History & Financing

The history of the joint funding programs begins in 1962 and is inextricably linked to the Foundation’s establishment the year before. The conversion of the Volkswagen automobile manufacturer into a public limited company led to 60 percent of the share capital being transferred to private ownership as so-called people’s shares; the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Lower Saxony each retained 20 percent.

The “Stiftung Volkswagenwerk”, today’s Volkswagen Foundation, was established with the proceeds from this IPO and the profit entitlements on the shares of the Federal Government and the State of Lower Saxony. The Foundation’s offices are located in Hanover. It is not a corporate foundation but an independent private charitable foundation under civil law. Its statutory purpose is to “promote science and technology in research and education”.

The Foundation’s statutes link the shares held by the state of Lower Saxony to the task of spending these funds on promoting science and education in Lower Saxony. This is based on recommendations submitted by the Ministry of Science and Culture to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, which has the final decision. The funds must always be used for additional purposes, i.e. they must in no way relieve or compensate the basic budget of the funded institution.

Following a joint strategy process between the Ministry of Science and the Volkswagen Foundation, funding for Lower Saxony’s science sector was realigned in 2023 – and the decade-long “Niedersächsisches Vorab” program has been replaced by zukunft.niedersachsen.


The Volkswagen Foundation finances the zukunft.niedersachsen funding program primarily from the annual dividend payments on the 30.2 million Volkswagen AG trust shares held by the state of Lower Saxony. In 2023, a one-off dividend of €576.3 million arising from the IPO of Porsche AG was added. This amount also finances the zukunft.niedersachsen program, and in 2023, an additional 510.5 million euros flowed into Lower Saxony’s research and science.