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The KLI is an international center for advanced studies in theoretical biology, with a focus on the development and evolution of biological and cultural complexity. The KLI supports theoretical research primarily in the areas of evolutionary developmental biology and evolutionary science. Emphasis is given to projects bridging the natural and social sciences and the humanities. Fellowships are provided for scientific projects of graduate students, postdocs, and visiting scientists. In addition, the KLI hosts colloquia and workshops, and organizes focal symposia at the University of Vienna.

Founded in 1990 as Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, the KLI is funded by a private trust and receives additional support from the Province of Lower Austria. The institute has close ties with many of the higher education institutions in Vienna and Lower Austria as well as with a number of international institutions with similar aims.

The institute is located in Klosterneuburg, near Vienna, in the historical Kremsmünsterhof, a cultural heritage monument. It provides a stimulating and creative environment for fellows, visiting scholars, students, and external faculty who wish to work on their own projects in any of the aforementioned topics. Through its public lectures and symposia the KLI also offers a platform for the critical public discussion of current themes in the biosciences.