Sapere Aude: DFF–Starting Grant in Denmark

In order to promote the education of researchers and strengthen internationalisation, the Independent Research Fund Denmark offers the instrument Sapere Aude (meaning "dare to know"). The objective of the initiative is to develop the qualifications and competencies of the best research talents, both nationally and internationally. Sapere Aude is aimed at Danish as well as non-Danish researchers.

The objective of the Sapere Aude: DFF–Starting Grant is to give excellent researchers, i.e. researchers who have achieved outstanding research results in their field, an opportunity to develop and strengthen their research ideas. The instrument also aims at promoting the mobility internationally as well as nationally among research environments, and thereby to strengthen the researchers’ networks and careers. Starting Grants are targeted at top researchers who intend to gather a group of researchers and/or research students, in order to carry out a research project at a high, international level. The Sapere Aude DFF–Starting Grant also strengthens the possibility for excellent younger researchers to return to a Danish research institution after a research stay abroad.

Applicant requirements

Sapere Aude: DFF–Starting Grant is aimed at younger, very talented researchers, who at the time of the application deadline and within the last eight years have obtained their PhD or achieved equivalent qualifications (e.g. a positive assistant professorship evaluation "adjunktbedømmelse"), and who have demonstrated ability to carry out original research at a high, international level. The date on which you were awarded the degree of PhD, as stated on the PhD diploma will be used to calculate the age of your degree. Alternatively, if this date is not stated, the date of issue of the diploma will be used.

Leaves of absence, such as maternity/parental leave, illness or family care leave, leave for military service, humanitarian aid work, etc. will be taken into account. For applicants who have been on maternity or paternity leave after obtaining their PhD, the fund will allow for an extended period of time since the degree was obtained. The extended period is calculated by multiplying the actual number of leave weeks by factor 2. The exact period of the maternity/paternity leave, with start date and end date, must be stated in the applicant’s CV. In addition to this, special scientific/academic circumstances may be taken into account. Examples include clinical stays or similar activities which may be considered a necessary step in a career path, but where the time for research has been very limited.

IRFD expects a Sapere Aude: DFF–Starting Grant will help enabling the applicant to apply for an ERC Starting Grant/Consolidator Grant/Advanced Grant, or corresponding international programmes.

The application

You can apply for a DFF–Starting Grant for of up to 4 years’ duration and a maximum amount of DKK 4,100,000, excluding overhead. In connection with your application, the fund considers it important that you have made plans for participating in international research activities, when relevant. Please describe the international activities planned in your application. It may be in the form of research stays abroad, collaboration with foreign research groups, hosting or participating in international conferences, invitation of foreign visiting researchers, etc.

To facilitate external review of applications, the project description, CV and list of publications must be written in English.

Project description

The length of your project description must not exceed 7 A4 pages, and it must be drawn up using the IRFD– Project Description template, in accordance with the guidelines in section.

Funding for PhD and postdoctoral scholarships may be included in the application, if they have a clear function within, and form an integral part of the research project. Postdoctoral candidates must have obtained their PhD or achieved equivalent qualifications (e.g. a positive assistant professorship evaluation "adjunktbedømmelse") within the last four years at the time of the application deadline.

Periods of leave of absence will be deducted from the PhD age.

Funding towards the education of PhD candidates is granted under the provision that the PhD candidates in question are enrolled in a PhD programme.

When applying for PhD scholarships, the ratio between the respective work efforts of senior researcher(s) and student(s) in the project must be adequately balanced, so that all participants listed have a concrete role in the project work.

You must account for the intended recruitment process, if you apply for support for unnamed postdocs.


To read about the requirements for your budget, and for a description of what you may apply for, see Appendix C.

Application form and appendices

The application form contains a number of fields to be filled in before you submit your application. For example your application must contain a popularised science description (in Danish) of your project. Therefore you are advised to register your application in e-grant in due time before the application deadline and to make yourself familiar with the content of the application form.

