Newsletter November 2017


Many researchers in Flanders have been waiting anxiously, no doubt, for the results of the call for new research projects to be funded by FWO. Every year the publication of this information on our website is highly anticipated, but for a great deal of applicants this is a moment of bitter disappointment if their proposal was not selected for funding. This frustration is quite natural; it requires a lot of time to submit a research proposal, and there is always the threat to the continuity and long-term planning of one’s research.


FWO is certainly not indifferent to this issue; we continue to urge for more funding for science, which is absolute necessary if we want to consolidate Flanders’ good position in this field. A useful and concrete result of our efforts may be considered the increased success rate for research projects of the most recent call. As of this year the FWO receives an additional 30 million euro from the Flemish government, which has been used entirely to benefit the fundamental research projects! For the first time in many years the success rate of a call for research projects has been above 20% or 1 in 5, a substantial increase compared to previous years when it was roughly 15%. In combination with other planned measures in the scheduled growth process for research funding this is a first step towards the ultimate goal of a 1 in 3 success rate for applications, as it has been confirmed in the latest coalition agreement of the Flemish Government. For a long, long time this goal was nothing but a distant dream, but owing to the government’s clear commitment this goal is more than ever within reach! The promised growth prospects for R&D will lead to further increases in 2019 and these are of vital importance; FWO will do everything in its power to convince the minister of the important role of both fundamental and strategic basic research.


The 30 million euro funding increase is a first but essential step to catch up, and we hope it will not end here: future actions to come are already being discussed. In October the FWO has had its annual policy session, a two-day series of workshops and presentations for the Board and policy team to develop and finetune the key elements of the policy plan for the next few years. The request for more funding and better funding models has resounded loudly and clearly, as did the concern for a proper level of recognition of basic research – both of the so-called ‘curiosity driven’ and strategic nature. This remains a basic prerequisite to realise our vision for the future in a successful way. The importance of basic research is not to be called into question as far as FWO is concerned, and fortunately we notice a similar attitude at research councils abroad as well as with governments and in the private sector. It is widely recognized that thorough and unrestrained exploration is the basic fundament of the essential societal developments which we will see in the future. Supported by all our stakeholders we want to devote ourselves to ‘our’ researchers, to keep providing them with the opportunities they need to do world level research at our universities here in Flanders and to help us to shape the future.

In the spotlight

Reforms - Update Research Projects

As part of the reform of the application modalities for projects at the FWO, from call 2019 on (submission deadline 1/4/2019) maximum two projects per round per supervisor and co-supervisor can be applied for and the total sum of projects applied for and ongoing on the start date of the newly allocated project is also limited to two.  As a consequence, an application can be made in the last year of the ongoing project without the latter being included in the calculation of the maximum of two projects.


With regard to the maximum of ongoing and applied for projects a transitional measure is put in place, in order to enable everyone to timely adapt to the new situation. For call 2019, the first call under the new system (with submission deadline on 1/4/2019), only ongoing projects starting on January 1st 2019 will be taken into account.


Consequently, projects already ongoing before 1/1/2019 will NOT be taken into account. Projects granted during call 2018 and starting on January 1st 2019 WILL be taken into account, also with regard to co-supervisors of ongoing as well as applied for projects.


Attention!  The current regulation stipulating that a supervisor-spokesperson of a granted project cannot submit a project application during the next call, be it as a promoter or a co-promoter, still applies for

  • call 2017 (with submission deadline 1/4/2017)
  • call 2018 (with submission deadline 1/4/2018)

Supervisors-spokespersons of a project granted in 2017 or 2018 therefore will not be allowed to apply for a new project in 2018 or 2019 respectively.

The budget restrictions for projects remain in place:

  • Staff and consumables per year: between € 45.000 and 130.000;
  • Infrastructure: max. € 150.000 for the entire project.

Read the detailed presentation

Kom Naar Buiten

The third edition of Kom Naar Buiten (Come Out), the 'do-day' on science communication, took place on Thursday 16 November.  In his keynote speech, Koen Wauters of the VRTNWS Science newsroom gave an overview of how the VRT proceeds when selecting interesting research topics for radio and TV news and the online channel. He also shared tips and tricks to encourage the researchers in the audience to bring their research to the journalists. In addition, the programme featured a number of workshops on exciting topics such as Twitter, writing press releases and giving interviews. This was followed by the presentation of the science communication awards from the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, and the Young Academy.

