2020 Research Grants

Stimulating innovative research

In 2020, we offer a series of research grants to stimulate innovative research in challenging areas of future importance. Grants of 100,000 EUR - 500,000 EUR per year for up to 3 years are available in the areas of 

  • Drug discovery 
  • Bioreactor design for cultured meat
  • Next generation machine learning
  • Pandemic preparedness / fighting new emerging viral infectious disease

About the 2020 research grants

The research grants program is open to scientists in all career stages who are affiliated with any research-based institution, university or company. Applicants submit their application for the focus topics containing non-confidential information only. You may apply for more than one focus topic. If your application is successful, you are invited to submit a full proposal and join a deep-dive workshop with the other finalists. All applicants will be informed about the decision of the selection committee at the beginning of October. 

Submissions are now closed. Submissions deadline is 31 August 2020. 

Deep dive Workshops

The deep-dive workshops take place November 3rd- 5th, 2020. Due to the current traveling restrictions, this will take place in an online format. Finalists will work together with our managers and scientists to jointly optimize submitted project proposals. The culmination online deep-dives will be the selection of the research grant winners.


What is the next game-changing molecule or technology to help cure cancer or autoimmune disease? Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is offering research grants for proposals that have the potential to advance the field of drug discovery within Oncology and Autoimmune Diseases. Proposals will be considered a) that help to identify and characterize the next game-changing molecule or technology to help cure cancer or autoimmune disease. b) innovative research on molecular targets or pathophysiological pathways with untapped potential to be the next big therapeutic breakthrough. c) new breakthrough enabling technologies for drug discovery. d) methods that improve translation from and predictivity of preclinical models to the clinical situation.

The industry relies heavily on technologies that have been developed for the biopharma industry. However, the scale and cost requirements for the two industries are vastly different. Proposals will be considered that help to develop the next generation, scalable bioreactors that can support industrial scale meat and seafood manufacturing. Reimagine existing technologies to fit the performance efficiency, cost and sustainability requirements. Innovate on aspects of the system from fabrication of scaffolds to operation strategy and perfusion dynamics, automation intelligence and harvesting.

Artificial neural networks are inspired by biological brains, but their conceptual foundations are quite old: they were modeled after the brain’s anatomy in the 1950s and 1960s – according to the understanding at that time. Fundamental limitations remain, in particular, the need for large amounts of training data and the difficulties in generalizing and extrapolating between domains. A deeper mathematical understanding of cognitive processes like auditory or visual perception may trigger progress both in neuroscience and in artificial intelligence. Project proposals will be considered that seek to overcome current limitations in AI by a new generation of algorithms, inspired by today’s neurosciences and by advances in brain research.

The threat from newly emerging viral infections is one of the top global challenges for humanity. The recent COVID-19 pandemic shows that pandemic preparedness and having the right products and technology to fight infectious diseases with epidemic and pandemic potential is of utmost importance. It is required to act quickly to limit further substantial damages to society, economy and ecology. Project proposals will be considered that leverage modern technologies to create new breakthrough solutions to be more prepared for pandemic outbreaks or work towards existing solutions that could help to fight emerging viral infections.

Learn more