Talent development and curiosity-driven research

Many improvements in healthcare are inconceivable without curiosity-driven research. That requires talented researchers and professionals who are driven by curiosity and ambition, and who work together to innovate and strengthen scientific as well as professional knowledge in healthcare.

Talent development

By investing in talent, we contribute to the innovative development and strengthening of scientific as well as professional knowledge about healthcare. We encourage talented researchers and professional practitioners in various stages of their career. This means we fund emerging talent as well as talent that belongs to the (inter)national top.

NWO Talent programme

The NWO Talent programme gives researchers the opportunity to conduct research of their own choice. That gives innovative research a boost and encourages the promotion of talent at scientific research institutes. ZonMw realises the programme for the domain Health Research and Medical Sciences.

The programme has three types of grant, which are tailored to different phases in the academic career of researchers:

(More information on the NWO website)


The programme Rubicon allows recent PhD graduates to acquire experience at a foreign knowledge institution. That is an important launchpad for an academic career.


Fellowship implementation science practitioner

With this funding round, we encourage healthcare professionals to advance knowledge. The aim is to improve healthcare. The four principles of appropriate care (value-driven, joint decision-making, the right care at the right place, positive health) are central to this aim.

Clinical Fellows

A Clinical Fellowship is an individual grant for medical specialists who want to build a bridge between research and practice within their own discipline.

Fellowships for clinical studies and for professionals in mental health care

We provide individual grants to encourage innovative, creative and groundbreaking research. This fellowship enables professionals with creative ideas to be actively involved in science. Researchers receive the opportunity to elaborate innovative scientific ideas.

Unknown Talent: learning to change in your own practice

Who else knows better what elderly care needs than the carers and nurses who work in it? Exactly. Therefore the Van Kleef Institute (VKI) together with Albeda Zorgcollege and ZonMw, gives 25 care providers (at the Dutch intermediate education level MBO) the opportunity to improve the care for clients. This programme is part of the ZonMw programme Knowledge development in long-term care and support.

Nursing and Care

With learning trajectories and individual grants, we support talented nurses, nursing specialists and carers in the development of their personal leadership qualities to enable them to increase their influence on, and their ability to impact, care policies and funding.

Fellowship Dementia

This fellowship is intended for researchers who gained their PhD no more than five years ago and who have innovative scientific ideas in the area of dementia. Project proposals can focus on fundamental research, risk reduction, diagnostics and young people suffering from dementia.

Fellowship Gender in Research

What is the influence of sex and gender on our health, and how can researchers integrate sex and gender in their research? These questions take centre stage during the workshop in the Erasmus Summer Programme. With a Fellowship Gender in Research, PhD students and postdoctoral researchers can participate in this summer programme

Curiosity-driven research

We invest in curiosity-driven and non-thematic research. Research in which researchers are entirely free to determine what they investigate and can let their subject choice be driven by curiosity and ambition. Such non-thematic research can give rise to groundbreaking results.


In consultation with the Top Sector Life Sciences and Health (LSH), the call ‘2Treat’ was published in the roadmap domains ‘Regenerative Medicine’ and ‘Companion Diagnostics’ in the field of ‘Pharmacotherapy’ combined with ‘Molecular Diagnostics’ from the Top Sector LSH innovation contract (2013).

Enabling Technologies Hotels

Enabling Technologies Hotels (ETH) was a unique funding instrument in which researchers could ‘borrow’ existing, high-end technologies. In these ‘hotel projects’, researchers (the hotel guests) and ‘lenders of the technologies’ (the hotels) received joint funding.

This programme was carried out as part of programmes from the top sectors Life Sciences & Health (LSH), Agri & Food, and Horticulture & Propagation Materials and was funded by ZonMw and NWO Science. The programme was set up in collaboration with the Dutch Techcentre for Life Sciences (DTL).

Off Road

With this grant, we challenge young (bio)medical and health researchers to come up with new insights and unexpected medical and/or health research breakthroughs. We expect that a few of these experimental studies will result in groundbreaking discoveries and accept that this will not be the case for all Off Road projects (‘High Risk- High Gain’ projects).


The science-wide funding instrument Take-off stimulates commercial ideas and entrepreneurship from within Dutch knowledge institutions. Academic entrepreneurs, but also starters from universities of applied sciences and starters who make use of knowledge from applied research organisations (TO2), can use the funding to bring their innovative research results to the market. Take-off is one of the instruments for knowledge utilisation that NWO realises together with ZonMw. 

ZonMw Open Competition

The purpose of the ZonMw Open Competition is to create room for curiosity-driven, creative collaboration that engenders groundbreaking science of exceptional quality in the area of health research. Knowledge utilisation/participation are important criteria as well.


The programme Gravitation brings researchers from a single discipline or from several disciplines together in consortia and facilitates innovation, excellence and the international positioning of Dutch research. Consortia must belong to the best in the world in their research field or have the potential to do so. ZonMw realises this programme on behalf of NWO.