FWO postdoc Ben Van Duppen wins PhD Cup 2017

FWO postdoc and physicist Ben Van Duppen of UAntwerpen won the PhD Cup as well as the Public Award for fundamental research into graphene, which promises to make our smartphones faster and more economical.


In the final of the PhD Cup, a competition that challenges young scientists to briefly present their PhD work to a wide audience, Ben Van Duppen (UAntwerpen) scored best with the four-member professional jury. Within the allotted three minutes, he took the jury and the audience at the Ghent Handelsbeurs on a journey into the wondrous world of quantum mechanics.

International news

Call for PhD fellowships at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence

The European University Institute (EUI) in Florence is a renowned institute that offers young researchers a unique opportunity to complete their PhD research in an international and outstanding scientific context. The focus is on research with a European dimension in social sciences: history, law, economy, and political/social sciences. For the academic year 2018-2019, the FWO will provide funding for two PhD fellowships at the EUI. The call was opened on 02 November 2017 and applications can be submitted via the online application portal of the EUI until 31 January 2018.

For more information on eligibility criteria and selection procedure see this website.

Work in progress

The FWO and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) are examining how the current channel for cooperation projects can be extended to full-fledged bilateral research projects. This new cooperation agreement was signed on 24 November. A first call for joint research projects will probably be launched in 2018.


The FWO is also busy negotiating with FAPESP, São Paulo Research Foundation, to draft and sign a new Flemish-Brazilian scientific cooperation agreement. A first call for joint research projects is tentatively planned for 2018.


In the course of the coming weeks, the evaluation phase of the EOS research projects will be completed and the most excellent projects selected for funding. The results of this decision will be announced on 15 December 2017.

Evaluation results

ERC Starting Grant 2017:

A total of 406 applications are eligible for funding, including 7 with a Flemish host institution.

  • Sha Liu, VIB: The role of sleep in synaptic plasticity           
  • Pieter De Frenne, Universiteit Gent: Microclimatic buffering of plant responses to macroclimate warming in temperate forests
  • Klaas Bentein, Universiteit Gent: Everyday Writing in Graeco-Roman and Late Antique Egypt (I - VIII AD). A Socio-Semiotic Study of Communicative Variation
  • Maaheen Ahmed, KU Leuven: Children in Comics: An Intercultural History from 1865 to Today
  • Bart Kuyken, Universiteit Gent: Chip Scale Electrically Powered Optical Frequency Combs
  • Stefaan Soenen, KU Leuven: Nanomaterials in Oncology: Exploiting the Intrinsic Cancer-Specific Toxicity of Nanoparticles
  • Sofie Marien, KU Leuven: Meeting Great Expectations Through Democratic Innovations


ERC Proof of Concept, second cut-off:

A total of 51 applications are eligible for funding, including 1 with a Flemish host institution.

  • Roel Baets, Universiteit Gent: MIRASPEC - Miniature on-chip Raman spectrometer for personal volatile organic compound (VOC) monitoring    


Future and Emerging Technologies Open oproep RIA 2016-2017, cut-off 17:

Of the 371 applications submitted, 26 were awarded funding, including 2 with Flemish participation.

  • KU Leuven coordinator, IMEC and DoseVue NV partner: AMPHORA – Acoustic markers for enhanced remote sensing of radiation doses
  • VIB partner: Stardust - in vivo optogeneticS, elecTrophysiology and phArmacology with an ultRasonically-powered DUST for Parkinson's Disease


ERC Consolidator grant 2017

A total of 329 applications are eligible for funding, including 9 with a Flemish host institution.

  • Thomas Van Leeuwen, Universiteit Gent
  • Sarah-Maria Fendt, VIB
  • Frederick Verbruggen, Universiteit Gent
  • Sandra Van Aert, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Bart Loeys, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Hugues Sana, KU Leuven
  • Massimiliano Mazzone, VIB
  • Anna Sablina, VIB
  • Toon van Waterschoot, KU Leuven


MSCA Innovative Training Networks and Research and Innovation Staff Exchange info session 16 October 2017

Audrey Arfi and Brito Ferreira of the Research Executive Agency discussed the modalities of the ITN and RISE 2018 call. Dr. Brian Cahill, president of the MSCA Alumni Association, described in detail the activities of this network. Testimonials were provided by: Sylvain Fauquenoy, Université libre de Bruxelles, working on the EU4HIVCure Rise project; Prof. Filip De Boeck, KU Leuven, working on the Anthusia ITN project; Prof. Pieter-Jan Guns, Universiteit Antwerpen, who was involved in the preparation of the B-Q minded ITN project, and Prof. Erik Goormaghtigh, Université libre de Bruxelles, who acted as evaluator in previous calls.

