International collaboration

The international collaboration policy of NWO Earth and Life Sciences focuses mainly on Europe. The development of a European Research Area (ERA) is a priority in this regard. European collaboration takes the form of large-scale programmes such as JPIs and ERA-NETs. ALW also works bilaterally with partner organisations both within and outside Europe and in several global programmes.

The ALW Board decides which international activities are selected and the extent of ALW's active participation. It also takes the financial decisions necessary to enable and facilitate international collaboration in the specific field of the earth and life sciences. The NWO and ALW strategy documents serve as a guide for the selection of activities.

European collaboration

European collaboration mainly takes place through the framework programmes of the European Commission, via the European Science Foundation (ESF), Science Europe or the ESA (European Space Agency). All initiatives from the European Commission are aimed at establishing a common European Research Area (ERA).

European programmes

NWO-ALW is involved in various initiatives within the ERA, particularly within the European Framework Programmes (Seventh Framework Programme and its successor, Horizon 2020), ESFRI and JPI. Funding is also provided on an individual basis by the European Research Council (ERC), which awards grants to researchers from all disciplines, based solely on scientific excellence.

FP7 (Seventh European Framework Programme)

Within the Seventh European Framework Programme, NWO-ALW is represented in the themes of Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology, and Environment, including climate change. Several different research programmes are funded, including ERA-NETs, under the framework programmes. ALW is (financially) involved in the following ERA-NETs:

  • SeasERA
  • BiodivERsA
  • SysBio+

There are also other ERA-NETs in the field of Environment. However, these involve participation by other Dutch institutions, such as ministries, rather than NWO. This includes participation by individual researchers with roots in the ALW field.

ESFRI (European Roadmap for Research Infrastructures)

ESFRI has compiled a list of 54 European priorities in the field of European research infrastructure (see ESFRI Strategy Report and Roadmap Update 2010). ALW is involved in several of these 54 ESFRI projects. Dutch funding for the ultimate completion of these projects may follow from the National Roadmap for Large-Scale Infrastructure (funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science). NWO-ALW is involved in the following ESFRI projects:

  • ICOS (about greenhouse gases in Europe)
  • LifeWatch (digital infrastructure in the field of biodiversity and ecosystems)
  • Aurora Borealis (European icebreaker for seagoing polar research)
  • EPOS (digital infrastructure in the field of earthquakes, volcanoes and tectonics)
  • SIOS (Monitoring system for the Arctic)
  • EuroBioImaging (digital infrastructure for imaging)
  • EMSO (monitoring of interaction geo-bio and hydrosphere)
  • ELIXIR (infrastructure in the field of bioinformatics)
  • JPI (Joint Programming Initiative)

JPIs were established by the European Commission to tackle research into major societal challenges at European level. Currently, ten JPIs have been defined. ALW is involved in five of these initiatives:

  • Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (JPI FACCE)
  • A healthy diet for a healthy life (JPI HDHL)
  • Water challenges (JPI Water)
  • Healthy & productive seas and oceans (JPI Oceans)
  • Connecting Climate Knowledge for Europe (JPI Climate)

ESF and Science Europe

Science Europe is a European organisation set up to represent science. The objective is to combine the forces of the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the European Heads of Research Councils (EuroHORCS). Ongoing ESF programmes will be completed. NWO-ALW participates in a number of ongoing ESF research programmes (EUROCORES) and networks (RNPs).

NWO-ALW is also involved in discussions in the field of marine and coastal research (ESF Marine Board) and polar research (European Polar Board).


Through the European Space Agency (ESA), Dutch researchers have access to costly, large-scale scientific infrastructure in space. ALW encourages the use of these through the User Support Space Research programme (earth observation and planetary research).

Bilateral collaboration programmes

  • Netherlands - Brazil: joint call on bio-based economy
  • Netherlands - Germany: Transnational call for Wadden Sea research
  • Netherlands - China: collaboration through NSFC (National Science Foundation of China) and JSTP (Joint Scientific Thematic Programme)
  • Netherlands - United Kingdom: collaboration within the Dutch Polar Programme, in particular through the British Antarctic Survey, which has a base on Rothera (Antarctica)

Worldwide collaboration

NWO-ALW pays the membership fee for the Netherlands' participation in the European Consortium for Ocean Drilling (ECORD). Through ECORD, the Netherlands participates in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme (IODP). ECORD has the opportunity of using the drilling vessels JOIDES Resolution and the Chikyu. The Japanese ship Chikyu can be used to drill in active fracture zones. ECORD also offers access to special Mission Specific Platforms.

ALW also pays for the Netherlands' membership of the IODP's continental counterpart, the International Continental Scientific Drilling Programme (ICDP).

The Dutch part of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), NL-BIF, aims to make taxonomic data and information held in biological collections digitally available. With the support of ALW, NL-BIF has built up a leading position in this field.

ALW also pays the Netherlands' contribution to DIVERSITAS, an international programme of biodiversity science.