NWO Open Competition Domain Science - XS

The Open Competition Domain Science - XS offers researchers an opportunity to conduct innovative and high-risk research projects. Research proposals are expected to be groundbreaking and all results, positive or negative, must contribute to the advancement of science. NWO has announced through various channels that it is seeking innovative research assessment methods. As an applicant, you are also an assessor in the XS assessment process; this is emphatically a pilot and not a regular NWO procedure.

NWO’s policy towards funding and the impact of the coronavirus

As a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus, NWO has drafted a guideline to provide applicants with clarity. NWO takes into consideration that under these circumstances it is not always possible that all candidates have an equal opportunity to submit their applications and it is important that we are confident when evaluating applications that we are doing so correctly.

For XS round 4 the following changes apply:

  • The deadline of 7 April 2020 has been cancelled, the new deadline is 2 June 2020
  • The planning of round 4 has been changed according to the NWO guideline, the time path of round 4 is therefore longer then it would normally be in a XS round
  • Applicants who met the conditions on 14 May 2020 can submit their proposal before the 2 June 2020 deadline

The changes for XS round 4 are final. The planning for round 5 is preliminary.

For more information about measures for upcoming rounds, and updates on this temporary guideline go to  nwo.nl/corona-en.


The NWO Domain Science has established a new category in the Open Competition with the aim of encouraging curiosity and new ideas in research as part of promising, high-risk projects: XS proposals. These are proposals for ground-breaking research with a real risk of failure. The XS category emphatically strives to encourage curiosity-driven and bold research involving a relatively quick analysis of a promising idea. 

Research proposals aimed at confronting social challenges will not be considered for XS grants in the Open Competition of the NWO Domain Science; these proposals can be submitted to the NWA Idea Generator Call.   

Who can apply

Researchers  can submit an application if they:

  • hold a doctorate and/or are professor
  • also are employed (i.e., hold a salaried position) at a Dutch university or a research institute recognised by NWO
  • also have an appointment period for at least the duration of the application procedure and the entire duration of the research for which the grant is being applied for. 

What to apply for

An XS grant has a maximum budget of 50,000 euros. There are no requirements on the type of research and no restrictions on what the grant is to be used for. Applicants are required to draw up a realistic budget and explain why the spending choices are relevant to the project. 
XS projects must start no later than six months after the grant has been allocated and last for a maximum of one year. The grant will be provided in the form of a lump sum. 

When to apply

There are five deadlines for submitting a proposal for an XS project. Round 4 and 5 have been postponed. The following overview shows the updated deadlines for round 4 and 5:

Five deadlines

Decision anticipated by

5 September 2019, at 14.00 hrs CE(S)T 10 October 2019
7 November 2019, at 14.00 hrs CE(S)T 12 December 2019
4 February 2020, at 14.00 hrs CE(S)T 12 March 2020
2 June 2020, at 14.00 hrs CE(S)T 27-31 July 2020
1 September 2020, at 14.00 hrs CE(S)T 8 October 2020


Indication of timetable with respect to next deadline:

Deadline for applications      2 June 2020 week 0
Eligibility check  3-15 June 2020 week 1
Identification of possible conflicts of interest 15-23 June 2020 week 3
Send applications to assessors  25 June 2020 week 4
NWO receives assessment reports  21 July 2020 week 8
Decision by Domain Board            27-31 July week 9



Each assessor will rank the applications he/she needs to assess, whereby the applications must all be allocated a different rank. The assessors who rank the applications will focus on the innovativeness of the research proposal. Is the proposed research innovative, high-risk and groundbreaking? Will the proposed research take the applicant down a new path? Could the proposal have a high scientific impact? In addition, the feasibility of the research plan is also important. For example, the objective, justification and work plan must be clearly described and the project must be carried out within the maximum period of one year and within the requested budget. 
All applications are prepared anonymously, which will ensure that the assessments are based purely on the ideas in the research proposal.  


All applications submitted for one of the deadlines are treated as a set. Per set the applications are separated into two groups: group A and group B. The applications in group A are assessed by the applicants in group B and the applications in group B are assessed by the applicants in group A. The assessors/applicants within a particular set will not meet to discuss their findings. The NWO office will decide the final ranks of the applications based on the ranks submitted by the assessors. Two rankings will be established per set; one for group A and one for group B. There will be no opportunity for a rebuttal. The NWO Domain Science Board will decide whether to grant or refuse an application based on the results of the two rankings and the available financial means. 



Open for application


2 June 2020 14:00

Grant type



5 times 500,000 euros: a total of 2,500,000 euros

Science area

Exact and Natural Sciences


Open Competition Domain Science (ENW)


Research (2019-2022)


Ralf Boland Ralf Boland +31 (0)70 3494258 enw-xs@nwo.nl