Dutch Research Agenda - Transition to a sustainable food system

We produce large quantities of food for a relatively low price. How can we move to a food production system in which is less is lost, natural resources are spared and soil ecology and biodiversity are strengthened? The Dutch Research Agenda (NWA) programme makes budget available to investigate this question by a broad transdisciplinary consortium.


We need to strive for an integrated food production system with less waste, better protection of natural resources, more robust soil ecology and more biodiversity.
In the Netherlands, the production of food and non-food is not yet climate-neutral nor sufficiently circular, and the diet of the average Dutch person is detrimental to health and to the environment, nature and the climate of the Netherlands and other parts of the world. Achieving sustainable crops will require major changes, among others to limit greenhouse gas emissions, improve the management and use of natural resources and raw materials, facilitate the long-term availability of healthy food and, above all, encourage a different mindset: away from the continuous reduction of product costs and towards the continuous reduction of raw materials consumption by using these resources more efficiently as part of a circular food system.

Much knowledge is already available and much research is and has already being carried out into sustainable, healthy and safe food. However, in the global context, the transition of the Dutch food system is still in its infancy. Answering this challenge will require a transdisciplinary approach involving expertise from the life sciences, social/economic sciences and the humanities too. Therefore, instead of developing new knowledge, the focus will be on further development of existing knowledge.

Who can apply

This NWA call for proposals will start with a selection round during which all parties can express their interest in participating in the Sandpit workshop by submitting a motivation form. Parties may be researchers, knowledge institutes, schools, businesses, government agencies, farmers, consultancy firms, technologists, etc. Parties must be available to participate in the Sandpit workshop (21-24 January 2020). There a consortium will be formed. 

Four categories of participants are differentiated within a consortium:

  1. Main applicant
  2. Applicant(s)
  3. Co-funding organizations
  4. Cooperation partners

What to apply for

The budget available for this call for proposals is €   2,77 million. 
The maximum project duration is 3 years (36 months).

When to apply

  • The deadline for interested parties to submit a motivation form was 12 September 2019 at 2 p.m. CE(S)T. 
  • The deadline for the consortia (formed during the Sandpit workshop from 21 to 24 January 2020) to submit their full proposals is 24 March 2020 at 2 p.m. CE(S)T.
  • The previous deadline of 24 March 2020 was paused due to corona measures. The new deadline will be 23 June 2020.



An independent committee will assess the motivation forms and full proposal(s). The criteria for motivation forms and full proposal(s) are described in the call for proposals.


The assessment committee assesses the motivation forms of interested parties and will offer recommendations to the Executive Board of the NWO Domain Science. The Executive Board of the NWO Domain Science in turn advises the Executive Board of NWO on the selection of parties to participate in the Sandpit workshop.

The assessment committee assesses the full proposals, conducts interviews with consortium representatives, and will submit recommendations to the Executive Board of the NWO Domain Science. The Executive Board of the NWO Domain Science advises the Executive Board of NWO based on the assessment committee’s recommendations.  

More information

The call for proposals on the theme ‘Transition to a sustainable food system’ is part of action line 2 of the NWA programme. In this action line, NWO is working with relevant ministries. The initiator of this call is the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.



Open for full proposals, by invitation only


23 June 2020 14:00

Grant type



2.77 million euros

Science area

Exact and Natural Sciences National Science Agenda


Transition to a sustainable food system


Research (2019-2022)


Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality


Drs. Mirjam van het Groenewoud-Groot Drs. Mirjam van het Groenewoud-Groot +31 (0)70 3440626 nwa-voedseltransitie@nwo.nl