Dutch Research Agenda - Research along routes by Consortia 2020/21 (NWA-ORC 2020/21)

Consortia that are interdisciplinary and cover the full breadth of the knowledge chain are invited to submit research proposals that express the broad and innovative character of the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA).

Proposals should fall within one or more NWA routes and address one or more of the 140 cluster questions. The starting point for this is the Portfolio for Research and Innovation.


The aim of the NWA-ORC 2020/21 call for proposals is to encourage research and innovation focused on the portfolio of 25 routes and the 140 corresponding cluster questions in the NWA. This research will be set up and carried out by interdisciplinary consortia that will include representatives from the full breadth of the knowledge chain as well as relevant societal partners, including industry. The added value of the consortium will be evidenced by the joint approach to the research, with the individual strengths and expertise of each participant demonstrably reinforcing those of the others. Which knowledge partners are involved and which societal partners are relevant will depend on the objectives of the project.

Who can apply

Proposals should be submitted by a consortium in which the various types of research in the knowledge chain (fundamental, applied and practice-oriented) must be represented. There are four categories of participant within a consortium:

  • Main applicant;
  • Co-applicant(s);
  • Co-funder(s)
  • Cooperating partner(s) (optional)

The main applicant submits the application on behalf of the consortium. More information about the four categories of participants as well as specific requirements regarding who can apply, can be found in paragraph 3.1 of the call for proposals.

What to apply for

In this round, proposals can be submitted in the following budget ranges: 

  • 500,000 – ≤ 2,000,000 euros;
  • > 2,000,000 – ≤ 5,000,000 euros;
  • > 5,000,000 – ≤ 10,000,000 euros.  

The budget range is determined by the funding requested from NWO. The budget is built up using the NWO-wide standardised building blocks, the so-called modules. Seven modules are available in this call:  

  • Personnel costs;
  • Material costs;
  • Investments;
  • Knowledge utilisation;
  • Internationalisation;
  • Money follows Collaboration;
  • Programme management.   

Extensive information about the modules can be found in annex 6.2 of the call for proposals. 


Co-funding is obligatory in each proposal. The participating co-funders should jointly contribute at least 10% of the total project budget in the form of co-funding, either in-cash or in-kind.   The conditions regarding co-funding can be found in paragraph 3.5 of the call for proposals. 

When to apply

The NWA-ORC 2020/21 funding round has three phases and therefore has three deadlines.

  • The deadline for online submission of an initiative via the NWO-website was on 1 October at 14:00:00 CEST.

Submitting an initiative is required to be able to submit a pre-proposal. After submission of the initiative, the main applicant - or another participant in the consortium - has to take part in a matchmaking event of the indicated primary NWA-route.

  • The deadline for submission of pre-proposals is on 14 January 2021 at 14:00:00 CET. A pre-proposal may only be submitted if an initiative has previously been submitted.
  • The deadline for submission of full proposals is on 24 June 2021 at 14:00:00 CEST. A full proposal may only be submitted if a pre-proposal has previously been submitted.



Pre-proposals will be assessed against the following two criteria:

  1. Alignment with the objectives of the NWA-ORC programme (weighting 75%)
  2. Scientific importance of the proposed project (weighting 25%)

Full proposals will be assessed against the following three criteria:

  1. Alignment with the objectives of the NWA-ORC programme (weighting 33.3%)
  2. Quality of the consortium (weighting 33.3%)
  3. Quality of the research proposal (weighting 33.3%)

Each assessment criterion consists of several subcriteria. More information the criteria can be found in paragraph 4.2 of the call for proposals.


The initiatives will not be assessed.

The assessment procedure has two phases: pre-proposals and full proposals.

Pre-proposals are allocated across various clusters. A selection committee is set up for each cluster. Each selection committee assesses and prioritises the proposals in its own cluster without consulting external referees. As a result, each pre-proposal receives a reasoned non-binding advice as to whether it should be elaborated into a full proposal. This means that consortia that receive a negative advice may still submit a full proposal.

Full proposals will be assessed in various clusters as well, with each cluster having its own selection committee. The full proposals are submitted to referees for assessment. Applicants will subsequently be given the opportunity to respond in writing to the anonymised referees' reports (the rebuttal). The full proposals together with the referees' comments and the rebuttals will subsequently be submitted for assessment to the selection committee. The selection committee will rank the proposals per cluster. Based on this ranking, the consortia of the highest ranked proposals in each cluster are invited for an interview with the selection committee. After the interviews, the selection committee reranks the proposals based on the proposal, the referee comments, the rebuttal and the interview, coming to a final ranking for each cluster.

The rankings of the separate cluster committees will then be submitted to a broad, science-wide committee composed of delegations from the various cluster committees. Based on the independent cluster rankings drawn up after the interviews, the broad committee draws up a single final ranking.

The final ranking will be submitted to the NWO executive board. The executive board will marginally test the procedure and will take the final granting decision.

More information about the timetable and procedure can be found in paragraph 4.1 of the call for proposals.

More information

  • The web form for the submission of initiatives.
  • The submission of pre-proposals via ISAAC will be opened for submission after the deadline for submission of initiatives on 1 October 2020.
  • The NWA-ORC call is part of the NWA-programme that NWO realises on behalf of the Ministry of OCW. 

More information can be found on: The Dutch Research Agenda, The 25 NWA-routesThe portfolio for Research and Innovation .



Temporarily closed for application


14 January 2021 14:00

Grant type



132.3 million euros

Science area

Exact and Natural Sciences Social Sciences and Humanities Applied and Engineering Sciences WOTRO Science for Global Development Health Research and Development Nationaal Regieorgaan Praktijkgericht Onderzoek Netherlands Initiative for Education Research National Science Agenda NWO Institutes Organisation Brain, Cognition, Behaviour


Research along routes by Consortia (ORC)


Nexus (2019-2022)


Varsha Kapoerchan Varsha Kapoerchan +31 (0)703 494442 / +31 (0)630369512 nwa-orc@nwo.nl