A long-term investment in research

In 2012, VILLUM FONDEN established a (permanent) professorship at the University of Copenhagen with the aim of advancing Danish research. This year, the foundation established a second professorship at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). The aim of the professorships, styled on the British tradition of endowed chairs, is to attract leading scientists to Danish universities by offering them prestigious, permanent positions.

Read more about the Villum Kann Rasmussen Professorships

Charles Marcus, quantum physicist, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

Charles Marcus, quantum physicist, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

VILLUM FONDEN established the Villum Kann Rasmussen Professorship at the University of Copenhagen in 2012. The inaugural recipient is Charles Marcus, formerly of Harvard University.

Offering Marcus the position was intended to make the Niels Bohr Institute one of the leaders in the field of quantum mechanics. Today, Marcus is the director of the Centre for Quantum Devices. He is also the principal researcher for AI&R, a Microsoft-led project that involves more than 5,000 computer scientists and engineers working towards development of the first functioning quantum computer.

The Centre for Quantum Devices is a leader in the study of semi-conductors, nanowires, superconductors and other key components of quantum computers.

“I am really proud to be the first Villum Kann Rasmussen Professor, and I feel very welcome in Denmark as part of the Villum family. I can be innovative and technologically oriented, yet still find time for blue-sky research. That is very much in the spirit of Villum Kann Rasmussen. My current sabbatical from the VKR professorship allows me to funnel the entire grant in the direction of young researchers. In the end, they decide the future of quantum computing,” Marcus says.

Read more about the Centre for Quantum Devices 

Jens Kehlet Nørskov directs a major energy research initiative at the Technical University of Denmark. His responsibilities include establishing a new centre for catalysis theory and collaboration, which will conduct research, establish commercial partnerships and provide instruction to students

Jens Kehlet Nørskov, director of the centre for catalysis theory, DTU

Jens Kehlet Nørskov, formerly of Stanford University, is one of the leading experts on theoretical catalysis, a field that has caught the attention of the scientific community, given the significant contribution it is expected to make to the sustainable technologies that will be used in the production of next-generation fuels and chemicals.

 VILLUM FONDEN established its second Villum Kann Rasmussen Professorship at DTU in 2018. As Villum Kann Rasmussen Professor, Nørskov serves as director for a major energy research initiative. His responsibilities include establishing a new centre for catalysis theory and collaboration, which will conduct research, establish commercial partnerships and provide instruction to students. Nørskov will also head a major European sustainable-energy research initiative. The initiative is a natural extension of the work carried out at the Villum Centre for the Science of Sustainable Fuels and Chemicals, which was established at DTU in 2016.

“The Villum Kann Rasmussen Professorship affords me a unique opportunity to advance a field of research that is important for Denmark, while also allowing me to engross myself in my research for many years to come,” Nørskov says.

 VILLUM FONDEN’s grant is shared by DTU Physics, DTU Chemistry and DTU Energy, which will all take part in the centre for catalysis theory.

Read more about the Centre for Catalysis Theory

Bringing the world’s best scientists to Denmark

Thomas Bjørnholm, executive chief scientific officer:

“VILLUM FONDEN would like to make an on-going contribution to the advancement of Danish science and technology by helping the country’s research institutions to attract the world’s best scientists.

We are pleased to be working with the nation’s universities to make that ambition a reality, and we are receptive to proposals from any Danish university that is interested in hosting an individual of the calibre of Charles Marcus and Jens Nørskov.”

The young, the established, the bold

VILLUM FONDEN makes grants to scientific and technological research. In 2017, the DKK 600 million in grants given out were divided amongst early-career scientists looking to establish their first research group; established academics looking for funding to allow them to conduct research into a specific topic; and scientists in search of the funding they need to be able to experiment with bold ideas.

Achievement award

In addition, VILLUM FONDEN awards the Villum Kann Rasmussen Annual Award in Science and Technology. Denmark’s most prestigious individual research award, the Annual Award recognises exceptional contributions to science and technology.

Since its establishment in 1987, the Annual Award has been given to 37 individuals. The award includes a grant of DKK 5 million. Recipients are selected by VILLUM FONDEN.

VILLUM FONDEN's support for technical and natural sciences

Thomas Bjørnholm
Executive Chief Scientific Officer, professor, VILLUM FONDEN
+45 28 75 18 35


Professor Thomas Bjørnholm is responsible for the foundation’s research programmes in technical and natural sciences.
Previously Thomas Bjørnholm was Prorector for Research and Innovation and Deputy Rector at the University of Copenhagen with overall responsibility for research and innovation across all disciplines at the university.

He is a professor of Materials Chemistry and the founding director of the Nano-Science Center at the University of Copenhagen.

Thomas Bjørnholm is a member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, the Danish Academy of Technical Sciences and he has served on numerous boards and committees.

As a scientist, he has published more than 200 articles in scientific journals and books including contributions to the highly-recognized journals Nature and Science. He has given more than 150 invited talks at conferences and research institutes around the world and received research awards, including the Ole Rømer Foundation Award, the Ellen & Niels Bjerrum Award and gold medal, and the Director Ib Henriksen Award.

See more extensive CV