Newsletter September 2019

electronic letter



On September 9th, Ursula von der Leyen, the new European Commission president, introduced the members of her team that will help run the European Union for the next five years. The team is the result of a balancing act between men and women, North and South, East and West. All candidate commissioners still have to go through a hearing before the European Parliament. It may therefore be slightly premature to congratulate them on their new appointments. First, a number of issues remain to be resolved, that much is clear. The “Protecting our European Way of Life” portfolio, for example, has raised quite a few questions and even outrage. All the fuss shows that the last word has not yet been said on this title. But what about the other titles?


The new commissioner responsible for steering and shaping science policy in Europe is Mariya Gabriel. This Bulgarian politician is a member of the European People’s Party (EPP) and previously served as Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society under Jean-Claude Juncker. In the new commission, she will be responsible for ‘Innovation and Youth’, a title that spans a wide array of topics ranging from education to innovation. Scientific research also falls somewhere in between the two.


Unfortunately, the term is not explicitly mentioned in the title of her portfolio. The tasks of current commissioner Carlos Moedas are still known under the apt title of “Research, Science and Innovation”. Innovation, no matter how essential for Europe, is completely unthinkable without the constant broadening of our knowledge base. It is also useful to point out once again that such knowledge grows not only through top-down research actions, but just as well through researchers, who, driven by their scientific curiosity, are searching for answers. 


Research creates added value and stimulates the economy. In times where the fear of recession is real, innovation provides a beacon of light. For a European Union that already invests around €16 billion per year in research - an amount that will hopefully increase significantly from 2021 with the new framework programme for research and innovation “Horizon Europe”, it is a pity that research and innovation are given such short shrift. The word “research” deserves to figure more prominently in Ms Gabriel’s job. She should be known as the commissioner for ‘Research, Innovation and Youth’. This would also send a strong signal to national and regional governments in the member states that they should not be ashamed of using the terms “science” and “research” in their definitions of responsibilities.   In addition to the resources they provide to support researchers, the power of such words could give an extra boost to scientific research.    We at the FWO fully support this plea and will be sending out the appropriate messages.

In the spotlight


Call for submission of questions or concerns regarding reformed fellowship programmes


The first calls for the reformed support programmes for PhD fellowships, postdocs and fundamental research projects were launched this year. On 9 December the FWO will discuss with its stakeholders the results of the reformed fellowship programmes to review what is working well and what could be improved. This debate will focus on the input (problems, observations and questions) that we received from you.


For this we need your help. We kindly invite you to bring to our attention any issues or observations that emerged during the application round, as well as suggestions for improvement or modification, where already possible.  We want you to be both critical and constructive. This call is open to all who, during the 2018 application round, submitted an application for PhD fellowships (submission deadline: 1 March 2019) or postdocs (submission deadline: 1 December 2018). The deadline for the submission of suggestions is 31 October.


For further details and registration please visit our website (in Dutch)

Specific call for candidates to a postdoctoral fellowship on ALS


On 23 September the new call for junior and senior postdoc fellowships  opened.


Following a bequest made by Mr. Van Eyck to the FWO, a single amount of €322,000 is made available for research on the neurological disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).


As part of the call for postdoctoral fellowships, the donation will be used to finance an additional fellowship for research that is expected to contribute to improving the knowledge or treatment of ALS.


More information on our website

The Flemish Science Agenda: already over 600 questions answered


In the meantime, already over 600 questions of the Flemish Science Agenda have been answered. These questions were answered with videos, pod casts and articles from the Universiteit van Vlaanderen, Universiteit van Nederland, I have a question, Eos Wetenschap and Wetenschap uitgedokterd. Interested in the answers? Be sure to check out our website.

Looking back: Building Bridges – Colloquium on Interdisciplinary Research


On 09/09/2019, the FWO, the Department of Economy, Science and Innovation, the KVAB (Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts) and Young Academy organised a colloquium on interdisciplinary research.  This event took place in the framework of The Flemish Science Agenda, a survey among citizens that resulted in over 10,000 questions being received in one month’s time. The questions were bundled into 82 themes, including Allergies, Biodiversity and Migration. The challenges are listed for each theme and a plan of approach is formulated, which in many cases is interdisciplinary in nature.


