Research Funding

What kind of financial support exists for researchers?

Grants or scholarships (basically wages for research assistants) for financial support during the research in Brussels may or may not be available, depending on the funding ECCOreceives for its different research projects, but this may imply that you have to adapt the topic of your research to the theme of the project, or that you may have to work part-time as a teaching assistant. A PhD scholarship typically pays 1500 euro (about $1800) net per month. It is generally more difficult to find money for PostDoc research on such projects, though. Bright students (basically, with excellent marks, and, in the case of PostDocs, a number of peer-reviewed publications) from countries of the European Union can personally apply to the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research for a 4 year scholarschip (to make a PhD) or 3 year, renewable PostDoc, without constraint on the topic. Students from Eastern Europe may be able to get grants from the European Union.

The following is a list of the most traditional funding opportunities for research at the VUB, though there exist many more specific programs.

FWO (Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek-Vlaanderen)

FWO/OZR projects

The FWO is the main fund sponsoring basic research in Flanders. FWO projects normally allow you to get funding for roughly one and a half PhD scholarship + working costs over a four-year period. The scholarship can be given by the promotor to any candidate acceptable by the VUB to make a PhD. Proposals must be submitted by January 20 (internal VUB deadline) to the VUB, who then passes it on to the FWO. More info on all applications (not just projects):

Proposals submitted to the FWO are normally also submitted ( to the VUB (OZR=OnderzoeksRaad, deadline = Feb 28), who may decide to fund a project that didn't make it for the FWO but had generally good evaluations. While the VUB has less money available for projects, they are more open to interdisciplinary approaches. The VUB also only funds a single scholarship (not 1.5).

Here is an overview of the most important material you need to prepare and enter into the FWO application form:

  • Promotor(s): must be professors or possibly PostDocs of a preferably Flemish unversity who have good publications in the domain of the proposal
  • Research domain in 2 to 3 keywords
  • Proposal (3 pages, small print)
  • Context (1 page)
  • Motivation of the requested personnel (scholarship): why do you need a full-time person to carry out this research?
  • Other expenses scheduled per year and broken down into categories (travel, hardware, software, conference parrticipation, etc.)
  • Max. 5 scientific publications for each of the promotors that are most representative for their career (include impactfactor of journals)
  • All publications of the promotors over the last 5 years
  • names and addresses of two suggested referees: eminent foreign professors who don't have common publications with the promotors over the last 3 years
  • 3 most important, relevant publications for each referee
  • translation of the three page proposal in English (for the referees)
  • choice of disciplinary committee to which you submit the proposal (e.g. computer science, law, psychology, social and political science...)

FWO "aspirant" scholarships

Unlike the "projects" above, these scholarships are granted directly to the student applying, not to the promotor (though you still need a promotor to apply). As such, they are more comfortable for the candidate, and require less bureaucracy and a shorter application form. The disadvantage is that they do not include additional money for equipment, travel, etc.. Moreover, you only stand a chance of success if you have excellent marks ("Grote" or preferably "Grootste onderscheiding", at least in the last year of your studies). The applicant must also belong to the European Union, and not be older than 30 when the scholarship starts. (These restrictions do not apply to scholarships on FWO "projects").

Deadline: Feb. 1, for a contract starting on Oct. 1.

FWO PostDoc Fellowships

Similar to the "Aspirant" above, but for people with a PhD and a substantial number of publications. 3 year contract, that can be renewed 2 times. The applicant must belong to the European Union, and not be older than 36 when the scholarship starts.

Deadline: Feb. 1, for a contract starting on Oct. 1.

FWO Visiting Postdoctoral Fellowships

For foreign researchers to participate in an on-going FWO project. Duration 3 months to 1 year.

Deadline: 3 months before the start of the requested contract.

VUB: funding via the university administration

VUB-OZR projects

Normally submitted together with the FWO projects (see above). Deadline Feb. 28.

VUB-Teaching assistants

The VUB regularly have vacancies for teaching assistants (pre- or postdoc) in different disciplines. Since assistants in principle should be able to spend more than 50% of their time on working towards a PhD, this is also a possible avenue for ECCO researchers. In practice, though, teaching tends to take up at least 50% of time, and therefore assistants typically progress less well towards their PhD than people with a full-time scholarship. An advantage of an assistant contract, though, is that it normally lasts 6 years, rather than the 4 years of a PhD scholarship.

Francqui Foundation: Foreign PostDoc contracts

As " foreign" is considered a person who was not connected in the last three years to a Belgian university or institution.

Application: Concise curriculum vitae; date of PhD and the university where it was obtained, with title of the dissertation.

Deadline: 12 September 2005.

Vesalius College (VECO)

VECO is an international college in Brussels associated with the VUB, who from time to time have openings for teaching positions (in English) in domains such as computer science, management or international law. See their vacancies.

This is particularly interesting for ECCO members since it is possible for ECCO to enter into a contract with VECO so that ECCO is paid for the teaching, and ECCO uses that money to provide a (tax-free) scholarship for the one who teaches. This allows us to pay a full-time wage to a PhD student who teaches less than half-time, thus leaving plenty of time for research...


IWT (Flemish institute for science and technology)

People from the European Union can apply here for PhD scholarships ("Specializatiebeurzen) or PostDocs that are application-oriented (i.e. useful for industry or business). Another restriction is that your basic degree must be in medicine, sciences or engineering: no social sciences or humanities! The advantage is that application can be done relatively quickly (August 1 to Sept. 15, for a contract starting in October), that you don't need excellent marks (like for an FWO "aspirant" scholarship), and that you can defend your proposal in person (not just submit an application form).

European Union: Marie Curie Fellowships

Marie Curie Fellowships provide European placements for pre and post-doctoral researchers, usually up to the age of 35, and for experienced researchers. Fellowships are available in any scientific discipline that contributes to the objectives of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5). Applicants to this activity are young and experienced researchers and host organisations in academia and industry.

For more details on the different Marie Curie actions, see the collection of FAQs. (check particularly the Early Stage Training for beginning researchers, and the Intra-European and Incoming International Fellowships for researchers with 4 years or more experience, including PostDocs, respectively from European and non-European origin).

For other European Union sponsored-possibilities for individuals, check the mobility portal for researchers.

NSF Europe

NSF's Western Europe Program (WE) provides proposal-based, competitive grant funding to U.S. researchers for scientific, engineering and educational cooperation with institutions and researchers in the region (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, European Commission, European Science Foundation, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, the Nordic Council, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom).

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