Newsletter April 2017

electronic letter


Rumours abound that the FWO is working on a reform of the evaluation procedures which gives rise to concern and anxiety about the path ahead. Board members and employees of the FWO are repeatedly questioned by individual researchers or groups of researchers who want to voice their views on these reforms and express their concern.


This is positive because it shows that the FWO's role is greatly appreciated by the Flemish research community and that all researchers deeply care about the proper functioning of the FWO. It is important not to just tinker with existing processes and procedures without realising the potential impact and implications this may have.  What is needed are effective and widely supported improvements.


This reform of the evaluation procedure is not being rushed through. A dialogue with stakeholders has already been scheduled at various intervals and the Board of Trustees is extremely cautious to avoid making decisions that may have undesirable side effects.  Nevertheless, with this reform the FWO wants to respond to a number of concerns that are raised by the research community with regards to the FWO's selection and evaluation process. One example is the concern that junior research groups are finding it difficult to secure sufficient funding amidst the heavy FWO competition. Also the self-selection of international referees, regarded by many researchers as a very labour intensive and difficult exercise, will be reviewed. A final example of the concerns being addressed, is the fear of possible conflicts of interest among panel members.


This reform has one objective: to secure the proper functioning of the FWO also in the long term and to guarantee that also in the future the most outstanding research in Flanders will be able to count on funding from the FWO. The research world is becoming increasingly international and changing ever faster. The pressure on the financing channels that is facing Flanders, also as a result of the FWO's declining success rates, is an international trend that virtually all research councils are experiencing and trying to reverse.   This is evident, for example, from the fact that many countries have resorted to limiting the number of application attempts or the number of ongoing research projects.  The FWO examines also these approaches as part of the reform. 


Giving the most outstanding research the opportunity to flourish while at the same time ensuring that new platforms for ground-breaking research can develop, that has been the FWO's mission for almost 90 years, and it will continue to be for the next 90 years. The current reform seeks to create the context that gives Flemish research every opportunity to flourish with optimal transparency.


Willy Verstraete

President FWO

In the spotlight

State visit to Denmark

The FWO took part in the royal mission to Denmark from 28 to 30 March. As part of the academic delegation, the FWO participated in the debate between Belgian and Danish rectors on the future of university education and the attendant changes in a context where technology and expectations from the industry are changing increasingly fast. The main message was that it is essential for researchers to ensure that their research continues to receive broad support as well as to address the questions and sometimes also the concerns that are raised by the general public.


Following on this mission the secretary-general of the FWO had a meeting with representatives from the Danish Council for Independent Research and the Villum and Velux foundations. Such consultation not only contributes to the exchange of best practices, it also offers new insights into where scientific research at European level is supposed to be heading. The Villum foundation with its brand new programme “Villum Experiment”, for example, is focusing on what they describe as unorthodox research that would probably fail to attract funding via the classical peer review, but which could well make the difference in a particular discipline. This programme meets a real need, as evidenced by the nearly 400 applications that they received for this call. It is an interesting angle that we at the FWO will certainly keep following.

The Flemish PhD Cup wants you

Did you obtain your PhD degree in the past year and a half? Then the Flemish PhD Cup challenges you to convey to the general public the insights of the doctoral research you have been working on for years! Not through an academic lecture, but told as a compelling and comprehensible story for non-peers. After an intense mediatraining by experts such as Ivan De Vadder, you will face the ultimate test: can you explain the core of your PhD in just… three minutes? The first prize is a voucher for Vlerick Business School, worth 10.000 euro.


More info on (only in Dutch) – Registration until June the 30th. 


The PhD Cup is an initiative of Scriptie vzw in collaboration with CanvasDe MorgenEOS MagazineFWOErnest Solvay FundVlerick Business SchoolThe City of GhentDeloitteThe Young AcademyFishgrowfeetThe Floor is Yours and the Flemish Government    

Evaluation FWO e-portal

Everything can always be improved, that’s why we want your opinion on the FWO e-portal. Your feedback is very useful to us.


Because it’s the only way we can make this e-portal into the most practical instrument for you.


Would you like to tell us what you think of the e-portal? Yes, I’d like to help improve the e-portal. It will only take 5 minutes.


Sixth call for (medium-) large-scale research infrastructure

The FWO is pleased to announce the opening of a new call for (medium-) large-scale research infrastructure. Research infrastructure comprises all facilities and sources that promote the performance of frontier and strategic basic research across all scientific disciplines.


In an effort to streamline all FWO programmes as much as possible, the rules for the funding of (medium-) large-scale research infrastructure are established in FWO regulations for research infrastructure. Due to the differences in procedures for calls for medium- and large-scale research infrastructure, separate regulations apply to these two categories.  


Medium-scale research infrastructure is research infrastructure with a total financing cost from minimum €150,000 to maximum €1,000,000.  This application is evaluated via the associations.  The deadline for submission of the final project proposal by the main applicant is 25 September 2017. Details regarding this application are available on our website through the following link: /en/fellowships-funding/research-infrastructure/medium-scale-research-infrastructure/


The deadline for large-scale research infrastructure (total financing cost of minimum €1,000,000) is also 25 September 2017. In contrast with medium-large research infrastructure, this application is submitted directly to the FWO. Further information regarding the call for large-scale research infrastructure is available through the following link:/en/fellowships-funding/research-infrastructure/large-scale-research-infrastructure/

Flemish Supercomputer Centre users day 2017

The VSC User Committee is organising its annual VSC Users Day on 2 June 2017 at the Palace of the Academies, Brussels.


The User Committee has put together an interesting programme. In addition to a lecture by a domestic and a foreign speaker (Achim Basermann, German Aerospace Center, on High Performance Computing with Aeronautics and Space Applications), three workshops will be organised. They will be repeated in the afternoon so that participants can attend two different workshops.


The day will conclude with a poster session and drinks. Participation is free, subject to registration.


The detailed programme and practical information is available at

International news

Testimonial Ifdal Elsaket - assistant-director Arabic and Islamic Studies NVIC

I joined the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo in October of 2016 as assistant-director Arabic and Islamic Studies. Established in 1971, the institute is a central place for research on Egypt and the Middle East, supporting scholars from Flemish and Dutch universities to conduct their field work. It offers a space for research and writing, logistical support, and acts as a bridge between Dutch and Flemish scholars and their Egyptian counterparts. One of the best things about the NVIC is the number of scholars that pass through its doors to work on their research, give talks to the public, and meet others in their field. It makes for a lively intellectual environment.

» Read more

Opening of Bilateral Research Projects with Quebec (FRQ) and Vietnam (NAFOSTED)

Early March the FWO launched two new calls for bilateral research projects:

  • Bilateral research cooperation Quebec (FRQ):


The FWO reached an agreement with the research fund ‘Fonds de Recherche de Québec’ (FRQ) to finance multi- or interdisciplinary fundamental research projects covering research domains falling under at least two of the three Quebec Research Funds (FRQNT, FRQS of FRQSC).


Submission deadline: 15 May 2017 – 17:00


For details see: /en/fellowships-funding/international-collaboration/bilateral-research-cooperations/bilateral-research-cooperation-quebec/


  • Bilateral research cooperation Vietnam (NAFOSTED):


Together with the research fund ‘National Foundation for Science and Technology Development’ (NAFOSTED), the FWO launched a joint call for financing fundamental research in the following domains:

  • Mathematics, computer sciences and informatics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biological sciences
  • Medical sciences
  • Engineering
  • Materials research
  • Agricultural sciences
  • Environmental science, ecology and earth sciences
  • Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Submission deadline: 01 June 2017 – 17:00


For details see: /en/fellowships-funding/international-collaboration/bilateral-research-cooperations/bilateral-research-cooperation-vietnam/

Changes to the sabbatical leave application and report forms

The sabbatical leave application and report forms were optimised and must be used as of 1 April 2017. The new forms require applicants to give a more detailed description of their current position, the research units where they wish to be employed, the actual content of the sabbatical leave, and the actual use of the grant.

» The new form templates are available here

L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Awards 2018 edition, Life Sciences

the call for nominations for 2018 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Awards is now open. The 2018 Awards will designate five outstanding researchers in the Life Sciences, each working in one of the following regions: Africa and the Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America & North America.


Scientists around the world are invited to nominate candidates for the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards. Nomination files must be submitted before June 16th 2017 at midnight (Paris time).

More information:

Across the boarders

European Research Area Networks (ERA-NET)


As part of ERA-NET, the European programme that stimulates cooperation between funding organisations and researchers on research calls with specific themes, various calls with FWO participation were launched during the past months. As of today the SBO financing channel will also be used for participation in ERA networks.

In addition, for various ERA-NETS a final decision has been made regarding the allocation and funding of projects with Flemish participation, being:


C-IPM - JTC 2016

  • ‘Defdef’ - Thomas Van Leeuwen, Universiteit Gent, € 200,000.


Smart Urban Futures (ENSUF) cofund - JTC 2016

  • ‘FLOODLABEL’ - Luuk Boelens, Universiteit Gent, € 200,000;
  • ‘CAPA.CITY’ - Oswald Devisch, Universiteit Hasselt, € 200,000;
  • ‘C3Places’ - Dick Botteldooren, Universiteit Gent, € 196,500.


NEURON-3 cofund – JTC 2016

  • ‘KidBrainIT’ - Bart Depreitere, KU Leuven, € 80,500;
  • ‘REACT NSCs’ – Veerle Baekelandt, KU Leuven, € 200,000;
  • ‘TAI-MRI’ - Paul Parizel, Universiteit Antwerpen, € 159,300;
  • ‘Micronet’ - Aya Takeoka, KU Leuven, € 180,000;
  • ‘RepImpact’ - Stephan Swinnen, KU Leuven, € 180,000;
  • ‘NEURONICHE’ - Serge Muyldermans, VUB, € 180,000.
» For details on the upcoming calls see the FWO website

ERC 10 years old

The European Research Council (ERC), the flagship of the European horizon2020 framework programme, is this year celebrating its 10th anniversary. During the celebration organised by FWO, F.R.S.-FNRS and Belspo on 20 March, the ERC grantees and their research were lauded. Speakers included ERC President Jean-Pierre Bourguignon and Prof. Reinhilde Veugelers, member of the ERC Scientific Council. Thanks to the unrelenting commitment and excellence of the researchers at Flemish host institutions, 170 grants (each for a period of 5 years) for a total amount of nearly €300 million were allocated over a period of 10 years. They break down as follows:

  • 96 Starting Grants, for young scientists (less than 7 years after their PhD), with max. 1.5 million per grant.
  • 36 Consolidator Grants, for advanced scientists (between 7 and 12 years after their PhD), with max. 2 million per grant.
  • 38 Advanced Grants for top scientists in their respective domain, with max. 2.5 million per grant.

Science Europe

FWO remains an active member of Science Europe, an organisation that brings together 43 European Research Funding and Research Performing Organisations (RFO-RPO) from 27 countries. Over the past months, it has again published new documents that researchers and policy makers may find useful and interesting.

To keep up to date on the activities of Science Europe, you can subscribe to their quarterly newsletter: .

Evaluation results ERC Starting grants 2016 call

In the FWO newsletter of October 2016, we reported on the publication of the results of the 2016 call for European Research Council Starting Grants on 8 September 2016 by the ERC Executive Agency (ERCEA). The 325 laureates included 12 researchers from Flemish research institutes.


On 3 April 2017 it was announced that thanks to additional budget of €96 million, 65 applications for ERC Starting grants 2016 will be eligible for funding in 2017. This means a total of 390 allocated Starting grants for the 2016 call. Among these 65 extra applications there are two with a Flemish host institution:

  • Nele Moelans (KU Leuven)
  • Edwin Reynders (KU Leuven)

Evaluation results ERC Advanced grants 2016 call

On Friday 7 April the results of the Advanced grants 2016 call were announced by ERCEA. A total of 231 grants have been allocated, including three to researchers from a Flemish host institution:

  • Jan Genoe (IMEC – KU Leuven)
  • Lieven Eeckhout (UGent)
  • Peter Carmeliet (VIB – KU Leuven)