Alongside a keynote lecture by Michel O’Rourke on how to facilitate interdisciplinary research, various break-out sessions took place where the presenters engaged in a dialogue with the audience on the different aspects of interdisciplinary research. Topics covered included the promotion of interdisciplinarity in (higher) education, the ideal ecosystem for supporting interdisciplinary research, the evaluation of interdisciplinary project proposals, and tips & tricks for writing and conducting this type of research.


The complete programme (including speakers and their presentations) is available at this website.

Looking ahead: Building Bridges – Focus Day on Science Communication on 18/11/2019


On 18/11/2019, the FWO, the Department of Economy, Science and Innovation, the KVAB and Young Academy will organise a second event in the framework of The Flemish Science Agenda.


Alongside a keynote lecture by the British Professor of the Public Understanding of  Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and best-selling author Richard Wiseman, a number of break-out sessions related to science communication will be organised: science barometers; fake (scientific) news and the media; citizen science and research on science communication.


For the full programme and registration visit our website.

It's a social world


Social media have become an integral part of modern society, and their impact continues to grow. That is why the FWO has decided to focus even more on these new media from the academic year 2019-2020.


What’s new?

As you may already have noticed, this summer we launched an FWO  Instagram account. What can you expect to find on this page? We will focus on research and researchers, share fun and interesting facts and quotes, and offer you a look behind the scenes of the FWO.   We will also surprise you with Instagram takeovers from our researchers.  Not to be missed! Make sure to keep an eye on our Instagram account!


Also this summer we launched a new topic on Facebook: the ‘Science Snack’. Every Friday afternoon we treat you to a short blog post or a three-minute video on a particular research subject. Also fancy a snack on Fridays? Then check out our Facebook page.



In addition, we also created a community (link from website), #fwovlaanderen. You too can become part of this community. Do you have interesting visual material (videos, photos, boomerangs, etc.) of your research?  Then tag us with #fwovlaanderen, so that your picture or video appears on our website. Need inspiration? Then take a look at our website and find out what other researchers have already posted.


Our social media channels are nothing without interaction and without followers. We therefore invite you to follow our Instagram account and to like our Facebook page.


Call: Instagram takeover

Are you planning to travel abroad for your research, are you entering a competition, or do you consider your research to be immensely interesting?  Then do not hesitate to apply for an Instagram takeover. You can do so by sending an email to, quoting Instagram takeover in the subject line. In this way, you can show your interesting research to the outside world and bring it under the attention of the general public.


Ehtical advise


Provision of funding by the FWO is subject to the condition that the proposed research is conducted in accordance with strict ethical norms and values. This applies not only to matters in specific knowledge domains such as human test subjects, test animals or material of human and/or embryonic origin, but also to morally sensitive subjects in connection with privacy, research with potential military applications (dual use), impact of research results on humans and the environment, and the utilisation of genetic resources (Nagoya protocol).  Well-defined regulations at international, European and national level provide guidance in this respect. In addition to legal requirements, ethical and deontological standards as generally accepted in (international) scientific practice may also apply, such as the “Ethical Code for scientific research” and the “European Code of conduct for research integrity”.


Researchers applying for funding by the FWO must go through an “ethical approval procedure” before they are allowed to commence their research activities. This procedure was recently updated.


  1. Application phase: ethical self-assessment

Applicants are required to faithfully complete the questionnaire on ethical aspects of the research topic, the methodology and the potential outcomes.

An affirmative response to some questions in the list implies the legal or institutional requirement to obtain ethical approval from the appropriate ethics committee prior to the commencement of the research activities.  Other questions in the list are intended to direct attention to ethical aspects that could be related to the subject matter, approach and/or consequences of the research so that, where necessary, appropriate precautionary measures can be taken in a timely manner. 


Ethical approval is not required at this stage, except for project proposals aimed at conducting experiments on or with non-human primates.


  1. Evaluation phase

The reviewers and/or the expert panel evaluate the project and the ethical self-assessment, and can give ethical advice and formulate concerns, preventive or corrective measures for specific ethical aspects.


  1. Implementation phase

Prior to the ethically sensitive research activities, the beneficiary of FWO funding must obtain ethical approval from the appropriate local ethics committee(s) and, if applicable, from other regulatory bodies. Ethical approvals no longer need to be forwarded to the FWO, but must be kept available for inspection at the host institution. The FWO or its representatives may randomly require that evidence of the ethical approvals be provided up to 5 years after the end of the project period.


Ethical approval does not relieve researchers of their duty to constantly reflect upon ethical issues related to their research topic, methodology and outcomes.

