Information for Researchers, No. 66 | July 30, 2021

Solar-Driven Chemistry 2021/2022

International call for applications in chemistry and process engineering

International call for applications in chemistry and process engineering

Solar-driven chemistry is a network initiated by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) with an aim to conduct an international call for proposals in the field of solar-driven chemistry. After the first round in 2019/2020, this is the second solar-driven chemistry joint call. The initiative involves research funding organisations from Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Turkey.

In natural photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is converted into complex chemical compounds by using sunlight (photons) as the energy source. Solar energy is thus stored in chemical bonds. Developing technical processes for the direct conversion of solar energy into chemical compounds by means of artificial compounds, using universally available raw materials such as carbon dioxide and/or water, is a scientific and technical “grand challenge” with tremendous societal impact. Such an approach does not rely on low-carbon electricity from traditional or renewable energy sources, as the photons arriving at the earth are directly used for (photo-)chemical processes, and no intermediate storage or transfer of electricity is needed.

Although the topic is not new and feasibility of several solar-driven chemical approaches has been demonstrated on a laboratory scale, this is still a visionary goal where many fundamental scientific questions have to be answered before it can be implemented on a meaningful technical scale along the value chain. Non-exclusive examples of associated fundamental research for the photochemical conversion of small molecules into valuable products are: development and improvement of methods and materials for light harvesting and stable (photo-)catalysts, both based on commonly available raw materials, development of analytical, theoretical and computational tools to understand the thermodynamics and to predict the reactivity of such materials, understanding of energy transfer and conversion processes in de novo designed man-made organic and inorganic materials, etc.

Subject of this call for proposals is fundamental research in all sub-areas relevant to the photochemical transformation of small, abundant molecules, such as carbon dioxide, water or nitrogen, into more valuable, storable chemicals by means of solar radiation. Focus of the proposals should be on the photochemical processes (reactions) and on solving fundamental problems. Typical (but not exclusive) examples include preparative, physicochemical, analytical and theoretical work (always related to the general call topic) on:

  • research on light-converting/harvesting and charge separation issues, catalytic, electrode, membrane, etc. materials
  • materials science and development (including high-throughput computing, “materials by design” approaches, advanced characterisation and in situ / operando measurements methodologies) to address performance, stability and sustainability, as long as they are used for the photochemical conversion of small molecules
  • investigating fundamental mechanisms of catalysis, including bio-inspired, enzymatic, molecular and inorganic catalysis (understand, design and benchmark selective, fast, energy-efficient, stable and O2/poison-tolerant catalysts) and light harvesting, if focus is on photochemical conversion of small molecules
  • heterogeneous photoelectrochemistry/photocatalysis (including surface-confined molecular systems)
  • photo-(electro-)catalytic water splitting
  • photochemical or photoelectrochemical CO2 reduction (including combined CO2 capture and conversion for instance)
  • development of new photoactive systems, if related to the general call topic
  • reaction engineering, engineering of photoreactors and related multiscale-multiphysics approaches
  • molecular model systems capable of direct conversion, e.g. for mechanistic studies
  • photocatalytic conversion of organic substrates using O2, H2O and CO2 without sacrificial electron donor/acceptor

The following topics are excluded from the call:

  • genetic engineering of plants for this purpose
  • conversion by living organisms
  • biomass conversion
  • improvement or scale-up of known technologies, such as Fischer-Tropsch, methanol, hydrogen or syngas technologies, water electrolysis, etc., unless completely new catalysts are being developed
  • optimisation of established (photo-)catalytic systems
  • standard photocatalytic reactions (e.g., catalytic reactions using UV radiation)
  • thermal processes driven by solar energy (e.g. by concentrating solar power technologies etc.)
  • CO2 concentration and storage

Researchers who are eligible to apply for financial support from any of the participating funding organisations are cordially invited to apply jointly within the subject of this call. A list of the respective organisations including contact details is given below. Joint proposals can be submitted by at least two and up to four partners eligible to funding organisations from at least two and up to four different countries participating in this call; special rules may apply for certain combinations, please check the “call websites” of the respective participating organisations below for further information.

Consortia that already received funding in the first call 2019/2020 are not eligible to apply for a second funding period. Changing the consortium by adding or substituting at least one of the principle investigators, leading to a significant topical change of the proposal is mandatory. Proposals that did not receive funding in the first call 2019/2020 can be re-submitted, if revised.

Each applicant is only allowed to participate in one application within this call.
The projects must comprise novel and ambitious ideas in the subject area of this call. The scientific level of the projects should be high in international comparison. Although the scientific quality of the proposals is the decisive criterion, joint projects must also demonstrate a clear added value to the applicants’ cooperation over and above what could be achieved individually.

There will be a two-stage submission and evaluation procedure involving pre-proposals and full proposals. The DFG acts as Call Secretariat, therefore all pre-proposals and full proposals must be submitted to DFG’s “elan” submission system. All pre-proposals must be submitted no later than Friday, 29 October 2021 (23:59 CET). Please note that all applicants need to be registered in the “elan” system. The confirmation of the registration takes about three working days; please register on Monday, 25 October 2021 the latest!

Successful applicants from the pre-proposal stage will be invited approximately early February 2022 to submit their full proposals no later than 2 May 2022.

In the full proposal phase, each applicant may request funding for individual grants according to national rules and national general conditions; for further details see the respective “call websites” below. Joint projects will be funded up to three years (either 24 or 36 month) starting not later than beginning of 2023. A template and list of required documents will be provided to the pre-proposals invited to participate to the second stage.

The evaluation criteria are as follows:

  • scientific background: CV, track record, quality of publications and capability for independent scientific work of all applicants in relation to their scientific age
  • research proposal: added value of cooperation, originality and novelty of the idea, innovative value and scientific impact of research subject
  • feasibility of the project: feasibility of the work plan, risk involved, choice of methods, tools, instrumentation, capability of the applicant’s institutions to provide scientific infrastructure for their proposed research

The review process for both stages will be conducted by a review panel consisting of international experts.

Special rules for German applicants:
This initiative covers the subject areas of DFG review boards/Fachkollegien 321–327.

As DFG offers already the possibility for bilateral proposals with some of the partners, interested applicants are referred to the respective bilateral submission possibilities. See details for the French-German annual calls, Polish-German and Swiss-German permanent submission opportunities below. These bilateral combinations are not eligible to apply within this call. Bilateral Finnish-German or Turkish-German proposals and any trilateral or quadrilateral proposals with German participation are allowed within this call.

The usual eligibility regulations for DFG programmes for individual funding apply. This includes the duty to cooperate (“Kooperationspflicht”) within Germany for members of non-university institutions with permanent positions. In doubt, researchers are strongly encouraged to contact the German contact point.

Further Information

Information on the submission of pre-proposals and the budget form can be found here:

Full calltext including all national instructions:

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG’s Data protection notice on research funding:

Please note the DFG’s data protection notice on research funding, which can be viewed and downloaded at:

If necessary, please also forward this information to those individuals whose data will be processed by the DFG due to their involvement in your project.

Details on the bilateral combinations:

Participating organisations, contact persons and call websites:

Finland: Suomen Akatemia (AF)

France: Agence National de la Recherche (ANR)

Germany: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft e.V. (DFG)

Poland: Narodowe Centrum Nauki (NCN)

Switzerland: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)


For questions relating to the online application system:

  • Call Secretariat: DFG, Germany

Proposal submission:

General questions: