Newsletter July 2015


As is traditional, when the summer months approach the FWO buzzes with activity. The last Wednesday of June has, for many years, been an exceptional day for the FWO as it is the day the Board of Trustees decides on the research fellowships, a decision that may determine the career and perhaps even the life of hundreds of researchers in Flanders.


The numerous hits which the FWO website had to process on Wednesday 24 June made it all too clear how impatient the over 2,000 applicants were to find out whether or not they were one of the lucky ones in this application round. There was a sigh of relief for 413 of them, of which 231 PhD and 182 postdoctoral researchers, as they were selected by the 31 FWO expert panels to start work on 1 October 2015 with a FWO fellowship.


As every year there was a very strict selection process and this time the FWO again had to disappoint promising researchers due to budgetary constraints. I sincerely hope that they find other ways to make their research dreams come true. 


When I see the many research proposals in review, which the talented youth of Flanders will sink their teeth into in the coming years, I can only feel pride that such a small region as Flanders is home to so much talent and can compete on a global level when it comes to scientific excellence. The latter is not an empty slogan but is repeatedly confirmed by the many international members of the panel who do not hide their admiration for the Flemish research community.


The FWO is therefore also exceptionally proud this year to award five of Flanders most outstanding researchers with the FWO excellence award. Three international panels of judges, comprising top scientists, examined over 40 top candidates who were nominated both from at home and abroad for these five "Flemish Nobel prizes" which are awarded once every five years.


More information about the FWO Excellence Prizes is given later in this newsletter but I would wholeheartedly like to congratulate the five winners of this prestigious award for their impressive scientific career.


These top scientists each serve as a role model for young researchers working at Flemish universities and research centres. Based on the outstanding applications that the FWO evaluated over recent months, I am convinced that many of them will develop into scientists who can push back the boundaries of current knowledge, make breakthroughs and thereby lay the foundations for future innovation and applications that will shape tomorrow’s world.


For now I would like to wish everyone an enjoyable holiday so that we can return to work after the summer holiday full of energy!

In the spotlight

FWO Excellence Prizes

The Board of Trustees of the FWO announced the winners of the 5 Excellence Prizes on 1st July. These prestigious prizes are awarded in the five major scientific fields. Researchers cannot nominate themselves but are nominated by colleagues at home or abroad. An independent panel of top international scientists examines the nominations and selects one winner per field. The prizes are named after former scientists who wanted their work and dedication to science to live on through a legacy.


Vacancies FWO-Expertpanels

The annual call for new experts for the FWO Expert panels is online. This year the FWO is searching for 53 experts affiliated to Flemish universities and 75 experts affiliated to universities or scientific institutions outside Flanders. Applications are expected until 15th September 2015 via the online module. The term of office of the new members takes effect from 1st January 2016 and runs for three years.

» More information is available from the FWO website.

Change to regulations

To optimise the regulations for travel grants to a conference, workshop, short or long stay, the FWO has implemented a few changes. The new regulations – that can be viewed here – is effective for applications for grants with a departure after 30th September 2015. Requests for travel grants with a departure before 1st October 2015 are covered by the old regulation. The main changes that must be respected from 1st October are as follows per grant category:

  • Grant for participation in an international conference
    • To participate in a conference in countries outside Europe (EEA or Switzerland) you should preferably have three peer-reviewed publications (included in the Web of Science or the VABB-SHW lists).
    • If the conference presentation will be given jointly by two or more researchers, only one researcher can apply for a grant.

More information is available from the website participation at an international conference


  • Grant for a short stay abroad and a grant for participation at an international workshop or course
    • Stays for seven days or less will no longer receive a fixed daily allowance. Grants for short stays, workshops and courses that take more than seven days will still include a fixed daily allowance – in addition to the allowance for travel costs.     

More information is available from the website short stays and the website participation in a workshop or course.


  • Grants for a long stay abroad
    • The applicant must receive a salary or grant for the entire duration of the stay with a minimum employment of 50%.

For more information visit the website.


Stefaan Vaes wins Francqui Prize 2015

Professor Stefaan Vaes (KU Leuven – Faculty of Science) won the Francqui prize 2015. He was awarded the prize for his research on von Neumann algebras, through which he made breakthroughs in the structure of operator algebras. In addition to his fundamental research professor Vaes is also very committed to making young people excited about maths. Stefaan Vaes was an FWO Aspirant from 1998 to 2002. He received his prize on 9th June at the Academy Palace from Queen Mathilde.

Grey Cells – Autumn 2015

This autumn there will again be 2 editions of our Grey Cells series on the programme. On Monday 12th October we will be organising an evening about health and (un)healthy lifestyles, including a talk by Luc Bonneux, followed by a discussion led by Eos-editor Dieter Decleene. This evening will take place at the Handelsbeurs in Ghent.


