Foundation is not affiliated to the company of the same name. Although the Volkswagen automobile manufacturer was at the beginning of things, it is now past history as far as the Foundation is concerned:
After the Second World War, claims to the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg were asserted from several sides, and yet there was no clear owner. After lengthy disputes in the 1950s, the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Lower Saxony finally agreed to turn the company then known as Volkswagenwerk GmbH into a public company listed at the German Stock Exchange and to set up a Foundation from the proceeds.
From the Volkswagenwerk to the Foundation Capital
60 per cent of the capital stock was transferred to private ownership through the issuing of so-called people’s shares, while the Federal Government and the state of Lower Saxony retained shares of 20 per cent each. The proceeds from the privatization and claims to the shares in annual net profits that remained payable to the State of Lower Saxony and the Federal Government – the Federal Government has meanwhile sold its shares – were transferred as the assets of the newly founded Stiftung Volkswagenwerk, as it was known until 1989.
The Foundation was set up with independent legal statutes under civil law in the year 1961. It started its activities in 1962.
In the meantime, the capital of the Foundation amounts to some 2.7 billion euros. Today it is the task of some 90 employees in the Kastanienallee in Hanover to increase the assets of the Foundation and to put the income to effective use in line with the purpose of the Foundation.
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