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 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 ninth round has no focus topic.

How complicated is the application process?

Not at all. Simply explain your project to us by answering eight short questions in our application form. The questions must be answered in German.

What does the schedule look like?

Each application period lasts 2 months. The ninth application rounds are open from August 1 – September 30, 2020.

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 will evaluate and rate all submissions. You can find the jury of the second round here.

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?

Can I submit my proposal in English?

Unfortunately, no. We only accept applications in German as the program is funded by the German government.

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.

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?

It is important for us to be in active exchange with all projects. That’s why there are update calls every three weeks during the six months, short written updates every week and two more extensive interim meetings – either in person or by phone, depending on where you live. We ask all projects to take the exchange seriously, because this way we can deal with problems faster and help you if necessary.

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

You will then have to fill out a formal application, which we will help you with. Your submission will also be accepted as a so-called project description. If you get hints from the evaluation, you will incorporate them. There will also be a template for the project description.
In a second step, you will have to submit further evidence (e. g. tax assessment, declaration of exclusion of private insolvency, so-called de minimis certificate). You will receive detailed information on this when you are among the finalists.

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 01.03.2020, therefore you can call for funds at the beginning of the new quarter (in this case, in April) 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 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 projects at the same time?

Yes, provided that your estimated working hours allow for it.

Do I have to pay taxes on the grants?

No, you do not have to pay taxes (VAT) on the funding itself.

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.