On Monday the 2nd of November we will give the floor to two top scientists from the Low Countries who are carrying out pioneering research in cancer care. Hans Clevers (KNAW and Hubrecht Instituut) developed a method for targeting cancer treatment to the patient’s genome through stem cell research. Almost simultaneously a research team at the VIB under the direction of Peter Carmeliet (VIB and KU Leuven) discovered a way to stop tumour growth by starving cancer cells. This edition will take place at the STUK in Leuven.

International news

Prof. Nathalie Vermeulen wins the International Young Women in Photonics Award

In the framework of the International Year of Light 2015, the former FWO aspirant and FWO postdoc prof. Nathalie Vermeulen (VUB-research group Brussels Photonics Team) was awarded the Young Women in Photonics Award on 24th June. She received this prestigious recognition because of her ground-breaking research on light generation in optical chips and mid-infrared lasers.

Signature of MoU NSFC China

The official signing of the new cooperation between the FWO and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) took place in Brussels on 30th June.


The renewed cooperation will focus on two-year projects that wish further to strengthen and optimise scientific cooperation between researchers from China and Flanders. Calls with deadlines will now be used instead of the current ‘open submission’-system. The travel costs for researchers will be funded for the implementation and execution of joint research activities. In the coming months the FWO and NSFC will formulate guidelines for researchers further so that the first call can be launched in 2016 with projects starting in January 2017.


More information about the launch of the first call, the eligibility requirements, application and evaluation procedure will appear during the course of 2016 on /en/fellowships-funding/international-collaboration/scientific-cooperation/cooperation-with-china/

Science Europe

Science Europe, the umbrella organisation of 50 European research funding organisations (RFOs) and research performing organisations (RPOs) including the FWO, recently took positions on:

Recently new documents also appeared on:

Lots of other documents from research policy and the scientific community are also available from the Science Europe website (


The President of Science Europe, prof. Miguel Seabra, resigned on personal grounds.  The Secretary-General of the FWO, Dr ir. Elisabeth Monard, was appointed by the Governing Board as acting President until the election of a new president at the General Meeting in November 2015. 

Appointment of Flemish Assistant Director of the NVIC

In 1971 the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (NVIC) was established to encourage and internationalise the teaching and research activities of the universities of Flanders and the Netherlands in the Middle East. The FWO has been a partner of this institute since December 2012 and funds the salary of the Flemish Assistant Director.


Since 1st June 2015, Dr Stijn Aerts succeeded Dr Peter Verkinderen as the new Flemish Assistant Director of the NVIC.   

Across the boarders

Global Research Council

The fourth annual Global Meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC) was held on May 25-28 2015 this time in Tokyo. The meeting was hosted by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa.

At the meeting the 60 participants, including the Secretary-General of the FWO Elisabeth Monard, confirmed the following statements:


FWO remains a committed partner in the ERA-NET, a programme of the European Framework Programme Horizon2020 to have research funders and research teams in Europe work together around common themes.

Over the last period these calls were already (pre) announced, with the support of the FWO for Flemish research projects:

  • C-IPM ERA-NET (over integrated pest management: 27th of April 2015)
  • BiodivERsA-3:  14th of May 2015


In the framework of the 2014 HIVERA call, for research on HIV and Aids, an FWO project was awarded to professor Joeri Aerts (VUB & ITG).

» More information on each call


The FWO also continues to invest in the other coordination initiative, the JPIs. Current FWO projects that fit within the call are therefore supported with additional funds.

Over the last period the following calls were (pre)announced:

  • More Years, Better Lives (JPI MYBL): 1st of April 2015
  • A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life (JPI HDHL) - Food Processing for Health call: 1st of April 2015
  • A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life (JPI HDHL) – Malnutrition in the Elderly call: 15th of April 2015
» More information on each call



New calls

Numbers and figures

New fellowships

On the 24th of June the Board of Trustees of the FWO awarded new fellowships. On the 1st of October 2015, 220 new P.h.D fellowships will start, which bring the total number of aspirants to 870. At the same time 182 new postdoctoral researchers will start work. There will then be 807 postdoctoral fellows in total.
9 new senior clinical investigators will also start work on the same day. On the 1st of October 2015, the FWO will allow around 1784 researchers to carry out fundamental research in complete freedom through a personal mandate.

» Click here to see all the results

Recently awardes scientific prizes

  • BiR&D Award 2015 – Science&Technology Award: Dr Sammy Verbruggen (UAntwerpen), “TiO2 Gas Phase Photocatalysis: from Morphological Design to Plasmonic Enhancement”

Gustave Boël-Sofina Fellowships:

  • Floris Dalemans (KU Leuven), “Bio-economic potential of alternative biofuel trees. Yield and co-benefits in Indian agroforestry models.”
  • Lara Pivodic (VUB): “Identifying key features of effective community-based palliative care: a systematic description of the neighbourhood network in palliative care in Kerala, India.”