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CHALLENGE PROGRAMME 2025 – The NNF grand AI Challenge

Call opens
9 April 2024
Call closes
9 October 2024 2:00pm (CEST)
Announcement of results
Stage 1: December 2024 Stage 2: June 2025
Application guidelines Send application


The purpose of the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Challenge Programme is to make a substantial contribution to the development of Danish research ecosystems within strategically relevant research areas. The aim is to give leading researchers the opportunity to assemble a strong team that can collaborate in a centre-like structure with a unifying vision and mission to develop solutions to major challenges. The Programme provides long-term funding to enable scientific depth and focus and facilitate synergy between the research partners.

Research Theme 2025

The programme is a strategic effort targeting specific challenges within annually selected research themes. For the 2025 application call, the Challenge Programme is seeking to support the following research theme:

  • The NNF grand AI Challenge

The Challenge is to develop and deploy AI which can be transformative in addressing some of the most critical global challenges impacting society in healthcare, sustainability, and the life sciences.

The Grand AI Challenge focuses on developing and deploying large-scale AI models, targeting key challenges within health or sustainability. Within health, this includes (but is not limited to) health care, drug discovery, protein design, or seeking a deeper understanding of cardiometabolic and infectious diseases. Within sustainability, this includes (but is not limited to) driving the green transition through AI, development of climate models, mapping out sustainable futures, optimizing resource use and discovering novel materials for energy solutions. Research may also be aimed at developing or using AI to accelerate advancements in cybersecurity, quantum technology, and AI research itself.

This highly interdisciplinary Challenge bridges synergistic collaboration between innovative AI experts and domain experts in fields such as medicine, physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, life sciences, or climate research. The successful research plan should offer a solid basis for the planned model’s relevance and computational resource requirements while also ensuring the availability of necessary data to support the project. Applicants are encouraged to focus on the limitations related to the representation models used, hereunder considering the risk of bias related, e.g., to gender, ethnicity, and associated conditions. It will be a requirement that the research and associated outputs are transparent, human-centric, and compliant with relevant ethical considerations. This programme is distinct from other NNF activities focused on AI as it allows for ambitious, large-scale AI research endeavours, potentially benefitting from the AI dedicated processing power provided by Denmark’s new supercomputerGefion”, a large-scale NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD powered by NVIDIA H100 Tensor Core GPUs which is anticipated to be fully operational from beginning of 2025.

Supported research may include but is not limited to: 

  • AI for Earth’s Future: To predict climate patterns and propose optimal resource distribution, minimise waste, and mitigate environmental threats before they escalate.
  • AI for the green transition: To aid efficient discovery of new catalytic- and energy materials (storage and conversion) guided by AI-based models.
  • AI for improved healthcare: To develop new AI methods for robust, bias-free and explainable improved healthcare.
  • Multimodal data integration and GenAI: To accelerate drug discovery and personalised healthcare.
  • AI for improved vaccines and antibiotics: To formulate predictive models of the human immune system and pathogen evolution.

Development of explainable and trustworthy AI: To progress new AI technology, as well as AI-based methods for improving uncertainty metrics, privacy preservation, and robustness against adversarial perturbations.


The Challenge Programme supports excellent research leaders from 2-4 research groups (main applicant plus 1-3 co-applicants).

The programme leader must be at least 75% employed at a Danish university, hospital or other non-profit research organization, that will be considered the host institution of the project. Affiliation must be declared in the hosting letter and justified if less than 75%.

The research institutions of the co-applicants can be located in Denmark or abroad. The co-applicants should contribute significantly to the advancement of the project and should receive part of the funding.

Industry collaboration is possible; however, funding cannot be awarded to industrial partner(s).


A total of up to DKK 120 million is available for grants between DKK 30 million and DKK 60 million for projects lasting 6 years.

Application process

The application process will consist of two stages.

Stage 1: A short expression of interest will be evaluated by an international expert committee. The best applicants will be invited to submit a Stage 2 application.

Stage 2: An application with a detailed project proposal. The main applicant will be invited for interview with the international committee.

Please read ”Information and Guidelines for Applicants” carefully before initiating the application process. Additional and essential information is found in these guidelines.

Click here to read more about the Challenge Programme and to see a list of previous Grant recipients.

About the grants


Up to DKK 30-60 million per grant



Career stage

Research Leaders (Established/Prof.), Research Leaders (Mid-career/Associate Prof.)

Research area focus

Natural sciences, Technical sciences


For grant inquiries
Anna Chailyan
Senior Scientific Manager
+45 2248 5217 [email protected]
Ulla Vig Nissen
Grant Manager, Dr Philos
[email protected]