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February 23rd 2017

Together with the physics community and other scientific disciplines, FOM is committed to making a contribution to solving the energy problem. Therefore in recent years various initiatives have been undertaken aimed at giving fundamental energy research a strong boost.

The following concrete actions have already been initiated:

Establishment DIFFER
In 2010, the Executive Board decided to expand the then FOM Institute for Plasma Physics Rijnhuizen into the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER). This FOM Institute is located at the campus of Eindhoven University of Technology as from 11 May 2015. Besides the fusion research a new research line in the area of solar fuels is being built up. As a consequence of the new research focus, the free electron lasers FELIX and FELICE were transferred to the laser laboratory of Radboud University Nijmegen in 2012. Furthermore, Professor Fred Bijkerk and his Nanolayer Surface & Interface Physics group have transferred to the Mesa+ Institute at the University of Twente. TU/e is contributing to this with a research group at FOM Institute DIFFER focused on the new line of research. In 2012, DIFFER started the first new research pilots in the area of solar fuels. The relocation of DIFFER from the Rijnhuizen estate in Nieuwegein to Eindhoven took place in May 2015.

FOM focus groups
In 2011, FOM established two focus groups for fundamental energy research. Two excellent scientists have each received a budget of more than five million euros for a period of ten years in the hope that they will make a considerable step towards a breakthrough in their discipline. The two focus groups are 'Next generation organic photovoltaics' led by Professor Kees Hummelen at the University of Groningen and 'Light management in new photovoltaic materials' led by Professor Albert Polman at AMOLF. The research in these focus groups is now fully up and running. Click here for further information about the two new FOM focus groups and an explanation about FOM focus groups.

YES! fellowships
Since 2010 FOM has awarded a total of five YES! (Young Energy Scientist) fellowships to young, highly promising researchers working in the Netherlands who have innovative ideas in the area of energy. The grant enables them to spend a maximum of three years at a foreign top institute. Furthermore, when the fellow then returns to a Dutch university or knowledge institute, FOM pays his or her salary for a period of one year. This puts the researchers in an ideal position to apply the knowledge they have acquired abroad in a new Dutch line of research. 

The initiative 'Computational sciences for energy research'
In 2012, Shell, the Netherlands Science Foundation (NWO) and Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM) started a joint large-scale public-private partnership in fundamental research in the energy domain. Shell will invest circa 20 million euros in cash, an investment that will be used to fund 75 PhD positions at Dutch universities. NWO's investment will amount circa 21 million euros, creating a total budget for the programme of 41-50 million euro, depending on the participation of other companies and special governmental support, the so-called 'TKI-toeslag'. Whereas the Shell-NWO/FOM alliance is central to this initiative, other companies are explicitly invited to join and to invest in the collaboration.

The majority of Shell's investment comprises the CSER PhD programme. It will fund a total of sixty PhD research projects, which will be allocated in a series of calls in the period 2012-2016. This programme will cover themes within the Top Sectors Energy and Chemistry. The remainder of Shell's investment will contribute to the NWO theme Sustainable Energy through the programmes 'Uncertainty reduction in smart energy systems' and 'CO2-neutral fuels'. For these programmes separate calls have been organised. Besides NWO's investment in these programmes, NWO's participation includes an investment of circa 7 million euros in the Dutch knowledge infrastructure, mostly through two calls for a total of eight new tenure track positions to make a sustainable contribution to the computational sciences in the Netherlands.

Various NWO divisions are involved in the CSER initiative: FOM, Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Social Sciences, Earth and Life Sciences, and Technology Foundation STW. This collaboration across a range of computational science disciplines is uniquely positioned to give a long-term boost to the field of CSER. The combined Shell-NWO/FOM initiative will also lead to a further strengthening of the relation between Dutch and Indian research communities. An important driver for Shell to invest in this initiative is to use the programme as a recruitment pool for computational scientists for its technology centre in Bangalore, India.

A description of the subprogrammes within the CSER initiative is given below:

1. CSER initiative for PhDs
In 2012 and 2013, FOM launched the first two calls for the CSER PhD programme. As a result of these a total of 37 applications for PhD projects in the computational sciences have been awarded funding. The first 25 PhDs started their research at FOM in September 2013. In the spring of 2014 the third call for PhDs will be published. For further information about the CSER initiative please see The calls are published on the grants page of FOM.

2. CSER initiative for tenure-trackers
On 27 February 2014, the first of two calls for tenure-track positions was opened within the public-private CSER initiative of Shell, NWO and FOM. This call has a budget of 2.8 million euros to fund a maximum of four tenure-track projects in the area of computational sciences and is aimed at energy-related themes within the Top Sectors Energy and Chemistry. The call is open for all areas such as computational chemistry and materials sciences, multiphysics and big data, and computational geosciences. For further information please see the grants page of FOM

3. CSER research programme CO2-neutral fuels
Within the CSER initiative and within the framework of the NWO theme Sustainable Energy, an international, multidisciplinary scientific programme has been set up in the area of the clean production of CO2-neutral fuels from water and carbon dioxide. This programme is embedded in the NWO proposition for the Top sector Energy 2012-2013. Within the total programme budget of nine million euros, NWO, FOM and Shell have made an amount of five million euros available for this open call CO2-neutral fuels, with which innovative research can be funded. Further information can be found on the web page of CO2-neutral fuels.

