The Dutch Research Council (NWO) is the most important financer of national research in the Netherlands. NWO funds scientific research at Dutch universities and research institutes through a range of funding instruments. These include the Talent Scheme programme, the Open Competition programme, and funding intruments linked to the Top sectors and the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA).
The Talent Scheme programme offers individual grants for talented, creative researchers and has three funding instruments tailored to various phases in researchers' scientific careers: Veni, Vidi and Vici.
Veni grants are targeted at outstanding researchers who have recently obtained their PhD. They are at the start of their scientific career and display a striking talent for scientific research. Veni applicants must have obtained their doctorate within the last three years.
Vidi grants are targeted at researchers who have already spent several years doing postdoctoral research. It allows them to develop their own innovative line of research, and to appoint one or more researchers for this. Researchers can apply for a Vidi grant if they have done several years of research at postdoc level. In this research they have come up with innovative ideas that they have been able to independently and successfully develop further. Vidi applicants must have obtained their doctorate no more than eight years ago.
Vici grants are targeted at outstanding senior researchers who have successfully demonstrated the ability to develop their own innovative lines of research, and to act as coaches for young researchers. It gives them the opportunity to build up their own research group, often in anticipation of a tenured professorship. The research group must become structurally embedded in the research institution. Vici applicants must have obtained their PhD within the last 15 years.
For the Veni and Vidi rounds, researchers may only submit a proposal on two occasions. For Vici, researchers may submit a proposal on three occasions.
The Open Competition programme encourages research that is not linked to a particular theme. Several NWO domains organise an open competition and they each set their own conditions for research projects.
Open Competition - Social Sciences and Humanities
Within the Open Competition–SSH, researchers can apply for funding for different types of research of their own choosing, without thematic limitations: for small and large research grants, and for individual projects or research groups. The SSH Open Competition programme offers structural funding possibilities for post-Vici candidates. Applicants may only submit a proposal if they can no longer apply to the Talent Scheme according to the formal admissibility criteria. There is an annual call for proposals with a pre-proposal phase.
Open Competition - Digitalisation SSH
In order to respond to the increasing demand for funding for research into the important societal questions concerning big data, Artificial Intelligence and social media, as well as the scientific practice associated with these, NWO has started a new Open Competition for Digitalisation – SSH programme for collaboration between researchers in the social sciences and humanities.
Open Competition - Science
Researchers can submit proposals for curiosity-driven, fundamental research in two new instruments in the Open Competition of the NWO Domain Science: one instrument for small-scale projects and investments (KLEIN) and one for large-scale projects (GROOT).
KLEIN grants offers researchers the possibility to elaborate creative and risky ideas and to realise scientific innovations that can form the basis for the research themes of the future. There are three categories of KLEIN grants: KLEIN-1 (1 scientific position), KLEIN-2 (2 scientific positions in collaboration) and KLEIN-0 (investments) that are assessed in competition with each other. Proposals can be submitted on a continuous basis.
GROOT grants are intended for consortia in which research groups create added value through collaboration. These grants give researchers the opportunity and freedom to strengthen and/or expand excellent, challenging and innovative lines of research. The call will be published once every two years and a pre-proposal phase will be used.
Open Technology Programme
The Open Technology Programme aims to realise knowledge transfer between technical sciences and users. It offers a low-threshold way for companies and partners to join application-oriented research. This can be done by making a financial or material contribution. Multiple companies and partners can participate in a project. Research applications are tested on both scientific quality and the utilisation perspective. Both criteria weigh equally in decision making. Researchers from all disciplines can submit proposals for application-oriented technical-scientific research proposals within the Open Technology Programme throughout the year.
Open Competition - ZonMW
The ZonMw Open Competition offers excellent research groups the opportunity to revitalise their line of research, enter into new collaborations and perform studies of exceptional quality in the field of health. In view of its purpose of revitalising lines of research the ZonMw Open Competition is specifically intended for combinations of research groups. The application procedure consists of two stages: a project idea and a full application.
Top sectors and the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA)
NWO takes part in the Top sectors policy of the Dutch government for mission-oriented innovation within the social themes of energy transition & sustainability; agriculture, water & food; health & care and safety. In this process, NWO ensures a good connection between the ambitions of the top sectors and the funding of scientific research within these areas. As the research themes are highly relevant to society, knowledge utilisation is an important focus. Several Top Consortia for Knowledge and Innovation (TKIs) have been established to ensure that the joint research agenda within the top sectors is realised. In a TKI, parties across the entire knowledge chain work together to consolidate excellent public-private partnerships in the area of research.
In the coming years, NWO will increasingly link activities in the top sectors to the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA) and to international research agendas such as the Grand Societal Challenges from Horizon 2020. For this, NWO will create additional opportunities for long-term funding and programmes that transect the top sectors. In addition, these programmes provide space for a broad chain approach that connects fundamental, strategic, practice-oriented, and applied research and also involves non-scientific parties. Examples of such funding programmes are the NWA-Research Along Routes by Consortia (ORC), NWO Crossover and thematic programming on urgent social themes in collaboration with government ministries.
Other NWO instruments
NWO has various other funding instruments. A complete overview can be found at the NWO website.
Rubicon offers talented researchers who have completed their doctorates in the past year the chance to gain experience at a top research institution outside the Netherlands. Rubicon is open for all scientific disciplines for a research project at a foreign research institute.
The Spinoza Prize is the highest award in Dutch science. Each year, NWO awards the NWO Spinoza Prizes to three or four researchers working in the Netherlands who according to international standards belong to the absolute top of science. The laureates each receive 2.5 million euros to spend on scientific research.
The Stevin Prize is an honorary award for top researchers or a team of two to three researchers with international reputations for what they have achieved in their scientific career on knowledge exchange and impact. The laureates each receive 2.5 million euro to spend on research and/or activities on knowledge exchange and impact.
Promoting advancement of women in science
Women are underrepresented at higher levels on the career ladder. This is certainly true for higher education and research in the Netherlands. The Aspasia programme ensures that more female assistant professors progress to the level of associate or full professor. Aspasia was set up by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands and NWO. The grant is intended to encourage the promotion of female Vidi grant candidates to an associate professorship and female Vici grant candidates to a full professorship. The Women In Science Excel programme (WISE) provides talented female scientists with an opportunity to develop or expand their own research group at one of NWO's institutes. WISE contributes directly to attracting top female researchers and promoting their advancement. WISE will provide 20 tenure track positions at NWO research institutes in the years 2016-2020. Through the Athena Prize, NWO calls attention to women who do excellent scientific research in the field of chemistry.
Take-Off and Demonstrator Programme
The Take-off programme focuses on facilitating and encouraging commercial and entrepreneurial activities initiated at Dutch universities and the research institutes recognised by NWO. It concerns the creation of innovative new commercial activities that emerge from knowledge development and utilisation by academic entrepeneurs. The Demonstrator programme focuses on facilitating and stimulating the application of research results from Dutch universities, research institutes or colleges of higher education and research funded by Regieorgaan SIA. The grant allows researchers to further develop a technology.
Other national funding organisations
- Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMW): ZonMW funds health research and stimulates use of the knowledge developed to help improve health and healthcare in the Netherlands through a range of funding programmes.
- Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW): The KNAW is responsible for several national research institutes. It promotes innovation and knowledge valorisation within these institutes and encourages them to cooperate with one another and with university research groups. The Academy further manages various programmes for travel and research grants, fellowships and awards.
- Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO): RVO helps entrepreneurs with grants, finding business partners, know-how and compliance with laws and regulations.