153 million for six Dutch research teams

18 December 2013

Six research consortia in which prominent scientists from various Dutch universities work together are receiving a combined sum of 153 million euros for long-term and large-scale research. These awards fall under the Gravitation programme of the Minister for Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker. With these grants, she is giving Dutch world-class scientists the opportunity to carry out innovative research that can bring about international breakthroughs. An international committee appointed by NWO was responsible for assessing the proposals.

Minister Jet Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science, together with NWO Board Member Franciska de Jong, awarded six Gravitation grants to Dutch science consortia. F.l.t.r. Mike Jetten, Franciska de Jong, Meint Smit, Jet Bussemaker, Jacques Neefjes, Michel Mandjes, Jaap Sinninghe Damsté, Bert Weckhuysen. Photo free of charge quoting Credits: Xandra Baldessari/OCW (Click for larger version)Minister Jet Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science, together with NWO Board Member Franciska de Jong, awarded six Gravitation grants to Dutch science consortia. F.l.t.r. Mike Jetten, Franciska de Jong, Meint Smit, Jet Bussemaker, Jacques Neefjes, Michel Mandjes, Jaap Sinninghe Damsté, Bert Weckhuysen. Photo free of charge quoting Credits: Xandra Baldessari/OCW (Click for larger version)

The six teams that have received funding are:


The Soehngen Institute for anaerobic microbiology: Microbes for health and environment

  • Main applicant: Prof. M.S.M. Jetten (Radboud University Nijmegen)
  • Co-applicants: Prof. M.C.M. van Loosdrecht (Delft University of Technology), Prof. A.J.M. Stams (Wageningen University and Research Centre), Prof. J.S. Sinninghe Damsté (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, NIOZ), Prof. W.M. de Vos (Wageningen University and Research Centre)
  • Lead institution: Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Award: 22.9 million euros



Top Dutch microbiologists jointly want to tackle one of the grand challenges: the creation of a sustainable biobased economy. Microbes that can live without oxygen (complex anaerobic microbial communities) can play an important role in that. The aim of this project is to discover new anaerobic microbial conversions and even to design synthetic microbial communities that can subsequently be applied in novel sustainable technologies. This will include the efficient production of biogas, the conversion of organic waste into degradable bioplastics, and improved health by optimising the intestinal flora.




  • Principal applicant: Prof. M.R.H. Mandjes (University of Amsterdam)
  • Co-applicants: Prof. M.T. de Berg (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. S.C. Borst (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. O.J. Boxma (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. H.M. Buhrman (CWI), Prof. R.W. van der Hofstad (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. W.Th.F. den Hollander (Leiden University), Prof. A.M.J. Koonen (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. J.S.H. van Leeuwaarden (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. A. Schrijver (CWI), Prof. G.J. Woeginger (Eindhoven University of Technology)
  • Lead institution: University of Amsterdam
  • Award: 22.7 million euros



Networks is a consortium of eleven mathematics and computer science researchers from four institutions who aim to address the pressing challenges posed by large-scale networks. Not just digital networks but also traffic and transport networks and energy networks are often not sufficiently capable of dealing with unexpected situations. The focus is on modelling, understanding, controlling and optimising networks that are complex and highly volatile.



The Institute for Chemical Immunology (ICI)

  • Main applicant: Prof. J.J.C. Neefjes (Netherlands Cancer Institute)
  • Co-applicants: Prof. C.G. Figdor (RadboudUMC), Prof. P. Gros (Utrecht University), Prof. A.J.R. Heck (Utrecht University), Prof. H.S. Overkleeft (Leiden University), Prof. T.N.M. Schumacher (Netherlands Cancer Institute)
  • Lead institution: Leiden University
  • Award: 27.6 million euros



Our immune system protects us against infectious diseases and cancer. Its failure to function properly can result in unpleasant consequences. However, if the immune system unintentionally works too well then autoimmune diseases can develop where the immune system attacks the body, as is the case with rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In the Institute for Chemical Immunology (ICI) the top in Immunology and Chemistry will join forces to develop a new discipline: Chemical Immunology. The aim is to use chemistry to understand immune diseases and to find solutions for situations where the immune system fails or is too active. This combination of disciplines can bring about a radical change in the approach to autoimmune diseases, infections and cancer.




