FAQ: Trilateral transfer projects

The following answers to frequently asked questions about the trilateral transfer projects are intended to help applicants prepare their proposals. They explain individual points in the DFG’s guidelines and other programme information.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. (Fraunhofer Society for the Promotion of Applied Research) issue an annual call for proposals.

Trilateral transfer projects must directly follow on from and relate to the previous project and can be submitted either during the course of the original project or after it has been completed. As a rule, the DFG predecessor project must not have been completed more than two years previously.

Researchers at HEIs and Fraunhofer institutes can submit joint proposals for trilateral knowledge transfer projects with application partners.

As a rule, the expectation is that those submitting the proposal to the DFG were or are also the funding recipients for the predecessor project and that this funding was approved for the HEI in question.

Collaborations under this call for proposals are excluded if they are intended to take place between researchers at the HEI and a Fraunhofer institute at which they are also employed or with which they are associated. This also includes constellations involving “deputy applicants” at their own institute.

A trilateral knowledge transfer project must build on the results of a DFG-funded research project which received funding in the form of an Individual Grant or else as a coordinated programme such as a Priority Programme, Research Unit or Collaborative Research Centre, and where the technology readiness level is at least TRL 4 (technology validated in lab).

Results from Research Training Groups, fellowships or projects to establish international cooperation, etc. cannot serve as a basis for transfer projects.

Nor can a transfer project build on a transfer project that is already in receipt of funding.

Funding can be requested to cover personnel and material costs.

On the DFG side, the funding categories must be applied for in accordance with the funding procedure for the individual grants. The funds for the individual project at the HEI are usually provided by the DFG as third-party funding. Accounting is carried out according to the third-party funding procedure. The current funding guidelines apply (DFG form 2.00).

The costs of the participating Fraunhofer institutes are financed 100 % by the Fraunhofer Society.

  • Application partners can be companies based in Germany or in the EU.
  • Companies based outside the EU can only be considered as application partners if a subsidiary exists as a separate legal entity (GmbH, etc.) that is based in Germany.

Trilateral transfer projects are collaborative projects to which both the scientific partner and the application partner contribute. The contribution of the application partner documents the importance of the expected results for the application side. For this reason, participation is expected that adequately reflects this importance.

The core of a transfer project is therefore the collaborative work programme that is jointly pursued with the application partner. In order for the reviewers to be able to assess whether the application partner’s own contribution will be sufficient, in particular in terms of expertise and personnel, this must be set out in the work programme. It must be clear from the work programme how many working hours are assigned to the application partner for the various work packages and what specific tasks are to be undertaken. The contribution in terms of expertise/staff can also be supplemented with direct project funding or instrumentation funds.

As a rule, only one application partner should be involved. In well justified exceptional cases, up to three application partners may be involved if this is necessary for the processing of the trilateral transfer project.

The rights and obligations of the three partners as well as the exploitation and marketing of the results are to be governed by a trilateral cooperation agreement in compliance with competition law regulations. The existing model agreements are to be used in connection with trilateral transfer projects.

The trilateral cooperation agreement signed by all partners must be submitted together with the full proposal.

Work on a trilateral transfer project is limited to the pre-competitive area. Under this funding option, development is possible up to the maximum level of a demonstrator or prototype (corresponding to TRL 6 or TRL 7).

Proposals can be submitted for trilateral transfer projects for a maximum duration of three years. Renewal proposals are not admitted.

Yes, as a rule this is possible, providing employees at the new institution are generally eligible to apply to the DFG. It should be noted here that the cooperation agreement is concluded between the Fraunhofer Society, the application partner and the previous HEI or research institution. For this reason, project funds for the transfer project can only be reallocated if a supplement or addendum to the existing cooperation agreement is submitted regulating the rights and obligations between the previous and new HEI or research institution, Fraunhofer and the application partner.

In such an event, please inform us immediately so that we can explore the remaining options with Fraunhofer and you.

Further information

DFG funding programmes:

General questions

Christiane Mohren
E-mail: erkenntnistransfer@dfg.de