NWO seeks to provide plenty of opportunities for scientific creativity and unrestrained science. By encouraging innovative research, new lines of research arise that sometimes lead to surprising and even groundbreaking results. Therefore NWO provides funds for curiosity/driven research and talented scientists. With the Gravitational Forces Programme, NWO contributes to inter-university collaboration on issues of vital national importance.
Within the curiosity-driven research and talent programmes, the evaluation and selection focuses on scientific quality and on the possible contribution to scientific progress. Scientists and research groups may propose projects for funding that fall outside the themes. The programmes for curiosity-driven research and talent include the Open Competition, the Talent Programmes and the Ministry f Education, Culture and Science’s programme Gravitation. The work of the NWO institutes can also partly be designated as curiosity-driven research.
In the Free Competition, NWO invests in research arising from the scientists' curiosity. This is one of NWO's anchoring points. A budget of approximately 75-80 million is available annually. The competition ensures high quality: only the best proposals are funded. The budget for the Open Competition has been under pressure in recent years while the number of proposals submitted in this period has increased substantially. Consequently, the percentage of proposals funded has decreased to around 20%, and even lower in some scientific areas.
NWO wishes to improve the chances of researchers being awarded by managing the number of applications (in consultation with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the universities). The procedures in the various NWO units will also become more uniform. This provides more possibilities for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research and reduces the burden for the applicants at the same time. In addition, NWO encourages researchers in the Open Competition to link with the thematic programmes - by inviting them to workshops and symposia, for example, for thematic programmes that fit in well with their projects.
Good scientists are the embodiment of good science. NWO contributes to this with programmes that encourage talented researchers in various phases of their careers: when writing PhD or research proposals, with a research period abroad, with setting up their own research group or when taking the next step in their career. NWO funds both emerging talents and scientists who are at the absolute top of the field. After all, they also inspire an entire generation of young scientists in turn. The talent programmes include:
- Aspasia (focused on female talent in higher positions)
- FOm/f incentives programme (focused on female scientists in Dutch physics)
- Meervoud (More women researchers as University lecturers)
- PhDs in the Humanities
- Rubicon (experience abroad for young scientists)
- Spinoza Prize (aimed at the absolute top)
- NWO Talent Scheme (Veni, Vidi, Vici)
Approximately € 180 million is available annually for the Talent Programme, of which 150 million for the NWO Talent Scheme. NWO will adjust the structure of the Veni, Vidi and Vici grants as necessary in order to improve the alignment with the researchers' career development in various disciplines, the developments in personnel policy at the universities and the opportunities in European competitions. The assessment will also pay more attention to innovation and collaboration.
With the Gravitation programme, the government wishes to encourage research conducted by consortia of the best researchers in the Netherlands. The researchers must perform innovative and influential research in their professional discipline. NWO conducts the selection procedure on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The programme encourages collaboration in areas of vital national importance that extend across one or more disciplines. For each round € 150 million is available. The next round is in 2016.
NWO will link the Gravitation programme to university profiles and to the Dutch Science Agenda. It will also pay attention to a better balance across the scientific domains, and providing more opportunities for female talent.
In all of the programmes - also in curiosity-driven research - NWO asks researchers to indicate in their proposals what opportunities they see for knowledge utilisation and for the involvement of interested parties outside of academia in their research.