Across the boarders


Renewed MoU with Taiwan (MoST)


On 28/08/2019, FWO and the Taiwanese Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) renewed their MoU for promoting scientific cooperation between Flanders and Taiwan. The ceremony took place in the presence of minister CHEN Liang-Gee (MoST) and ambassador TSENG Ho Jen (Taipei Representative Office in the EU & Belgium). This MoU is intended to serve as basis for launching a joint call for cooperation projects, already in 2020. This call will focus on the exchange of mainly junior researchers, both from Flanders to Taiwan and vice versa. Eligible costs will be travel and accommodation costs.

First Flemish-Dutch Science and Innovation Day


The first Flemish-Dutch Science and Innovation Day will be organised at the Dutch embassy in Brussels on 28 October 2019. The event aims to bring together triple helix stakeholders from both sides of the border around the following selected topics: Life Sciences & Health (LSH); Artificial Intelligence (AI); Industry 4.0 & Digitalisation, and CO2 reduction.


The event is organised by the Dutch embassy in Belgium, the General Representation of the Government of Flanders to the Netherlands, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the Department of Economy, Science and Innovation of the Flemish government.


Further information

Science Europe


Science Europe recently welcomed the 37th member to the group of European Research Funding and Research Performing Organisations (RFO-RPO) that it represents. These organisations come from 28 countries and together manage a research budget of around €18 billion. FWO was one of the founding members in 2011.


On 21 November 2018, Science Europe organised a symposium on interdisciplinarity, an area that is as promising as it is difficult to grasp. The report on the symposium was published recently.


In the meantime, its Plan S is being further refined with the goal of making Open Access the norm and practice for scientific publications.


Also be sure to check out their recently revamped website.

Evaluation results NCP Flanders


ERC Starting grants 2019


Excellent researchers with 2 - 7 years of research experience after obtaining their doctoral degree are eligible to participate in the call for ERC Starting grants. Out of a total of 3106 applications submitted for the 2019 call, 408 applications are eligible for funding. Among the 408 Principle Investigators are 10 PIs affiliated with a Flemish host institution.


  • Katja Biedenkopf, KU Leuven
  • Senne Braem, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Katrien De Graeve, Universiteit Gent
  • Ilse De Looze, Universiteit Gent
  • Sarah Lebeer, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Elise Muir, KU Leuven
  • Benson Ogunjimi, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Jeroen Puttevils, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Charlotte Scott, Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie
  • Laura Vandenbosch, KU Leuven


ERC Proof of Concept grants 2019


Principal Investigators with an ERC grant that is running or ended less than 12 months before 1 January of the call year are eligible to participate in an ERC Proof of Concept Grant. In total 62 ERC grant holders received a Proof of Concept grant in the second cut-off date of the 2019  call, including two Principal Investigators with a Flemish host institutions:


  • Rob Ameloot, KU Leuven
  • Wim de Malsche, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Upcoming NCP Flanders information sessions and website


Several NCP Flanders information sessions are on the agenda in the autumn:

  • On 8 October: Future and Emerging Technologies / European Innovation Council pilot Pathfinder calls
  • On 15 October: a selection of Horizon 2020 Research Infrastructures calls
  • On 22 October in the morning a Horizon 2020 proposal writing workshop and in the afternoon an information session on dissemination and exploitation in Horizon 2020.
  • On 19 November: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Research and Innovation Staff Exchange 2020 call for proposals
  • For an up-to-date and comprehensive overview of the various Horizon 2020 information sessions organised by NCP Flanders, the European Commission and other networks, please consult the event page on our website:
  • An overview of successful Flemish participation in Horizon 2020 can be found in the periodic overviews that are published under 'Horizon 2020 info', 'documents'.
  • A current state of affairs regarding Horizon 2020 and the Brexit can be found in the Brexit fact sheet under 'Horizon 2020 info', 'documents'.
  • Two European Commission online consultations about Horizon Europe are currently open: the response to the Horizon Europe Co-design 2021-2024 questionnaire (deadline 8 September) will feed into Horizon Europe's first strategic plan; the response to the Horizon Europe Co-design - Implementation questionnaire (deadline 4 October) will feed into the Horizon Europe implementation strategy. These two consultations and other interesting current Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe information can be found on the news page on our website: News from NCP Flanders can also be sent to you by e-mail, you only need to subscribe to the thematic mailing lists of your preference via stay informed on the home page of our website: