NWO Earth and Life Sciences (NWO-ALW) funds and encourages high-quality scientific research in the field of the earth and life sciences.

For the strategy period 2015-2018 the highest priority of the Earth and Life Sciences Division (ALW) is realising the Open Programme. That provides opportunities for the bottom-up funding of innovative and qualitatively excellent research proposals within the earth and life sciences domain. In addition to this, and wherever possible, ALW wants to strengthen the use of other funding possibilities such as thematic programmes, international collaboration and infrastructure.

The earth and life sciences cover all aspects of life on Earth, such as complex and dynamic processes in the solid earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, the living world, and organisms including humans. The processes occur at timescales ranging from billions of years in geology to a fraction of a second for molecular mechanisms in living cells.
Our planet provides numerous natural resources such as water, fuels, air, soil, minerals and food. How can society combine a sustainable use of these sources with economic growth, a growing world population, and adjustments to a changing climate? ALW contributes to this challenge through the development of scientific knowledge.


The Earth and Life Sciences Division (ALW) encourages excellent research that expands and deepens the scientific understanding of the Earth and of life. ALW has various funding instruments for researchers to make this research possible. For example, ALW organises a bottom-up Open Programme for the very best and most innovative research ideas across the entire breadth of the earth and life sciences domain. ALW encourages individual, talented researchers in various phases of their career and makes investments in equipment and data for the high-quality infrastructure that top research needs.

ALW also funds a wide range of thematic programmes from fundamental knowledge programmes about a well-defined subject, via public-private funded programmes aimed at a current societal issue, to close collaboration with industry on specific research questions. In recent years this has enabled ALW to fund research in the areas of e.g. animal welfare, climate change and polar research. It has also been able to set up programmes for the top sectors Water, Agri & Food, Horticulture & Propagation Materials, Life Sciences & Health, and Energy.


The science ALW supports forms an outstanding international opportunity. ALW encourages collaboration across borders by making it possible for Dutch researchers to participate in EU programmes, by setting up collaborative programmes with countries like China and Brazil, and by providing membership of organisations such as the International Ocean Discovery Programme (IODP), the International Continental Discovery Programme (ICDP), the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) and in ELIXIR.


The ALW research terrain experiences the broad spectrum of funding options as vital. In the strategy period 2015-2018, ALW will therefore once again be committed to a good mix of these options so that the research field can continue to count upon ALW as a stable partner. At the same time ALW will use the resources available to it in a flexible manner so that it can respond to movements, changes in circumstances and wishes from the field. A strategic starting point in this respect is that ALW will not use the financial resources in a fragmented manner.