International research infrastructure

Objectives

Research infrastructure comprises all facilities and sources that promote the performance of cross-border and strategic basic research across all scientific disciplines. Besides scientific infrastructure, this includes collections, natural habitats, corpora and databases (including digital opening up).

The International Research Infrastructure (IRI) programme governing the participation in and/or funding of international research infrastructure aims to support the Flemish participation in and/or funding of international investment initiatives that are carried out at large-scale international or supranational facilities to which the Flemish Government contributes and/or whose strategic importance for Flanders can be demonstrated.

Features

  • Project period: 4 years, renewable with maximum two years
  • Eligible organizations: a research group or research groups of a Flemish scientific institution, a Flemish university, a strategic research centre, an institution for post-initial education, the Flanders Marine Institute, the RZSA-CRC, the Botanic Garden Meise, or a Flemish museum with a research mission, a partnership between the above-mentioned bodies, or a partnership between at least one of the above-mentioned bodies and one or more third parties. Third parties cannot receive subsidies.
  • Eligible costs: include both one-off and recurrent costs associated with the participation in and/or funding of international research infrastructures.
  • The subsidy is used for the financing of equipment, personnel, institutional, operational and logistic costs.  This includes the following cost categories, not all of which need to be present simultaneously in each project application:
    • equipment: costs for research investments, notably costs for the acquisition or building and connection of (components) of the international research infrastructure, and for substantial upgrades, including the non-recoverable portion of VAT;
    • personnel costs for the development, construction or building of the international research infrastructure. This also includes personnel costs for upgrading the international research infrastructure and costs for operating or maintenance personnel once the infrastructure is up and running;
    • operational costs such as maintenance costs throughout the depreciation period, notably costs arising out of maintenance contracts or upgrades of the international research infrastructure and equipment repair costs, coordination costs arising out of the multilateral nature including coordination costs to establish partnerships between international projects, institutional costs such as contributions and commitments entered into under international cooperation agreements and being a condition precedent for participation, and logistic costs that are necessary to carry out research at international research facilities, such as the accommodation of researchers.
  • Funding percentage:
    • The subsidy for selected proposals for international research infrastructure amounts to 80% of the eligible costs.
    • The subsidy is raised to 90% if the investment initiative originates from one or more research groups with more than one applicant, and if the application file proves that all applicants bear at least half of the amount that they would have to pay if the remaining 10% of the eligible costs were divided proportionally, so as to demonstrate the effective contribution and commitment.
    • If the consortium is able to prove in the operational plan that no co-funding is possible, the subsidy percentage may be raised to 100% provided the participation, support and commitment of the relevant bodies is demonstrated.
  • Co-funding: not in all cases will the subsidy cover 100% of the costs, so part of the funding will have to be found from other sources, either external or other funding available from the applicants team internally.

Timing

  • Call open: March 1, 2018
  • Submit applications through the FWO e-portal
  • To ensure a timely start of the evaluation process we expect a preliminary registration containing the title of the application, a general summary and the proposed external referees (see tables ‘General’, ‘Host Institution’, ‘Supervisor’, ‘Summary’, and ‘Referees’). This preliminary registration should be submitted through FWO’s e-portal by May 4, 2018 at 5PM
  • Deadline to transfer the completed form by the supervisor-spokesperson to the host institution of the supervisor-spokesperson: check for internal deadlines with your institution’s relevant department
  • Deadline to submit the final application by the institution of the supervisor-spokesperson: June 4, 2018 at 5PM
  • Call closed
  • Results will be announced in November/December 2018

