Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

NWO funding for interdisciplinary 'Origins of Life' research

19 September 2017

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) bestowed a funding of 2.5 million euros upon the interdisciplinary research proposal 'Origin of Life'. This research proposal addresses questions in the National Science Agenda and will in part be carried out by researchers from the University of Amsterdam.

The NWO funding will be used to start the initial exploratory phase of an ambitious research programme. A few dozen researchers from the fields of astronomy, earth- and planet sciences, molecular- and evolutionary biology, chemistry, informatics, physics and bio-physics, and mathematics, at 17 universities and research institutes in the Netherlands will build the foundation for this initiative by establishing a virtual platform, the Origins Center, as well as with a number of 'pathfinder' projects.

Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa from the University of Groningen is the main applicant. From the University of Amsterdam Rens Waters and Carsten Dominik (both API), Pernette Verschure (SILS) and Jef Huisman (IBED) are involved with the research proposal.

Initial phase

The Origins Center aims to bring together several partners and research lines. In the initial phase, the Origins Center will make a start with large-scale research into the emergence, functioning and future of life in a changing environment, from molecular to planetary scale. In addition, the Origins Center will carry out an outreach programme, with as prime target audience the members of the public who submitted questions on the origins of life to the National Science Agenda. 

‘The Origins Center is the beginning of a unique get together of researchers focusing on the complexity of the origins of life,' says Dr Pernette Verschure. 'We will cover challenging questions about the building blocks of life and how they function, including during evolution and beyond our planet. We try to combine large time and spatial scales and to find out how we can adapt life. It is a relief that funding is being allocated to study the fundamental basic principles of the functioning of life. I expect that this initiative is going to have an enormous impact on our understanding.’

The Origins Center was officially launched during the symposium Fundamentals of Life in the Universe at the University of Groningen. 

National Science Agenda

The National Science Agenda consists of the nearly 12,000 questions posed 'to science' by Dutch citizens in 2015. The questions are ordered in overarching clusters and mutually connected 'routes', of which 'Origin of life - on Earth and in the Universe' is one. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Research invests 30 million euros in the National Science Agenda. The largest chunk of this, 20 million euros, is directed to the Start impulse and earmarked for researcg within the eight themes.

Published by  Faculty of Science