NWO to simplify its research funding

30 January 2018

With effect from 1 August 2018, NWO will implement a large-scale simplification. Then NWO will reduce all of its funding instruments to a handful of ‘main forms’. This simplification is a technical intervention that will not in any other way influence on the content of the research programmes. What was possible with the old instruments will still be possible after 1 August. The difference will be that the entire package of instruments will be far clearer.

This offers several advantages to researchers. The submission of research proposals in various programmes will become easier. In addition, the barriers to submitting proposals that cut across disciplinary or domain boundaries will be removed. With this simplification of the funding instruments, NWO wants to provide the researcher with a clear and flexible package of research funding in which unnecessary differences between disciplines have been removed.

Modular structure that retains customisation

The funding instruments will have a modular structure that provides room for customisation while retaining the uniformity. NWO will continue to do justice to the different needs of the science disciplines. The modular structure will enable the system to respond flexibly to new developments. The policy intentions and actions that emerge from the still to be released new Strategic Plan of NWO – such as funding research in the context of the Dutch National Research Agenda – will be implemented in the new system. As a result of this, no ad hoc new instruments will be needed. With this approach NWO seeks to provide recognisability and continuity over a longer period of time.


The NWO units that were merged in 2017 into the NWO domains had a wide variety of funding instruments that all differed from each other in terms of form and conditions. Many of the differences had a historical background, were unnecessary, and obstructed collaboration between scientific disciplines. Furthermore, it required a considerable degree of adaptability from the submitter. More collaboration across disciplinary boundaries is one of the objectives of the new NWO and an ambition from the 2025 Vision for Science.

Main forms

NWO wants to accommodate the grant programmes in a small number of main forms. A brief overview:

  • Individual funding, including the well-known Rubicon and Talent Scheme (Veni-Vidi-Vici)
  • Curiosity-driven research, including multilevel funding from small-scale projects to large-scale collaborative programmes with or without private partners
  • Thematic and mission-driven research, often carried out in collaboration with private or societal partners, within which multilevel funding from small to large projects is possible

Modules with standard building blocks

In every call, certain standard building blocks will recur with respect to the structure of the submission conditions, duration and budget, and if applicable the collaboration with private or societal parties or internationalisation.

First adjustments in the Open Competition

The simplification will be introduced gradually from August 2018 onwards and NWO will always announce any changes six months in advance. First of all the Open Competition within the Social Sciences and Humanities Domain and the Science Domain will be revamped according to the new model.

Changes per domain


For all of the 'old' funding instruments stated, the last awards will be made in 2018. The texts of the call for proposals for these instruments are already - or will very soon be - available via the website of NWO.

With effect from 1 August 2018, researchers will be able to submit applications for the new instruments, which will replace the instruments below, once these have been discontinued. One of the instruments will be aimed at the medium-sized projects and another will be aimed at the open programmes and after the first round it will be held once every two years.

To be discontinued

Submission possible until

ALW Open Programme

Continuous until 1 May 2018

Physics Projectruimte

Continuous until 1 May 2018

Chemical Sciences TOP/ECHO

Continuous until 1 May 2018

Physical Sciences TOP1&2

Continuous until 1 May 2018

Physics Vrije Programma's

Pre-proposals should be submitted before 1 March 2018
Full proposals before 28 August 2018

PPP programmes (FOM IPP and the Innovation Fund Chemistry of Chemical Sciences)

Will be continued in the first half of 2018 under the umbrella of the new Science PPP fund (a new merger of Innovation Fund Chemistry and NWO Physics Industrial Partnership Programmes, IPP)

Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH)

SSH will start a new funding instrument with effect from 1 September 2018 in which the instruments stated below from the former Humanities Division and Social Sciences Division will be absorbed. This instrument will have a fixed submission period (not continuous) and will focus on small and medium-sized projects. For all of the instruments stated below, with the exception of PhDs in the Humanities, the last funding round will take place in 2018. Due to previously made agreements, the instrument PhDs in the Humanities will continue until 2020.

To be discontinued

Decision last round in 2018

Internationalisation in the Humanities

Ca. June 2018

Investment Grant NWO Medium


Open Research Area

Ca. September 2018

Research Talent

Ca. June 2018

Free Competition in the Humanities

May 2018

PhDs in the Humanities (until 2020)

Ca. July 2018, and rounds in 2019 and 2020

Health Research and Development / ZonMw

ZonMw also recognises the fundamental importance of harmonising and simplifying the funding instruments. In this phase, ZonMw will harmonise the instruments that are funded via NWO. In 2018 further steps will be taken. ZonMw is also involved in the harmonisation process that still needs to be further elaborated within the entire of NWO. During the next phase, ZonMw will, amongst other things, take the opportunity to add additional modules to the funding model. With effect from January 2019 when ZonMw is merged with NWO, ZonMw will start with the new setup.

Current instruments

From 2019 onwards

Investment Grant NWO Medium

Will be included in Curiosity-driven research

TOP grants

Will be included in Curiosity-driven research

Off Road

Will be included in Curiosity-driven research

Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES)

The NWO domain Applied and Engineering Sciences is expected to implement small changes in the realisation of the instruments in 2018. From 2019 onwards the funding instruments of AES will fit within the new model. Major changes in procedure, changes of name, and the discontinuation of current instruments are not expected in 2018. AES will announce these major changes at least six months in advance via the website of the programme concerned and via the newsletter.

Source: NWO