Free Competition (humanities)

Within the Free Competition Humanities, researchers can apply for funding for curiosity-driven research that does not fall under the thematic funding programmes. Researchers are therefore free to choose the subject of their project, as long as it fits within the humanities.


The Domain Board Social Sciences and Humanities has decided to organize another funding round of the Free Competition Humanities in 2017. Later in 2017, the Domain Board will decide about the future of the Free Competition Humanities after this funding round. See the news item for more information (in Dutch).

Each year a single evaluation round will take place for the Free Competition (humanities) and the submission of a preproposal is be a compulsory part of this.

Free Competition Humanities is for curiosity-driven research that does not fall within the thematic programmes. The project must consist of at least two sub-projects to be funded by NWO that seek answers to one central research question. The final product of the project (for example a book, congress or series of articles) has to provide clear added value compared to the individual sub-projects.

Who can apply

Senior researchers with a tenured or temporary appointment at an institution recognised by NWO can submit a proposal.

What to apply for

The grant is intended for the funding of:

  • postdoc and PhD research
  • the release of applicants from educational and other duties so that they can jointly work on final products within the project (maximum 50,000 euros in total)
  • material costs incurred for the project
  • investment costs in personnel and materials incurred within the framework of the project (for example, the purchase and construction of databases, digital corpora, tools, resources such as hardware, software and equipment)

Per proposal a minimum of 500,0000 euros and a maximum of 750,000 euros can be applied for. The maximum funding period is six years for the entire project.

When to apply

  • The deadline for preproposals is 5 September 2017, 14:00 CE(S)T. Applicants of selected preproposals will subsequently be invited to submit their full proposal by 9 January 2018, 14:00 CE(S)T at the latest.

Applicants may only submit one proposal funding round irrespective of whether they are the main applicant or a co-applicant.



The selection committee will assess proposals for:

  • scientific quality (including objective, methodology and research team)
  • programmatic criteria (added value, coherency, organisation)
  • knowledge utilisation

Any investment costs should justify how these will help answer the research questions, and the contribution made to strengthening the national knowledge infrastructure.



The selection committee assesses all the preproposals on the basis of the three criteria, without using external referees. The committee will prioritize the preproposals and will determine the expected quality.

Full proposals:

External experts will advise on each proposal, and applicants may respond to the experts' reports. The selection committee can invite applicants for an interview, and will use a point scale in its assessment. The NWO Social Sciences and Humanities Domain Board will take the final granting decision based on the selection committee’s advice.



Open for full proposals, by invitation only


9 January 2018 14:00

Grant type



8 million euros

Science area

Social Sciences and Humanities


Free Competition


Curiosity driven research and talent (2015-2018)


Mw. dr. M.S. van de Vate Mw. dr. M.S. van de Vate +31 70 3440967


Laia Frijhoff Laia Frijhoff +31 (0)70 3440534