CSER research programme 'Uncertainty reduction in smart energy systems (URSES)
This programme is being led by NWO Social Sciences and the only call for proposals was published in 2013. This programme also ties in with the NWO theme Sustainable Energy, just like CO2-neutral fuels. Click here for more information about this programme.

NWO theme Sustainable Energy and the Top Sector Energy
FOM/NWO Physics is the lead party of the NWO theme Sustainable Energy and is working in this together with the NWO units Earth and Life Sciences, Chemistry and Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Technology Foundation STW. Through this theme the energy research within NWO is consolidated and multidisciplinary initiatives are being developed. NWO wants to use and expand the theme to make a worthwhile, structural and balanced contribution from fundamental science to the innovation agendas of the Top Sector Energy. The Theme Board is the point of contact at NWO (both internal and external) for energy research and coordinates the collaboration of NWO with the seven Top Consortia for Knowledge and Innovation (TKIs) of the Top Sector Energy (two of which also fall under the Top Sector Chemistry). FOM is also the lead party within NWO for the Top Sector Energy.

The NWO theme Sustainable Energy focuses on advancing fundamental scientific research that contributes to the transition towards a society based on sustainable energy generation. The aim is to use a thematic approach to facilitate the ecosystem of researchers, companies, government bodies, NGOs and TKI's in the area of energy research and to develop fundamental scientific research programmes relevant for the top sector. The Theme Board Sustainable Energy has the ambition and task of maintaining the fundamental knowledge base for this energy transition and the development of energy technology within the Top Sector Energy by:

  1. Setting up and developing scientific research programmes aimed at innovation agendas of the Top sector Energy and encouraging public-private partnerships (PPP).
  2. Funding multidisciplinary scientific research programmes in the area of sustainable energy, which are also relevant for the top sector's longer term aim of realising a CO2-neutral society. This concerns both programmes in public-private partnerships (PPPs) with considerable co-funding from industry as well as research programmes largely financed from public funds, which have the potential to open up and encourage important fields of research for the future and for which the development is supported by the top sector.

Based on its national role in the scientific field, FOM Institute DIFFER supports the connection with the Top Sector Energy by fulfilling a valuable task in the subject-specific joint programming process.

In 2013 the NWO proposition 2014 – 2015 (click here for the NWO proposition 2012-2013) for the Top Sector Energy (as part of the Innovation Contracts 2014-2015) was realised through the NWO theme Sustainable Energy. As the lead party, FOM played an important role in the realisation of this proposition, which resulted in a budget of 34 million euros for 2014 and 2015. The contract was drawn up in consultation with the seven TKIs from the Top sector Energy and is made up of concrete research programmes. Besides FOM, the various NWO units and DIFFER, AMOLF and CWI are participating. The programming is based around a number of subject-specific clusters that have been matched with the needs of the Top Sector Energy. FOM's own contribution will mainly be in the themes Materials and concepts for new energy technology, Foundation for an energy-efficient industry, Bio-inspired energy storage in chemical compounds, and Geoscience. Furthermore, in 2013 FOM worked together with NWO Chemical Sciences on a follow-up programme to the programme 'CO2-neutral fuels' which has the working title 'Bio-inspired energy storage in chemical compounds'. This programme has been included in the Innovation Contracts 2014-2015 for the Top Sectors Chemistry and Energy.

In 2012, FOM programme coordinator Dr. Jasper Reijnders was appointed as knowledge secretary of the Top team Energy, the executive committee of the national Top sector Energy. Reijnders represents the scientific world in the team of secretaries that supports the top team.

IPPs for sustainable energy
FOM Institute DIFFER and Fujifilm started an Industrial Partnership Programme in 2013 to develop functional foils for sustainable energy. By doing research into fundamental plasma processes the partners will be able to develop thin, active materials over the next few years with a wide range of applications. Functional foils could be used, for example, to separate gases cheaply and in energy efficient manner and this will yield a CO2-neutral energy infrastructure. The foils can also be used for industrial water purification, the generation of blue energy from the mixing salt water and fresh water and the protection of organic solar cells from humidity and oxygen. The research programme has a duration of five years and a total budget of three million euros. For further information about this IPP please see the news release and the fact sheet about the partnership.

Call Top Sector Energy 
RVO has calls open for collaborative projects with companies.

Research programme in the area of CO2-neutral fuels
Technology Foundation STW and network company Alliander have decided to jointly fund a research programme in the area of Plasma Conversion of CO2. This new programme is part of a broad multidisciplinary research programme in the area of CO2-neutral fuels that has been set up from within the NWO theme Sustainable Energy. The overarching programme has been harmonised with the Top sector Energy and falls under the Top consortium Gas, theme Power2Gas/Gas2Power. This call has already closed.

For further information about this programme you can also read points 3 and 4 of the initiative 'Computational sciences for energy research' at the top of this page.

Kick off NERA: Dutch actors in public energy research join forces
To increase the success of participation in the Topsector Energy and seizing the opportunities in the European context more cooperation is needed on both operational and scientific level. With this ambition the large public organisations involved in energy research in the Netherlands have joined forces in a single alliance for the first time. They are doing this under the auspices of the association Netherlands Energy Research Alliance (NERA), of which FOM is a member.
The aim is to promote synergies, identify common long-term challenges and take advantage of opportunities at European level. One of its first actions is the launch of a website that provides an overview of the energy research portfolios of all the member organisations. Read more...