International project funding


General questions about eligibility and the scope of funding

Is our project proposal eligible for DBU funding?

We fund international projects with the goal of developing solutions that will positively impact the environment, ecology, and sustainability in an innovative, exemplary, and economically feasible way. Taking ecological sustainability as a starting point, it is important to us that these projects also generate added value for society in order to improve upon to the current situation. The main areas of focus of the DBU’s international funding are countries in Central and (South) Eastern Europe (CEE). Funding for international projects outside of CEE is also possible on a case-by-case basis. You can find more information on our funding criteria on our website.

Who is eligible to receive funding?

As a rule, funding is granted to legal entities – e.g. small and medium-sized enterprises, organisations, associations, regional authorities, scientific institutions and universities. Private individuals and state institutions may also receive funding in exceptional cases after undergoing additional review. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be given special consideration. One area of focus is funding cooperation projects in which a German applicant works together with international partners in their respective country or countries.

How can I find out if I have a good chance of receiving DBU funding?

For starters, we recommend reviewing the information about project funding on our website. We also recommend reviewing the DBU Funding Guidelines (in particular the “Procedural provisions” section), because these guidelines define the legal framework of the funding.
The next step is then to upload a project outline as part of our online application process. Once we receive the project outline, we will begin processing your request. A DBU employee will contact you should we have any questions.
The DBU contact persons will be happy to offer you an initial consultation before you submit your project proposal online. Please note that this initial consultation does not include an expert assessment of the content of your project proposal.

How much funding is available?

The amount of funding is reviewed and determined individually. The typical funding amount per project (excluding own contribution) is between €100,000 and €120,000. Projects with higher funding volumes are possible.

Can overhead be included?

Expenditure-based funding (up to 100% funding quota): no. Please see also the Info sheet expenditure-based funding.
Cost-based funding (generally 50% funding quota): possible. Please see also the Info sheet cost-based funding and the FAQ 6 under section „Questions about funding quotas, personal contributions and overhead costs“.

What obligations are associated with receiving DBU funding?

By accepting DBU funding, the funding recipient is obligated to comply with the DBU Funding Guidelines, to focus their efforts on the project in accordance with their funding application or the plans that they have submitted, and to inform the DBU immediately in the event of:
– interruption or termination of the project;
– the threat of insolvency or bankruptcy;
– circumstances that jeopardise the successful implementation of the project;
– circumstances that make it impossible to achieve the ecological or sustainable impact of the project;
– receipt of relevant funding from another source.
The DBU Funding Guidelines must be observed.

Questions about funding quotas, personal contributions and overhead costs

Is the funding subject to EU state aid laws?

Project funding granted by the German Federal Environmental Foundation falls under the state aid laws of the EU. The Funding Guidelines have been notified by the European Commission. In practice, the classification of the funding as state aid means that the eligibility of project proposals must first be evaluated on the basis of European state aid law. The funding conditions for projects with project partners outside of the EU will be agreed upon individually with the DBU. Further information you’ll find in the Info sheet EU state aid law.

What is the funding quota? What is the own contribution?

The funding quota is the share of the total project costs eligible for DBU funding that can actually be charged to the DBU. It is expressed as a percentage. The own contribution is the difference between the total project costs and the proportional funding made available by the DBU. This amount is determined based on the total costs, including the own contribution. The recipient must demonstrate that all funds have actually been used as specified. The DBU will then disburse the percentage corresponding to the funding quota.

Do I need to make an own contribution to cover the project costs?

As a rule, projects funded by the DBU include an own contribution. Proof of this contribution must be furnished to the DBU accordingly, please see Info sheet cost-based funding.
Exceptions to this rule apply in the case of application for expenditure-based funding by public universities in Germany or suitable scientific institutions, please see Info sheet expenditure-based funding.
Another exception is the funding of “de minimis state aid” as defined in Commission Regulation (EU) No 1407/2013, please see Info sheet EU state aid law.
Should you have any questions regarding project partners located outside of Germany, please get in touch with the DBU contact person responsible for this matter.

What funds can be used to co-finance the project?

The project can be co-financed using the applicant’s own funds and, to a reasonable extent, in the form of volunteer work. Furthermore, co-financing in the form of EU funds and state funds as well as financing from additional sponsors or donations is possible. Generally, funding from the German federal government should not be involved in co-financing the project.

How much is the own contribution?

The amount of the personal contribution can vary based on the project as well as for each partner involved in the project. The following applies within the EU: As a rule, a personal contribution of at least 50% can be assumed.
• Project partners who are entitled to calculate their project costs on an expenditure basis, please see Info sheet expenditure-based funding;
• De minimis state aid as defined in Commission Regulation (EU) No 1407/2013, please see Info sheet EU state aid law.

