Open Programme (earth and life sciences)

Researchers in the earth and life sciences can develop their own new lines of research with funding from the Open Programme.


The Open Programme wants to be a breeding ground for innovation and talent. Proposals are not related to a theme or ambition. The Open Programme's aim is to promote innovative scientific research of a high quality across the entire breadth of the earth and life sciences.

The earth and life sciences research domain covers geology, the seas, the atmosphere, living organisms in the biosphere, and the interactions between and within these facets. Biomedical proposals can be submitted to ZonMw, unless the main objective of the research concerns a fundamental biological problem.

Who can apply

Funding from the Open Programme can be applied for by associate, assistant and full professors or researchers with a comparable position who work within the earth and life sciences and hold an appointment at a Dutch university or a research institute recognised by NWO.

What to apply for

Applicants can apply for a grant to cover research costs such as the appointment of personnel (PhD or postdoc), material facilities (equipment, consumables, travel costs, etc.) and fieldwork. Each cost should be explained separately.


Applicants cannot apply for a grant to cover the costs of tenured staff, student assistants, analysts or technicians, overheads, general laboratory equipment and the costs for maintenance, insurance, congress visits and publications.

When to apply

Proposals for funding from the Open Programme can be submitted at any time.




From 12 December 2013 onwards, the proposals of the ALW Open Programme are also assessed on the criterion knowledge utilisation. The criterion knowledge utilisation is assessed on the basis of the existence of a couple of elements in the knowledge utilisation part of the proposal. The ALW office defines the score for this criterion based on the checklist described in the Call for Proposals. The referees and the committee do not judge the assessment criterion knowledge utilisation.

The final score of a proposal is defined as follows:

criterion 1: originality/innovative nature, weighting 1/3

criterion 2: scientific quality of the proposal, weighting 1/3

criterion 3: scientific quality of the group, weighting 1/6

criterion 4: knowledge utilisation, weighting 1/6


After a maximum of every 25 proposals received, NWO-ALW appoints a selection committee of eight members from a list of 600 potential committee members. This allows the expertise in the committee to be matched as well as possible to the research in the proposals and it allows conflicts of interest to be avoided.

ALW aims to announce the decision within 4 months after submitting your proposal.




Open for application


Continuous application

Grant type



8 mln euros per year

Science area

Exact and Natural Sciences


Free Competition


Curiosity driven research and talent (2015-2018)

NWO in transition: changes funding instruments

On 1 January 2017, NWO will adopt a new organisation structure. Current funding instruments will remain unchanged until a decision about any change is taken. NWO will announce this change at least six months in advance. 2017 will be a transition year and the new funding instruments will become effective no later than 1 January 2018.


Mw. dr. K.M. de Bruijn-Spoorendonk Mw. dr. K.M. de Bruijn-Spoorendonk +31 (0)70 3440776


Dhr. dr. M.R. de Jonge Dhr. dr. M.R. de Jonge +31 (0)70 3440628