5 German programs from which AI projects can now receive funding | Fieldfisher
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5 German programs from which AI projects can now receive funding



Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the crucial technology of the fourth industrial revolution. At Fieldfisher, we support companies, educational and research institutions, and public institutions in the development and implementation of AI systems. The state has also recognized the potential of AI and has created a wide variety of funding pots for AI projects. We want to present five important programs to you today.

We will also be happy to determine the right program for you within a quick funding check framework. We offer this quickly and inexpensively. So please do not hesitate to contact us.

This article reflects the status as of 29 March 2022.

Where can I find funding?

It is often not easy to find funding. The best-known place to go for this is www.foerderdatenbank.de - a service provided by the federal government. The platform is tried and tested, contains the essential grants - and is unfortunately also very confusing.

The authors have therefore also founded the platform www.foerdermittelnetzwerk.de. There are extensive overviews of subsidies in various areas and many basic materials on subsidies. In addition, they help companies with the application process. You can register there free of charge.


Who awards grants?

There are a great many different funding pots for AI projects to consider. It is essential to consider which funding pot is the most appropriate care. There is, therefore, no such thing as "one funding source." It is crucial to distinguish between the possible sources of funding. The following are potential sources of funding:
  • The European Union also awards funding directly in so-called "calls." However, these are intended for substantial projects and are considered high-tech projects. Separate from this is the allocation of EU funds, e.g., from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), via the member states.
  • The federal government itself allocates funding from its budget, for example, via the federal ministries or the KfW. In these cases, the federal government itself is the grantor.
  • The federal states also award grants themselves with their programs.
  • Finally, cities and municipalities can also award grants themselves in individual cases.
  • In rare cases, charitable foundations are also available as grantors, providing appropriate support for special projects, particularly social ones.

It is, therefore, necessary to look around. Accordingly, we present below five selected funding pots from our practice.


1. "Artificial Intelligence for the Common Good".

For some AI projects that focus on advancing the common good, the programme "Artificial Intelligence for the Common Good" may be of interest. More details on the programme can be found here.

The most important key points:
  • The funding provider is the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth (BMFSFJ).
  • Funding is provided to research institutions, universities, public institutions, non-profit private companies, associations, and federations.
  • Eligible applicants receive a grant, which depends on the respective measure and is usually up to 90% of the eligible expenditure. Depending on the requirements, a maximum of either EUR 250,000 or EUR 300,000 can be received annually per application.
Funding is provided for AI projects in the following two priority areas:
  • Laying the foundations for public welfare-oriented "artificial intelligence" and
  • developing and testing public welfare-oriented "artificial intelligence."
This includes particular projects in the following areas:
  • Developing AI-based applications to strengthen social participation as well as voluntary engagement.
  • Optimisation and expansion of people-oriented and civil society offer and services, e.g., AI-based application for counseling services.
  • Adapting existing AI-based solutions to the needs and requirements of public welfare-oriented organizations from civil society and citizens. 
  • Furthermore, AI-related research, development, and innovative approach. E.g., Big Data with a public good focus. 

For whom is this program suitable? For eligible applicants who are developing AI offerings related to the common good. However, the program is also interesting for research institutions and universities, as funding for research projects is possible.
What are the arguments against this funding? First, the application process can take time. In particular, only non-profit legal entities under private law (within the meaning of §§ 54 ff. of the German Fiscal Code) can be funded.


2. "DeepTech Future Fund (DTFF)"

Those who want to reach even higher with their AI project should take a look at the "DeepTech Future Fund" - it is primarily aimed at companies with the potential to become "unicorns". Details on the programme can be found here.

Key points:
  • The funding provider is the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK).
  • Possible grant recipients are companies and startups in the field of DeepTech with their registered office or place of business in Germany.
  • Funding is provided for an investment of up to EUR 30 million per company. The fund only invests jointly with private equity investors and mirrors their investment.

Fast-growing startups in the field of high technology (DeepTech) are supported:
  • Promising startups on their way to capital market maturity with viable business models with a longer-term development cycle and high financing requirements are supported.
  • The focus is on companies from the fields of Industry 4.0/ IoT, robotics, AI, quantum computing, blockchain, and process automation.
  • However, companies with a technology-based business model such as digital health, new energy, fintech, smart city, and selected biotech areas are also funded.

The company must have the potential to become a market leader. In addition, private investors such as evergreen funds, listed investment companies, foundations, family offices, private companies, or business angels must have a long-term investment horizon and focus on the sustainable growth of their investments.

For whom is this program suitable? For AI projects that need a considerable amount of capital and are willing to bring the state on board in addition to private investors. Here, it can also be interesting to open government channels and create government goodwill through government participation - possibly opening doors that would otherwise remain closed.

