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The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has added a new programme to its portfolio called #ConnectingMinds, which is designed to encourage researchers to include non-academic stakeholders. Funding is offered to teams that combine scientific and societal knowledge and thereby attempt to meet social, technological, ecological, and economic challenges.

In order to ensure prosperity, peace, and a healthy environment for future generations, life and the way we manage the economy must change. The knowledge needed to accomplish this, however, can no longer be provided solely by science. Meeting these challenges requires, in part, new approaches to research and solving problems. When the knowledge from laboratories and research institutions is combined, for instance, with the know-how from communities, companies, and schools to co-produce new knowledge, this leads in the end to more robust social, ecological, and economic solutions. Transdisciplinary researchers deliberately seek out this exchange of knowledge in order to actively shape social transformations and stimulate technical and social innovations.

Practitioners help develop projects

In the first call for proposals of #ConnectingMinds—which is open to all topics ranging from  digitalisation to nursing care to climate protection to democracy - €4 million is available to researchers at universities and research institutions for projects in which researchers initiate and implement a research process together with people from other different societal organisations. What makes this programme special is that practitioners are involved in developing the research questions and the aims of the project right from the beginning. Their experiences, views, and suggestions increase the relevance to society and the knowledge gained from the project. These practical stakeholders can include, for example, representatives from NPO/NGOs, associations, public administrations, companies, and health or educational institutions.

Financed with funding from the Austrian Council for Research and Technology Development

The #ConnectingMinds programme expands the transdisciplinary component of the FWF portfolio. The aim is to support the common search for answers to complex contemporary issues and to promote social commitment and collective learning. The commercial exploitation of the research results is not an objective of the program during the project duration and therefore the exploitation strategies are not part of the funding. The pilot programme is financed by the Austrian Council for Research and Technology Development and being developed together with other funding organisations - headed by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

In the first stage of the call (spring 2020), funding can be requested for project-specific workshops. These serve as a preliminary step and prerequisite for submitting a full application in autumn 2020.

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