Netherlands Earth System Science Centre. Perturbations of system earth: reading the past to project the future

  • Main applicant: Prof.. J.S. Sinninghe Damsté (Utrecht University)
  • Co-applicants: Prof. M.S.M. Jetten (Radboud University Nijmegen), Prof. J.J. Middelburg (Utrecht University), Prof. J. Oerlemans (Utrecht University), Prof. M. Scheffer (Wageningen University and Research Centre), Prof. S. Schouten (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, NIOZ)
  • Lead institution: Utrecht University
  • Award: 28 million euros



The Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (ESSC) will bring together research into the climate of the past, present and future to improve the predictions about future climate conditions on our planet. Palaeoclimatologists, biogeoscientists and climate modellers will jointly work on research into the mutual interactions between geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere on different timescales. The consortium will mainly focus on the influence of the carbon cycle to determine how warm the earth will become due to current disruptions to the carbon cycle and how sudden changes in the climate can take place.



Research Centre for Integrated Nanophotonics

  • Main applicant: Prof. M.K Smit (Eindhoven University of Technology)
  • Co-applicants: Prof. H.J.S. Dorren (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. W.M.M. Kessels (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. P.M. Koenraad (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. A.M.J. Koonen (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. B. Koopmans (Eindhoven University of Technology)
  • Lead institution: Eindhoven University of Technology
  • Award: 19.9 million euros



This research programme from physicists and electrical engineers is aimed at the development of the optical technology needed to connect seven billion people with each other and with the data centres that will provide access to the world's knowledge and information. The technology will make it possible to transport gigantic (perabyte) datastreams between billions of processors. The research focuses on breakthroughs by applying new physics concepts, components and circuits at the nanoscale and similar system concepts to make this enormous growth possible. Such breakthroughs are needed to prevent an explosion in the energy consumption of worldwide networks. This is crucial for the future of the Internet.


Netherlands Center for Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion

  • Main applicant: Prof. B.M. Weckhuysen (Utrecht University)
  • Co-applicant: Prof. A. van den Berg (University of Twente), Prof. A. van Blaaderen (Utrecht University), Prof. J.A.M. Kuipers (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. D. Lohse (University of Twente), Prof. R.A. van Santen (Eindhoven University of Technology)
  • Lead institution: Utrecht University
  • Award: 31.9 million euros



Chemists, physicists and engineers will join forces to radically change the processes used to produce fuels and chemical building blocks of the future. The research will focus on the development and optimisation of existing catalytic processes at all relevant scales: from the atomic level to the level of the actual reactor the catalysis takes place in. The ultimate aim of the Netherlands Center for Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion is to develop highly efficient catalytic processes for various energy and materials sources, such as fossil fuels, biomass and solar energy.





Minister Bussemaker: ‘These are scientists that the Netherlands can be proud of. They belong to the world top. These research teams will put Dutch science on the international map. The six teams show that you can realise groundbreaking research that can improve the lives of many people through collaboration at the highest scientific level. With the Gravitation programme I am giving a strong boost to this collaboration.’


Within the research teams the best researchers from the Netherlands are intensively collaborating in one or more disciplines for a long period of time to carry out excellent scientific research. Gravitation provides financial support for a maximum period of ten years. Many of the research projects are interdisciplinary in nature so that innovative research can be carried out from several perspectives with a consolidation of strengths.


Selection process

NWO received 41 applications for funding within Gravitation. The assessment, competitive comparison between proposals and selection of the proposals was in the hands of expert referees as well as an international independent committee of scientists with a broad knowledge of scientific developments and experience with large scientific research groups. The Governing Board of NWO appointed the committee and advised the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science about the research teams to be awarded funding.


The Gravitation programme is open to proposals from all scientific disciplines. The six proposals selected are from the natural and life sciences. This year no proposals from the arts, social sciences and humanities were selected for funding. The committee was unanimous in its opinion that the proposals now awarded funding are the best. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and NWO will review to what extent the setup and procedure of the Gravitation Programme needs to be adjusted to safeguard the position of the arts, social sciences and humanities in the science-wide comparison of quality.


In 2012, six research groups started with a combined sum of 167 million euros in funding from Gravitation. The next funding round will be held in 2016.


About NWO

With a budget of 625 million euros per year, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) is one of the biggest funding bodies for scientific research in the Netherlands. NWO promotes quality and innovation in science by selecting and funding the best research. It manages research institutes of national and international importance, contributes to strategic programming of scientific research in the Netherlands and brings science and society closer together. Research proposals are reviewed and selected by researchers of international repute. More than 5000 scientists can carry out research thanks to funding from NWO.

Source: NWO