Applying for funding, how does it work?

Researchers and research institutions can submit an application for funding for research projects, large equipment and databases as soon as NWO publishes a call for project proposals. NWO has a fixed procedure for handling all applications. How the application procedure is set up – from the moment you apply until a decision is reached – is detailed below.

Application procedure

The call for proposals describes the aim of a grant round, who can apply, the amount of money available, which criteria your application needs to meet, how and when you can submit your application, and when, at the latest, NWO will reach a decision regarding your application. 

NWO generally allocates research grants through a tender procedure. Applications that were submitted during a given grant round are assessed and subsequently ranked according to predetermined criteria. The best applications end up highest in the rankings and are the first to be eligible for a grant. The grants are allocated according to these rankings, until the limit of the grant budget has been reached.


  • Qualification system

    NWO gives all full proposals a qualification based on the applicable criteria. Such a qualification offers applicants and applying universities a uniform insight into the quality evaluation of the research proposal. And it offers NWO a good overview of the quality of the applications and enables NWO to see how many excellent or very good proposals are submitted

    The qualification will be made known to the researcher in the same letter in which he or she is also informed about NWO's decision whether or not to award funding.

    The qualification has the following categories:

    • excellent
    • very good
    • good
    • unsatisfactory

    The qualification system applies to almost all funding instruments from NWO. If not applicable, this is mentioned in the call for proposals of that specific round.

  • Submitting your application

    You can submit an application after a call for proposals has been published. In some grant rounds, we first ask you to submit a letter of intent and/or a pre-proposal (shorter application) or an initiative. Always use the form on the funding page of the grant round in question when drafting your application.

    Code for Dealing with Personal Interests

    For a fair and consistent application procedure, it is essential that your application is assessed without any (semblance of) bias. To ensure this, NWO applies the Code for Dealing with Personal Interests. This applies to all persons involved in your application’s assessment and decision-making process.

    Code for Dealing with Personal Interests

    Application system

    You submit your application through ISAAC, NWO’s online application system. Only the main applicant can submit an application. You need an account for this, which you can create yourself. As soon as we have received your application, we will send you a confirmation of receipt.

    We advise you to start submitting your application at least one day before the deadline. The reason for this is that you will need to enter information online as well.

    If you have any technical questions about ISAAC, please consult the online manual. If you cannot find the answer to your question there, then contact:

    ISAAC helpdesk | telephone number: +31 20 3467179  | email:

    ISAAC manual 

    NWO research fields

    For all applications it is compulsory to fill out the main research field that corresponds to the subject of your research proposal.

    NWO research fields

    Salary tables

    Do you need information about personnel costs for your proposal? Consult the collective labour agreements of the academic medical centres (NFU) and of the universities (VSNU).

    Salary tables

    Authorisation scheme for project managers

    Project managers can authorise others to carry out administrative actions for their project in ISAAC, NWO’s application and reporting system.

    Authorisation scheme for project managers

  • Check whether we can process your application

    After you have submitted your application, NWO will let you know whether it is processing your application as soon as possible. For this to happen, your application must meet the conditions described in the call for proposals. Among other things, we will check whether your application has been submitted in the prescribed language, whether you have made use of the available application form, whether your application was submitted via ISAAC, and whether we received it before the deadline. If we find that this is not the case, we will contact you. You will then be given a one-off opportunity to rectify this (if possible). We will also contact you if we do process your application.

Assessment of your application

  • Pre-selection

    If NWO receives a large number of applications, NWO may decide to hold a pre-selection. This may occur if the total amount of the grant applications is four times the total available budget. In the event of a pre-selection, the selection committee will make an overall assessment of the applications based on the assessment criteria that apply to the round in question. The committee will give you the opportunity to submit a rebuttal, after which it will advise NWO to reject the less promising applications.

  • Peer review by external referees

    Before the selection committee considers your application, NWO will first seek input from at least two external referees. These are independent advisors who are experts in the subject area of your application. They will assess your application based on the assessment criteria outlined in the call for proposals. They are generally given three to four weeks to do this.

    A referee will assess no more than one application per grant round. As a matter of principle, referees are not paid for their assessments. In the case of a multidisciplinary research proposal, NWO tries to select referees from the different disciplines who are also familiar with comparable multidisciplinary research.

    NWO asks referees to treat research proposals confidentially to protect the privacy of the applicants as well as any intellectual property rights. For its part, NWO treats the identity of referees confidentially. Their identity is not disclosed to either the selection committee or the applicants. NWO therefore guarantees that referees are able to give an open opinion on the research proposals they are assessing.

  • Rebuttal to referee reports

    As soon as NWO has received the referee reports, we will forward them to you. You will subsequently be given several business days to respond in writing (the ‘rebuttal’). You can answer referees’ questions and address any criticisms in your rebuttal.

  • Interview or site visit (optional)

    An interview or site visit is part of the assessment procedure in some grant rounds. The purpose of an interview is among others to give the selection committee an impression of your managerial skills, the research skills and the persuasiveness of the researcher(s). During an interview, you will be asked to give a short presentation or introduction. Subsequently, the members of the committee will ask questions about your research proposal.

    A site visit can take place for an application for the development of extensive research facilities. Some or all of the selection committee will visit the location where the research facility to be subsidised is located or will be located. This makes it possible to assess whether the proper development of the facility can be guaranteed.

  • Assessment by the selection committee

    The selection committee issues advice on which applications should be granted. This is done based on the written material: the research proposal, the referee reports and your rebuttal. An interview or site visit can be part of the assessment.

    The selection committee will discuss the content of your application, after which it be given a score (on a scale from 1 to 9) and a corresponding qualification for each criterion. All applications are then ranked in order of their weighted final score. The selection committee then advises NWO to award the grants in this order until the available grant budget has been exhausted.

    NWO has the authority not to award the grants (in full) according to their ranking, on policy grounds (for example, a balanced distribution across themes). If these policy grounds apply, then they will be stated in the call for proposals.

Decision on your application

  • Letter of decision

    After having assessed whether the selection committee’s advice was reached in a consistent manner, NWO will either grant or reject your application. You can see which NWO governing body is responsible for deciding on your application in the call for proposals.

    As soon as NWO has issued a decision on your application, you will receive a letter of decision from NWO. This letter also contains the details of the selection committee’s assessment.

  • Lodging an objection

    If you do not agree with the decision on your application, you may lodge an objection. How to lodge an objection is described at the bottom of the decision letter.

    Lodging an objection