Procedure

  • The decisions of the Board of Trustees of the FWO shall be based on the advice of experts who shall evaluate the scientific merit of the applications and, for applications that are rated 'excellent' or 'very good', examine whether the investment plans presented are realistic, feasible and of strategic importance for the Flemish Region or the Flemish Community. Pursuant to the provisions of this decision, two expert commissions are set up: the Science and Strategy Commissions, which are defined in the regulations for internal and external peer reviews of the Research Foundation - Flanders.
  • As supervisor of the project, you prepare your proposal through the FWO e-portal and transfer your proposal in preparation to your host institution (=main applicant of the proposal). Please contact the research coordination office of your research institution for internal deadlines and practicalities.
  • Your host institution submits your proposal to FWO via the e-portal by June 4, 2018 at 5PM.
  • Your application is submitted to a number of experts not active in Belgium.
  • The supervisor receives the anonymous reports from the international reviewers and has the possibility to provide feedback. This is scheduled for the period June-August 2018.
  • The members of the Science Commission are given access to the referee reports and the applicants' responses. On this basis, the Science Commission assesses on 26,27 and 28 September 2018 all applications and organizes a hearing. At the hearing, applicants are given the opportunity to explain their application and to answer questions from the members of the Science Commission. Based on the evaluation criteria in art. 16.2 of the regulation for internal and external peer review, the Science Commission classifies the applications into one of the following 4 categories:
    • Category A: those projects which are evaluated as ‘excellent’ from a scientific point of view;
    • Category B: those projects which are evaluated as ‘very good from a scientific point of view; this category includes projects which are deemed not yet fully mature (‘emerging projects’)
    • Category C: the projects which have received funding in previous calls (incl. Big Science or Hercules ESFRI) but which are not to be classified in either category A or category B at this point from a scientific point of view but for which an exit scenario is proposed;
    • Category D: all other projects from a scientific point of view
  • The Science Commission does not prioritize the applications but classifies them into one of the four above mentioned categories.
    • Which projects researchers/research groups in Flanders will participate in;
    • Whether membership fees will be paid by Flanders in case these would not be paid by the Belgian federal government, and to what amount;
    • Apart from the decision to participate, which funding will be provided;
    • The board will make a final decision taking into account the advice of the Strategy Commission. The proposed advice can only be ratified or rejected; in the latter case both the Science Commission and the Strategy Commission will be asked to make their evaluation anew, if relevant with explicit mentioning of those elements which are to be re-examined according to the FWO board.
  • In October 2018 the Strategy Commission will examine for those applications classified in either category A or category B by the Science Commission whether the operational and investment plan is realistic, feasible and sufficient and what their strategic importance may be for Flanders. This evaluation criteria can be found in art. 17bis of the regulations for internal and external peer review. The Strategy Commission may require applicants to present their application orally and/or in writing if the Commission deems it necessary. Based on its examinations, the Strategy Commission makes up a ranking and a proposal on participation and/or funding for each application, with specification of the proposed duration of this participation and/or funding. For those projects classified into the C category the Strategy Commission will decide how the exit scenario is implemented. For these projects which have received funding in the past but which are not evaluated as either excellent or very good from a scientific point of view but for which previously made international engagements prohibit that the project be terminated immediately, a feasible and realistic exit scenario will be drawn up in consultation with the applicants. Such scenario will take into account the fact that no new investments can be funded and ongoing funding should be halted as soon as possible to the extent that it is in line with the regulations in the statutes of the international infrastructure and with commitments that have been entered into with respect to the international infrastructure.
  • The FWO board of trustees makes a final decision during its meeting of November or December 2018:
    • For which projects an exit scenario will be made up; this scenario shall then be submitted to the board for approval as well
  • The FWO board of trustees will take into account the following principles:
    • In case the Strategy Commission formulates a recommendation on an application dossier, the FWO board of trustees will proceed as follows:
      • either the recommendation will be rejected, and the dossier approved;
      • or the recommendation will be accepted in part or in full, and the dossier approved, on the understanding that the financing or investment conditions imposed by the board of trustees will serve as the terms and conditions for obtaining subsidies;
      • or the recommendation will be accepted in part or in full, and the dossier only approved if the board of trustees is shown the necessary remediation within the period it stipulates, to be no less than ten calendar days and no more than sixty calendar days.  
    • If the total amount of subsidies to be granted to proposals exceeds the available amount, the projects will be subsidized to the amount proposed by the Strategy Commission in the order of the ranking. Projects which were proposed for funding by the Strategy Commission but could not or only partly be funded, will derive no rights from this in the next call.

Intake interview

  • Applicants who have not yet received prior funding through ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) or Big Science will be required to have an intake interview before the deadline. This interview is optional for all other applicants and may be arranged by sending an e-mail request to infrastructuur@fwo.be.

Regulations and downloads

Contact

General questions on the call for international research infrastructure or specific questions related to submitting an application for this call, can be obtained from the secretariat of the Research Foundation - Flanders, Egmontstraat 5, 1000 BRUSSELS, tel 02 512.91.10 or infrastructuur@fwo.be or contact your research coordination office of your research institution.

Questions regarding the functionality of the e-portal should be addressed to fwohelpdesk@fwo.be. Alternatively, the helpdesk for the e-portal can also be contacted by phone on the number 0800 23326 (during working days from 09:00 until 17:00).