What are the arguments against this support? Government involvement can also paralyze rapid growth. Let's talk about the pros and cons.

3. "Research, development, and use of artificial intelligence methods in SMEs."

For companies in AI, this program can be exciting. Details can be found here.

Key points:
  • The funding provider is the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
  • Companies, universities, and research institutions can apply for the funding.
  • The funding is awarded in the form of a grant.

Funding is available for individual or joint projects on the following topics:
  • automated information processing,
  • digital assistants,
  • computer vision/image understanding,
  • speech and text understanding,
  • data-driven systems and data engineering, and
  • Basic issues related to intelligent systems.

In doing so, the company must work with its AI application in one of these areas:
  • Renewable Energy, Ecology,
  • Logistics, mobility and automotive,
  • production technologies, process control, and automation,
  • innovative user-oriented services, and
  • Data and ICT (information and communication technologies) economy.

You will receive funding as a grant for a period of mostly 2 to a maximum of 3 years - the maximum financing is EUR 100,000 per year.

For whom is this program suitable? For companies that are developing AI offerings.

What are the arguments against this funding? The application process can take time.

4. "Projects within the framework of the European EUREKA clusters".

If you would like to participate as a German sub-consortium in European clusters and joint calls within the framework of the EUREKA research initiative, the federal programme "Projects within the framework of the European EUREKA clusters" is relevant for you. You can find the details here.

The most important key points:
  • The funding provider is the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
  • Companies as well as educational and research institutions can apply the funding.
  • Funding is granted as a grant for a period of usually up to three years. Commercial enterprises usually receive a share of the funding amounting to 50 % of the eligible costs.
Funding is provided to German sub-consortia within the framework of bi- and multilateral European collaborative projects that conduct research primarily in two areas on the following topics and fields:
  • In the area of software innovations: e.g. artificial intelligence, software engineering as well as digitisation and software-intensive embedded systems. It should be noted that funding in the area of software innovations is only directed at the mobility, automation, health, medical technology, services, energy and environment sectors.
  • In the area of microelectronics: e.g. Electronic Design Automation (EDA), special processors for edge computing and AI as well as novel, intelligent and networked sensor technology.

The program aims to strengthen the innovation dynamics of the German industry in advanced pre-competitive research and development. This is done by supporting German partners nationally in international collaborations that generate added value for all project partners involved. 
For whom is this program suitable? For companies and educational and research institutions that carry out pre-competitive research and development work, especially in the ITEA 4 and Xecs clusters.
What are the arguments against this funding? The funding is only suitable for German sub-consortia within the framework of bi- and multilateral European collaborative projects and is subject to restrictive conditions. In addition, the application procedure can take time. In principle, the funded project results may only be commercially exploited in Germany or the EEA and Switzerland. Exceptions are only possible with the prior consent of the BMBF.

5. "Digital GreenTech - Environmental technology meets digitalisation".

For AI projects in the field of environmental technology, the programme "Digital GreenTech - Environmental Technology Meets Digitalisation" may also be of interest. Details can be found here.

The most important key points:
  • The funding provider is the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
  • Companies, educational and research institutions, municipalities, associations and public institutions can apply for funding.
  • The funding is granted as a subsidy for project-related costs. As a rule, up to 50% of these costs are financed on a pro-rata basis.

Funding is provided for individual and joint projects on solutions in environmental technology and information and communication technology in the fields of:
  • Water and environmental services,
  • geotechnologies and
  • land management.

Funding is available for the following thematic priorities:
  • Using data intelligently: Projects for the development of solutions for the use of large amounts of data from collection to evaluation.
  • Networking systems: Projects that focus on networking, cooperation and intelligent regulation of systems and can contribute to greater efficiency and resource conservation.
  • Creating autonomous systems: Projects investigating autonomous systems that can act independently and support people in numerous contexts.
  • Digital interactions: Development and application of resource-efficient environmental technologies that take into account the connection and involvement of people.

Who is this program suitable for? Especially relevant for universities or non-university institutions. Unlike commercial enterprises, they can regularly receive up to 100% of the eligible expenditure. Universities or university clinics can even receive a project lump sum of 20% in addition to the expenditure subsidy.
What are the arguments against this funding? First, in the case of commercial enterprises, an own appropriate contribution - generally at least 50% of the eligible costs incurred - is required. If this cannot be raised, funding is usually excluded.


Only a few programs could be presented here. However, there are many exciting funding programs for AI projects. Please feel free to contact us, Dennis Hillemann and Tanja Ehls. We will be happy to support you in identifying suitable programs and submitting applications.

In addition, we can also advise you with our knowledge on how AI projects could secure even better chances for funding, for example, through cooperation. So get in touch, and let's get talking.