Here you can find the answers to the most important questions around the program.

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 €30,000 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 second round?

The second round of the Prototype Fund calls for projects that show how code and software can strengthen civil society.

These could be tools that enable activists and organizations to mobilize their supporters, organize campaigns, collect information, and share knowledge. Or software that helps people to get new initiatives going, and to organize groups in an easier or more efficient way. And of course, this also includes tools that protect our privacy and enable secure communication. Some examples of these tools can be found in our blog (in German).

Please note: We will continue to support ideas in civic tech, data literacy, data security, and software infrastructure.

How complicated is the application process?

Not at all. Simply explain your project to us by answering seven short questions in our application form.

What does the schedule look like?

Each application period lasts 2 months. We will notify you 8 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 starts with our Kick Off Workshop in Berlin on September 1, 2017, and all participants will be invited. After the kick off workshop, you can work on your projects for the next six months until our Demo Day on February 28, 2018, where we present all projects to the community.

From when till when can I apply?

There are four funding rounds consisting of 10 projects each.

  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

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 first 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.

The Details

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

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 eligibility 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 30,000€. The amount of funding always amounts to 60% of the overall project budget. The remaining 40% 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 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 01.03.2017, 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?

Your project outline will receive comments, during the assessment phase; if there is any other feedback on your project, we are happy to share it with you.

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?


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.

What should I do if my question is not here?

Never hesitate to contact us at: bewerbung@prototypefund.de.

We will expand this list of questions continuously.

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. In the next three years, we want to learn a lot, share our experiences with you, and help you achieve your plans and projects.

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