WEST BERLIN—Europe’s biggest private science foundation, derived from Volkswagenwerk AG, is counting on a rebound of world financial markets to secure the capital it needs to meet its ambitious goals for the support of research. A planned November 9 sale of the government’s 16 percent share in the auto maker’s stock has been postponed indefinitely, West German Finance Minister Gerhard Stoltenberg announced earlier this month. The value of the stock package is roughly $290 million now. Its market value was five times higher before last month’s crash.

The VW Foundation needs a substantial boost in its total worth, which last year stood at $2.15 billion, to achieve its goals, said Werner Remmers, chairman of its board of regents. In its 25-year history it has spent $4.5 billion on almost 16,000 research, projects. The sciences received half of last year’s $225 million distribution, with the humanities being given 41 percent and...

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