You must submit your application via e-grant and enclose the following appendices in PDF format:

  • Project description, using the IRFD–Project Description template and references/bibliography. The project description must be maximum 7 A4 pages (including figures and tables) excluding references/bibliography.
  • Applicant's CV-please note that the precise date and year for obtaining your PhD must be stated in the relevant field of the e-grant form
  • List of publications for applicant
  • PhD diploma of the applicant, or alternatively, documentation that qualifications equivalent to PhD level qualifications have been achieved in another way
  • If the entire project, or significant parts of it, has a host institution (actual place where the research activities will be carried out) which differs from the institution administering the grant, a written statement from the host institution must be included. The statement must confirm that the activities can take place at the host institution and include a brief description of the collaboration and the main activities planned
  • The employing institution’s confirmation of the budget and acknowledgement that it will host the project, using the template “IRFD–budget confirmation”.

The budget must be completed using the fund’s mandatory budget template in Excel format. The budget must be uploaded to e-grant as an independent file (not merged with the application form). Any confirmed economic contribution(s) from other sources, must be included in the budget.

If relevant, you may also enclose the following additional appendices:

  • CVs and lists of publications for other scientific participants central to the project
  • If PhD scholarships are applied for with named candidates in mind, the following appendices must be enclosed: academic transcript/diploma, CV and, if relevant, a list of publications for the candidates
  • If postdoctoral scholarships are applied for with named candidates in mind, the following appendices must be enclosed: CV, list of publications and PhD diploma. Alternatively, the following documentation must be provided:
    • a) acceptance of the thesis for defence,
    • b) a positive assistant professorship evaluation (“adjunktbedømmelse”),
    • c) qualifications equivalent to PhD level qualifications achieved in another way, or
    • d) a declaration from the supervisor stating the expected date of submission of the thesis within 6 months after the application deadline (PhD students).

If you apply to IRFD | Humanities, you must also enclose the candidate’s PhD evaluation. If the candidate does not receive a PhD evaluation, a brief summary of the thesis (1-2 A4 pages) must be enclosed.

  • If the project involves collaboration with foreign partners, private enterprises or other beneficiaries of the research results, statements from such parties confirming the collaboration may be enclosed (maximum one page each).
  • Documentation for the purchase of equipment in excess of DKK 500,000, excluding overhead, e.g. in the form of a quote
  • Documentation for applicant's and any named participants' salary levels
  • Documentation for expenses in connection with sub-contracts
  • De minimis declarations.

Other appendices than those listed above will not be considered.

Processing procedure

The processing of applications for Sapere Aude: DFF–Starting Grants has 3 stages:

  • Shortly after the application deadline the research councils will assess all applications to determine which applications should go through to the second round, which includes external review. The assessment is based on the criteria listed below. If your application is not selected for the second round, you will, as soon as possible after the council’s decision, receive a rejection letter.
  • In the second stage of evaluation each application will, to the extent possible, be submitted for external review. Subsequently, the respective research councils will assess the applications, including the external reviews and any statements from applicants in response to such reviews in their deliberations. The best applications are then selected for final review by a cross-council board.
  • The final stage of the evaluation process is carried out in a cross-council board, consisting of two members from each of the five research councils. As part of the board’s assessment procedure, the applicant will be invited for an interview in week 45 in 2018.

Your project must start between 1 January, 2019 and 1 December, 2019.

The fund’s assessment and assessment criteria

In all cases, IRFD will consider the extent to which the project you apply for will benefit Danish research. When assessing applications IRFD includes the criteria mentioned below, with quality of the project and applicant's qualifications being the most central assessment criteria.

IRFD places emphasis on fulfilment of the specific criteria to the widest possible extent. However, as the individual research councils make a specific overall assessment of each application, different criteria can be met to a greater or lesser extent. Thus, not all criteria will be relevant to all applications. Due to the level of competition between the applications, fulfilling all criteria does not automatically mean that a grant will be awarded.

