NWO further implements its new domain structure

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) supports research in the Netherlands by encouraging quality and innovation in science. With a yearly budget of more than € 650 million, NWO finances about 5,600 research projects at Dutch Universities and institutes. Implementing a new act from the Dutch government effective February 1st 2017, the structure of NWO has undergone some fundamental changes that will be fully effectuated by January 2019. In this article, we summarise these changes and discuss how they will affect future applications for research funding.

Four NWO domains instead of eight divisions

While the main mission of NWO, encouraging quality and innovation in science in the Netherlands, has not changed, the strategy to reach these goals has altered. By consulting a variety of stakeholders and encouraged by the Dutch National Research Agenda, an even more flexible, effective and multidisciplinary NWO structure is envisioned. As a first step, the number of existing divisions is restructured into four new domains:

  • Applied and Engineering Sciences (former TW/STW)
  • Science (former EW, CW, ALW, N/FOM)
  • Social Sciences and Humanities (former MaGW and GW)
  • The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (stays unaltered, ZonMw).

Per January 1st 2018 the 9 NWO funded research institutes have merged into the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) (Figure 1).

NWO structure
Figure 1. NWO domain structure


Multidisciplinary/cross domain programming and internationalisation

As a second step, new finance instruments are developed that should encourage multidisciplinary, cross domain funded research and emphasise initiatives that tackle societal and economical challenges. In addition, collaborations across physical borders are stimulated by allowing, for the first time and only for some programmes, consortium partners to participate from outside the Netherlands. To reach these goals, NWO will implement a number of new finance-instruments, starting in August 2018. The new funding instruments will include four categories:

  • Talent;
  • Open project financing;
  • Open program financing;
  • Strategic financing.

Each of these categories will encompass a limited number of funding instruments (for example, the category Talent will include VENI, VIDI, VICI) and will have a modular structure. On January 30th, some details on these new instruments were published on the NWO website. More specific information will follow in the coming months.

From August 1st 2018 onwards, researchers can submit proposals for two new domain-wide instruments for innovative and curiosity-driven fundamental research. One instrument is designed for small scale investments and projects, the second one for large-scale projects. To ease the transition to the new funding scheme, NWO has already presented a clear transition regulation for a number of the current funding instruments in the open competition, for example these across NWO domain Science will close on May 1st 2018. In general, the NWO website will announce changes to these current instruments at least six months before these will be in effect. We will keep you updated about the changes.

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Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.