Unusual Collaborations Grants

The next call for Unusual Collaborations grants will be announced in June 2024. The information below will then be updated accordingly. Please note that application for this grant is by invitation only.

Unusual Collaborations grants are meant to take an idea or project further by enabling outside-the-box interdisciplinary research that is societally relevant and may aim to contribute to societal impact. Expressions of intent are invited on unusual research that would not easily get funded through other funding schemes. In addition to research, expressions of intent may also concern setting up a platform, Centre of Excellence, hub, etc.

An Unusual Collaborations (UCo) grant provides funding for one year with the idea that the project will extend beyond the funding period. This may be possible by applying again for CUCo funding up to three years; applicants are also strongly encouraged to consider other pathways for continuation.

Budget options/requirements

An Unusual Collaborations grant can be used for the following types of costs.

Personnel costs: UCo grants are designed to provide early and mid-career researchers with the time and space to work on unusual research. Applicants to CUCo funding are encouraged to set up projects in a non-traditional manner (NB: grants cannot be used towards hiring PhD students).

  • Salaries for mid-career academics, i.e. a part-time position (e.g. 0.4 fte)
  • Postdoc positions
  • Hiring student or research assistants for research activities or project management support
  • Remuneration of societal partners, if they are involved in the project

Please note that overhead of 25% applies to all personnel costs (except the hiring of external expertise), following a decision made by the Board of the alliance.

Project management support

  • Hiring external expertise and support: coaches, experts, communication professionals, etc.
  • Education:, including involving students, student teams or internships

Material costs

  • Buying or hiring materials or services to help perform the research (i.e. equipment, data, transcription);
  • Field trips and travel/accommodation costs 
  • Outreach: organising events or workshops for public engagement, and communication, e.g. videos, policy briefs, infographics
  • FAIR data management plans, open access publications
  • Budget needs to be reserved for involvement of process coaches in the project budget, this is matched by CUCo up to five days of coaching per team (at max €920, incl VAT per day). Please see here for more  information on the process coaches.

Involvement of societal partners

UCo projects may be directed primarily either towards scientific improvements that could contribute to societal impact beyond the project duration, or aim to contribute to societal changes more directly. CUCo believes that involvement of societal partners in the research team can be of added value when aiming for a societal contribution. Appreciating and engaging different types of knowledge (e.g. of practitioners, artists, indigenous groups) is welcomed. In case the team wishes to involve societal partners, the following starting points are provided to avoid extraction of knowledge:

  • involvement of societal partners is not a requirement
  • please consider involvement of societal partners only when this is meaningful to all parties
  • matching of funding by societal partners is not a requirement 
  • time spent by societal partners on the project is compensated 
  • societal partners’ involvement is ensured from the onset of idea development all throughout the research process

Diversity and inclusion

CUCo strives to achieve and contribute to an inclusive academic culture in which there is no place for conscious or unconscious barriers. CUCo encourages and trusts applicants to take additional effort to increase the diversity within research teams. If the team is having trouble with increasing diversity, please contact CUCo for support.

Budget available

A total budget of €1.0M is available for this funding round. Requested budgets may vary between €50,000 – €167,000. Our aim is to fund as many projects as possible out of the available budget, and so we strongly encourage applicants to ensure that the funds requested are limited to the activities planned. Very much in the spirit of building a CUCo community!


Funded projects may last a maximum of 12 months, due to alliance institute financial cycles.

Eligibility criteria

Eligibility criteria

  • The expression of intent was preceded by the completion of a Spark grant, or the first or second year of a UCo grant; teams can apply for UCo funding for a maximum of three years. The core team must include researchers from at least three institutes of the alliance (TU/e, Utrecht University, UMC Utrecht, and Wageningen University).
  • The majority of the team members are in the early-/mid-career stage: they hold assistant or associate professor positions.
  • The main applicant needs to be based at one of the alliance institutes and is past the PhD stage.
  • The expression of intent fits the UCo funding scheme.  The following are the expectations of UCo projects, based on CUCo’s ‘unusual trinity’ of ‘team – process – topic’, see below. The CUCo Board will offer feedback as to how to improve alignment of the expression of intent with the expectations: 
  1. The team composition is unexpected, i.e., team members cover commonly unrelated disciplines/types of expertise, novelty of combination of disciplines/types of expertise- please note that CUCo encourages interaction between the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences – and everything that falls in between these.
  2. The process for research and learning is conducive to inter- and transdisciplinary research (clear problem description, iterative research design, reflection is strongly anchored, research approach and methodology bring together disciplines and/or types of expertise in unusual and truly integrated ways).
  3. Unusual research topic (distinct from existing initiatives, innovative research questions and objectives, would not easily be funded elsewhere). 

Selection procedure

This call is open to Spark and UCo teams (see eligibility criteria): all expressions of intent are treated equally.

Selection of expressions of intent is done through a lottery. All teams that pass the eligibility check (see criteria above) will enter the lottery. The CUCo Board draws projects until the funding maximum is reached. The lottery will be overseen by an independent authority to ensure fairness and transparency.

Timeline of the procedure

30 May 2023: call opens

7 November 2023: deadline for expression of intent. Submit overview of team + summary of ideas  + budget.

14 November 2023: eligibility decision

21 November 2023: funding decision, based on lottery

1 January 2024: ultimate starting date for funded projects

Projects that are not funded

Teams whose expressions of intent are rejected in the eligibility phase or not drawn in the lottery are encouraged to submit a revised project in the procedure of the following year, or consult Research Support Offices for other funding options.


UCo grant recipients commit to the following expectations and will be supported by CUCo in the following manners:

  • Project teams will meet with the CUCo team and Board members during check-ins at the start and midterm of the grant duration, and at the end stage if the project does not proceed with CUCo funding after its current duration. 
  • All teams will gather in a joint kick-off meeting to get acquainted and start the cross-project learning around the process of collaboration, this meeting will be held in February 2024 and is organised by CUCo.
  • All teams will appoint one team member to be the representative in the UCo ‘24 cross-project learning group that will meet two or three times across the year.
  • Throughout project duration the teams will meet with process coaches that will support the collaborative process and facilitate integration of knowledge. 
  • All teams will gather in a joint midterm meeting to share lessons about progress, so as to support cross-project fertilisation, this meeting will be held in September 2024 and is organised by CUCo.
  • Teams are expected to give regular updates via their project page on the CUCo website and CUCo’s LinkedIn and Twitter. These updates are also an opportunity to receive feedback, or ask for input. 
  • Teams will report on their learnings and findings in a self-chosen format (e.g. through blogs, visualisations, videos, podcasts, etc) at the end of the funding duration. Financial reporting is required in the provided format.
  • Teams are encouraged to approach CUCo about roadblocks, complications, and other issues hindering their process. 

Discontinuing projects that end up not being feasible is okay, as this will provide a budget for others to start up new projects.