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.
In addition to financial support, building a network is a priority for us. During the implementation phase, we connect teams and participants with other funders, potential partners and funding programs. Sustainability is important to us – our goal is to support participants as much as possible in the continuation of their projects.
*This amount has been valid since the third application round.
Civic Tech: Digital tools for citizens, e. g.
Data Literacy: applications around the use and analysis of (open) data; promoting an enlightened approach to data.
Data Security: tools focused on privacy, secure communication/data transfer, and data sparsity.
Software Infrastructure: Software and tools that enable and simplify the operation of the above projects.
The submission phase runs for 2 months. We will let you know about 8 weeks after the submission deadline whether the jury has recommended your project for funding – if there are many submissions, it may take longer. We invite all finalists or one person per team to an application workshop in Berlin. On this day we will do the paperwork together. The formal application is then submitted to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research via the project management organization DLR, which makes the final decision on funding. Important: In exceptional cases, the final notification of funding from the Ministry may not arrive until the start of the funding itself due to necessary processing times. Keep this in mind if, for example, you want to arrange changes in working hours with employers or similar.
The funding start date for the 15th round is expected to be March 1st, 2024. We invite all funded projects to a kick-off workshop on that day. After that, you will have 6 months to implement your prototypes. At the end of the implementation phase, a Demo Day will take place to present the results of your work.
We believe that ideas that are shared offer new starting points for projects and collaborations. We want to ensure that funded projects can continue to be developed in the future.
* Teams: Please check the “Details” section (below) for your requirements before applying.
** Or released (pro-rated) by your employer for the duration of the project. This means that you can also continue to be employed part-time.
No. Teams must join together as a GbR for funding (see below in the Funding section).
Not too complex. In the first step, you can use the application form consisting of a couple questions to briefly and clearly describe to the jury what you would like to implement: In concise texts that explain the core of your idea and clearly show the connection to our funded focus areas. Tips for structure and approach can be found here. If your project is selected as a finalist by the jury, you will then need to submit a somewhat more extensive formal application according to the BMBF’s funding guidelines. More information on this can be found in the details below. We will of course help you with the application and organize a joint application workshop.
There will be a total of 16 funding rounds. The next application periods are:
Yes, but your plan for the Prototype Fund should be clearly distinguishable within your project and have an independent degree of novelty, e.g. if you plan to expand or add a module to your project. In any case, it must be clearly recognizable what will be worked on during the 6 months.
The maximum funding amount of 47,500 € is calculated based on the total number of working hours of a full-time position for one person, i.e. 950 working hours with a maximum hourly rate of 50 € for the entire funding period. If the hourly rate is to be higher, the number of hours must be reduced accordingly – in addition, you must prove to us via invoices that you have already achieved higher hourly wages as freelance developers. Teams must name and price work packages, the sum of which must not exceed the maximum funding amount (see above).
Important: The number of hours specified must be in reasonable proportion to the project idea. Think in advance about how much 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.
If you are employed part-time in addition to the Prototype Fund grant, occupational health and safety laws will dictate the upper limit of hours.
As a student, you must be aware of the working student regulations: You cannot work full-time on the project while studying full-time, but only for a maximum of 20 hours per week for 6 months during the semester. For those interested in funding at retirement age, the following applies: Only those who have reached the so-called standard age limit 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 € 6,300 per calendar year.
Companies, universities, non-university research institutions and other institutions and associations are not eligible to apply.
Answer all the questions on our application platform and then click on “submit for review”. You will then receive an automatic email to set your password for the application platform.
Our application guide takes you through the application questions step by step.
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.
In the evaluation, the jury pays particular attention to the following criteria:
After the jury meeting, the finalists’ projects will be notified of their acceptance and rejection. If you have any questions regarding the content of the rejections, please contact us at for feedback. Please understand that we do not publish any notes from the jury and can usually only make general statements about the reasons.
If your project is selected by the jury, you will have to submit a more extensive formal application according to the BMBF’s funding guidelines. 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 will use this application as the basis for determining whether a project will receive funding.
Each project is funded for a maximum of 6 months with a maximum of 47,500 euros. Funding is mainly provided for the working time on the project as well as overhead costs. Personnel costs are calculated by multiplying the hours worked by you with your approved hourly rate. Overhead costs are all costs that cannot be directly attributed 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.
The funding amount always corresponds to 95% of the total project budget. The remaining 5% is your own contribution – i.e. your time that goes into the project. You have the option of proving that you can actually contribute this time free of charge by means of additional income (e.g. from an employment relationship or from orders) or reserves.
Important: All team members funded by the Prototype Fund must have registered their residence in Germany. Teams submit the formal application as a civil law partnership (GbR). The applicant is always the GbR, all individuals who are to receive funding must be united in the GbR: subcontracting to third parties is not permitted. You must appoint a project leader or another partner as the managing director, who will represent the GbR to the outside world with legal effect (and who will, for example, take part in the application workshop and sign the application). You will receive a template for a GbR from us if you are one of the finalists. If you want to be funded as a team, you should also name the individual components of the project and assign them to the people in the team.
The Prototype Fund is also a research program: It is important for us to have a lively exchange with our projects in order to better understand 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. Furthermore, the exchange helps us to evaluate the program and to improve it if necessary.
These are the mandatory dates for the grantees: kick-off workshop (full day in Berlin, all team members), onboarding call (1 h, remote, all team members), group calls (4 times 1 h, one team member each), interim calls (twice 1 h, all team members), demo day (full day in Berlin, all team members).
Payment is made in instalments based on work performed and at the beginning of each new quarter. Our timeline also shows you exactly how this looks. Example: Funding starts on 01.09.2023, then you can call up the proportional funding amount for the work performed at the beginning of the new quarter (in this case October).
As a “echter Zuschuss”, the support provided by the Prototype Fund is not taxed. 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 tax office before the start of the funding, you can ask whether this argument is recognized after you have received the notification of funding, stating the NKBF 2017 ancillary provisions of the BMBF that apply to you and referring to §3 No. 11 of the Income Tax Act. 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.
At the end of the six-month project, we invite all grantees to a Demo Day. The purpose of this day is to present the prototypes and to share the experiences you have made as developers during the funding. The Demo Day is open to the public, so you can also talk to future users and other interested parties. We will connect you with mentors and other supporters during the project. As part of the Prototype Fund network, you will be closely connected to the program and other participants even after the project has ended. The project descriptions will also remain available on our website after the end of the funding period.
The software must be released under an open source license. The code must be publicly available (e.g. via a public Github or Bitbucket repository). We recommend the MIT license. Here is an overview of other open source licenses.