IRFD will apply the following assessment criteria in relation to the instruments in this call:

Fulfilment of the instrument’s objective:

  • Is the objective of the instrument sufficiently met?

Scientific quality:

  • Does the project description demonstrate the project’s potential for scientific progress, innovation and originality (theoreticallly, methodologically and empirically)?
  • Does the project represent innovative research rather than just being an expansion of current research?
  • Does the project description make it probable that the project contributes to the internationalisation of Danish research?
  • Does the project description contain:
    • a clear and well-defined problem statement and objective?
    • a description of the state of the art and/or the scientific challenges within the project’s research area, as well as of the project’s potential contributions in this regard?
    • consistent and appropriate hypotheses?
    • a description of the theoretical and/or methodological basis, including an argumentation that the proposed activities are relevant in relation to this theoretical/methodological basis?
  • If relevant to the project: Does the project description provide argumentation for the connection between the project’s hypothesis, theory and method?
  • If relevant to the project: Is there an adequate description of the project’s empirical material or data foundation, including any pilot projects and/or any preliminary data?
  • If relevant: Is there an adequate level of synergy between the individual elements of the project?
  • For applications to IRFD | Technology and Production Sciences, the following special criterion also applies: Does the project set out to solve a concrete problem, or does it have a clear application-oriented perspective?

Applicants’ qualifications:

  • As applicant, have you documented:
    • the scientific qualifications necessary for carrying out the project?
    • a level of scientific production within the field that is necessary for carrying out the project?
    • sufficient research management qualifications for carrying out the project?
  • Have the other key participants in the project documented the necessary scientific qualifications for carrying out the project?
  • Does the project involve the participation of relevant researchers from Denmark and abroad, and if relevant, is there an adequate level of collaboration with business partners?
  • Is there a strategy for the organisation and management of the project, including an account of the distribution of work between the involved researchers?
  • Are any PhD and postdoc scholarships well integrated, and do they fulfil a clear function in the project?


  • Have sufficient resources been allocated to the project, including scientific resources, staffing and access to the necessary facilities and equipment?
  • Is there a realistic work schedule and timetable, which considers e.g. the recruitment of any unnamed participants and the dissemination of the project’s findings?
  • Does the project description account for project milestones and success criteria, and are they realistic?
  • Are the project’s expenses proportionate to the anticipated scientific results?
  • Are the proposed activities proportionate to the proposed budget? In this connection, is there a proper coherence between what is to be financed by the grant, when the funds will be used and the tasks and persons to be financed by the grant?
  • If relevant, are any ethical aspects adequately examined?

Publication and dissemination of results:

Does the application provide an adequate account of the overall considerations with regard to the publication/dissemination/patenting of research results?

If relevant: Does the application account for the probability of and plans for obtaining patents in connection with the proposed project?


  • Will the activities benefit Danish research?
  • Does the project/activity include research education to a relevant extent?
  • Does the project/activity contribute to improving the mobility of researchers, nationally/internationally and – if relevant – between research institutions and the business community?

A few specific assessment criteria only apply to specific councils/instruments. Please consult the respective sections in the call.

Application date
10 Apr 2018
Up to 4 years
Europe Denmark
Humanities Anthropology, Ethnology and Folklore Archaeology Architecture Art & Art History Classical Studies Digital Humanities History History & Philosophy of Science Linguistics Literature Media Studies Music & Musicology Philosophy Religion & Theology Social sciences Business and Administrative Sciences Communication Sciences Demography Economics Environmental Sciences Gender Studies Geography International Relations Law Pedagogic & Education Research Political science Psychology & Cognitive Sciences Social Anthropology Sociology Other Agronomy Biology Chemistry Computer science Engineering Mathematics Medicine Physics
Required post-doc experience: 
between 0 and 8 years
Grants available
Award granted
DKK 4.100.000