Usually, companies are responsible for an own contribution of 75% of the development-related project costs and 50% of the research-related project costs. Supplemental funds that reduce the amount of the own contribution are possible for small and medium-sized enterprises and for cooperative projects.
Determining the upper limit for the funding permitted in accordance with EU state aid laws, on the basis of which the minimum amount of the personal contribution is calculated, may be complex. Your DBU contact person is happy to advise you.
For project partners outside of the EU, the required own contributions will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Insofar as is legally permissible, they will be calculated based on the stipulations described above.

When can I submit project-related indirect costs?

Project-related indirect costs can be submitted if employer contributions for social benefits (social security, health insurance, etc.) are incurred or if existing infrastructure that must be maintained by the funding recipient(s) is to be used to carry out the project (workplace costs including IT and building management costs, etc.). In these cases, a lump sum of up to 45% of the gross salaries that are to be paid out as part of the project and of the material overhead costs in a limited scope may be claimed. The lump sum is based on the prevailing national standards. For further possibilities, please refer to the information provided in the Info sheet cost-based funding. Any additional overhead costs submitted will not be covered.

Is it possible to obtain funding from multiple sources?

Basically: no. However, exceptions are possible, e.g. for the co-financing of your own contribution by third parties. Please contact your DBU contact person if you have any questions.

Is the funding a loan?

The funding is not a loan. Funding is disbursed in the form of an earmarked, non-refundable grant. The recipient must provide the DBU with proof of use of the overall project costs.

Questions about deadlines and paperwork

Is there a deadline for submissions?

Applications can be submitted at any time. However, we recommend submitting your application as early as possible. It takes several months for us to process applications and there is a great deal of competition for the funding.

How long will it take for the DBU to process my application?

This depends on the quality of the submitted project outline or full proposal as well as the amount of funding requested. If all the necessary data is complete and the content of the application is excellent, you can expect a processing time of approximately four to six months. In the case of necessary queries, it will take correspondingly longer. If additional expert opinions are necessary for the evaluation, the processing time is usually longer as well.

What is the maximum project duration?

On average, project durations are generally between 18 and 36 months. Projects lasting longer than 36 months are unusual and will only be considered eligible for DBU funding in exceptional, justified cases.

How long should my application be?

The most successful applications are rarely longer than 20 pages. A project draft should not be longer than 10 pages. As a rule: as long as necessary, as brief as possible. You’ll find a tool for drawing up a project outline here.

When can the project start?

Unless an earlier start date has been approved, the project will begin on the date of approval. That means the date on which the funding was granted is the effective date as of which project costs can be incurred and claimed. An earlier date for the start of the project can be determined with approval from the DBU. However, as a rule, the project funds must be used, at least in part, within 12 months of project approval (which, in turn, requires a project start), otherwise the funding will lapse.

What language should I use to communicate with the DBU?

You can communicate with the DBU in English or German. Applications and reports may also be submitted in either language.

How do I submit my project draft/application?

Project drafts can be uploaded as part of our online application process. Please include the words “international project” along with the title of your project.
A DBU employee will contact you should we have any questions. The corresponding DBU contact persons will be happy to offer you an initial consultation before you submit your project draft online. Please note that this initial consultation does not include an expert assessment of the content of your project proposal.

Can different content be presented in tables? Are charts/mind maps allowed to demonstrate complex content when submitting the project outline/application?

When you submit your proposal and full application tables and/or mind maps can be attached in order to present the project goals and solution approach more precisely and comprehensively as well as to differentiate your project idea more clearly from the state of the art.

Questions about project partners

What role will the German partner take on?

The German partner is the applicant and is responsible to the DBU for the progress and the results of the project. Generally, the German partner will also be responsible for communication (reports, PR work in Germany, proof of use, etc.)

Can an international partner also be an applicant?

In rare exceptions, this is possible upon consultation with the DBU Branch Office if the DBU is familiar with the potential applicant and if the content and financial aspects are guaranteed to run smoothly.

Should I submit a joint application?

Yes, a single, joint application must be submitted for cooperation projects. Each individual project partner must create their own budget. The individual budgets will be added to the application in addition to a joint cost overview. The (German) funding recipient will be responsible to the DBU for the project (see above).

Do you recommend a cooperation agreement?

Yes. A cooperation agreement with the most important information about the joint project (e.g. schedule for progress reports/the final report and proof of use documentation) is always helpful. Generally, the project partners conclude a detailed cooperation agreement after receiving the funding approval. The willingness of all involved project partners to enter into a cooperation agreement should be declared in the funding application. You’ll find a boilerplate text to draft a cooperation contract here.