The ITN call is open with 17 January 2018 as deadline. The budget amounts to €442 million.  The RISE call is open with 21 March 2018 as deadline and has a budget of €80 million.


ERC consolidator grants info session 23 October 2017

Ines Pio of the European Research Council Executive Agency had been invited to present the modalities of the 2018 call. Testimonials were provided by Bence Nanay, Universiteit Antwerpen, team leader of the project "STYDS - Seeing Things You Don't See": Unifying the philosophy, psychology and neuroscience of multimodal mental imagery”; Karine Van Doninck, UNamur, “RHEA - Rotifers Highlight Evolution of Asexuals”; Wim Bogaerts, Universiteit Gent, “PhotonICSWARM - Photonic Integrated Circuits using Scattered Waveguide elements in an Adaptive, Reconfigurable Mesh” and Jean Vanderdonckt, Université catholique de Louvain, a former panel member.

The call is open with 15 February 2018 as deadline and has a budget of €550 million.

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, the following calls were launched during the past months, with FWO participation:

  • Transcan-2 - JTC 2017 (Translational cancer research).
  • E-rare3 - JTC 2018 (Research into rare diseases).

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


Fundamental Research


ERACOSYSMED - JTC 2017 (‘Systems medicine’):

  • ‘ROCKET’ - Maarten Naesens, KU Leuven, €198,000.

ERA-CVD - JTC 2017 (Research into cardiovascular diseases)

  • ‘PROACT’ - Peter Verhamme, KU Leuven, €190,000.


E-RARE3 - JTC 2017 (Research into rare diseases)

  • ‘EDSCIDPROG’ - Tom Taghon, Universiteit Gent, €120,000.
  • ‘Cure-AID’ - Mohamed Lamkanfi, Universiteit Gent, €200.000.


NEURON cofund - JTC 2017 (Disease-related neuroscience)

  • ‘SleepLess’ - Jeroen Verhaeghe, Universiteit Antwerpen, €160,000.


Strategic Basic Research



Graphene - Basic research:

  • ‘GraSage’ - Larissa Gorbatikh, KU Leuven, €195,000;
  • ‘SIMPLANT’ - Chris Van Haesendonck and Lino da Costa Pereira, KU Leuven, €258,804.

Graphene - Applied research and innovation:

  • ‘GRAPH-EYE’ - Johan Verbeeck, Universiteit Antwerpen, €189,383.

HBP (Human Brain Project) - Basic and applied research:

  • ‘MAC-Brain’ - Nico Boehler, Universiteit Gent, €263,750.

QUANTERA (‘Quantum Technologies’)

  • ‘NanoSpin’ - Milos Nesladek, UHasselt, €257,400;
  • ‘Q-Magine’ -Milos Nesladek, UHasselt, €502,439.


FWO's future involvement in ERA-NET

The FWO will also in the near future remain actively involved in the participation in, and therefore the funding of, ERA-NET calls.  This multilateral research collaboration allows organisations and researchers to work together around research calls on specific topics.


Alongside the fundamental research funding channel, starting from the 2018-2020 work programme within the European H2020 framework programme, the programme for Strategic Basic Research (SBO) will also be structurally integrated into FWO's funding of ERA-NETs, following the integration of the previous IWT Strategic Research Programmes. SBO differs from the fundamental research programmes in that it focuses on potential economic or social applications.


In the selection of new networks, the FWO takes into account a balanced spread over the 5 (FWO) fields of science, but special attention will also be paid to the balance between advanced versus emerging research. A third priority are ERA-NET Cofunds that are linked to a JPI. The annual FWO budget for participation in ERA-NETs amounts to €7 million.


The new ERA-NETs from the 2018-2020 work programme in which the FWO will be effectively participating will be revealed in the next newsletter which is due in the first quarter of 2018.

» For details on the upcoming calls see the FWO website

Science Europe

Science Europe, the organisation of 43 European Research Funding and Research Performing Organisations  (RFO-RPO) from 27 countries, has again issued positions and opinions on key science policy issues in recent months:

More news and information about Science Europe and its activities is available at their website:


New calls

The following calls will op on 1 December: