Frank De Winne PhD fellowships


The 'Frank De Winne PhD fellowships’ are PhD grants strategic basic research under the impulse programme "Flemish Space Economy". This impulse programme focuses on talent, competitiveness, international cooperation, and promoting interest in space among the population. The Talent section of the impulse programme "Flemish Space Economy" covers not only "Frank De Winne PhD fellowships" at FWO but also calls for "Frank De Winne postdocs" at VLAIO.

The FWO’s "Frank De Winne PhD fellowships" offer burgeoning research talents the opportunity to complete their PhD with research into applications in the space industry. It enables young researchers to take space research in Flanders to the next level while at the same time establishing and developing a sustainable career in the Flemish space economy.

Calls, evaluation and selection

A total of 3 calls "Frank De Winne PhD fellowships" have been planned. The first call closed on 15 September 2021. The second and third calls will be integrated into the regular calls 2022 and 2023 for SB PhD fellowships, but with a fixed number of fellowships to be awarded (8 for call 2023), and a dedicated ‘SBFDW’ expert panel.

The third call is closed

  • Announcement of selection results: 6 October 2023
  • Start fellowship: 1 November 2023

The application/evaluation/selection procedures are those of the fellowship SB programme.

The Frank De Winne PhD fellowships specifically focus on:

  • The bridging function between university and companies: maximum use of the facilities provided for in the SB Fellowship regulations (intersectoral mobility, Art 4§2 fellowship regulations), to conduct part of the research in another company (active in the space sector);
  • The training component with additional focus on entrepreneurship and innovation (development of transferable skills, Art 18§2 fellowship regulations), specifically in the space sector, e.g. through internships at a company or another type of organisation;
  • The strategic nature of the PhD project is in line with the impulse programme Flemish space economy, with valorization potential for (Flemish) companies operating in the space sector.

Impulse programme Flemish space economy

The impulse programme Flemish space economy (decision of Flemish government (Dutch version only)) focuses on talent, competitiveness, international cooperation, and promoting interest in space among the population.

Space economy encompasses all aspects of the space value chain. These are the so-called upstream activities that are needed to launch crafts into space, such as the development and construction of satellites, launching infrastructure and vehicles, space stations, scientific instruments, etc. The downstream activities are focused on operating the upstream infrastructure and keeping it operational, and the development, construction and marketing of products and services using space technology and data.

Space economy is therefore a broader concept than the actual space industry.

Examples are satellite data or Earth observation data that report changes to the Earth’s surface or are used for positioning, telecommunication or meteorology. Space data thus represent an added value to many sectors ranging from agriculture to defence. Finally, the space economy serves to address great challenges such as climate change, mobility or new security threats.

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Frank De Winne

Frank De Winne has, since January 2000, been part of the astronaut corps of ESA, the European Space Agency, where he is currently head of the European Astronaut Centre, the ESA’s astronaut training centre in Cologne. "I am pleased with the investment in young talent and the initiative to further develop space research in Flanders," says Frank De Winne, who has already been twice in space onboard the ISS space station. "Space is increasingly becoming part of our daily lives. It is a fast-growing sector with high added value. Europe cannot afford to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of investments. That is why it is absolutely essential for Flanders to commit itself and encourage and support a career in space." (Press release Minister Crevits 23 April 2021)