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PSP 2023

Policy Supporting Programme 2023-2027 - Call for Concept Note







Based on lessons learned from evaluations and assessments of various policy-supporting initiatives in the past, a new programme was developed, envisaging scientific support to the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD): the Policy Supporting Programme (PSP). PSP is the successor to similar former programmes in the past, PSR and Acropolis.

PSP funds policy support to DGD on several broadly formulated priority themes of the Belgian Development Cooperation to establish sustainable cooperation networks on these themes in the longer term. 


We organised a hybrid information session on Thursday 9 February 2023. During this session, information was provided regarding the PSP Programme and the modalities of the call:

1. PSP 2023 Information Session

2. PSP 2023 Q&A

3. PSP 2023 Information Session - Full Video

How does it work?

The Policy Supporting Programme delivers research output on specific themes of interest to the Belgian development cooperation on demand of the Belgian government. The goal of PSP is to deepen the knowledge on themes that are of prime importance to the Belgian development cooperation, linked to building the knowledge and capacity of DGD.

An online information and matchmaking session with stakeholders took place on November 30th 2022. This resulted in the final Terms of Reference elaborated by DGD for PSP regarding the following three themes:

  • Climate & Environment
  • Fragility & Resilience
  • Social protection, inequality & inclusive growth.

These Terms of Reference (ToR) provide potential applicants with more subject matter-related information. The present call invites interested parties to submit a concept note containing the following elements:

  • A presentation of the core group:
        o   relevant expertise
        o   roles & responsibilities
  • A strategy for the inception phase:
        o   reflections on the theme and priorities
        o   outlining the method and approach for the inception phase
        o   the approach to mobilise expertise
        o   the approach to guarantee (gender) equality and interdisciplinarity
  • a strategy for the uptake of research results
  • an activity planning and budget for the inception phase

The PSP will start in May 2023 and end 31 August 2027 (4 years and 4 months). Each project will start with an inception phase in May 2023. The real start of the fully-fledged project takes place as of November 2023, after the submission and validation of the fully-fledged proposal, elaborated on during the inception phase.               

Who can apply?

Researchers of Belgian higher education institutions (universities and universities of applied sciences and arts) are eligible to submit for this call.

The concept note needs to present the core group, which includes at least 1 promoter of an HEI from the Federation Wallonia-Brussels region, 1 promoter from a Flemish-speaking HEI, and 1 promoter from a partner country. The group consists of people with:

  • the relevant expertise,
  • the capacity to mobilise a network and
  • the capability to generate change and impact. The concept note also includes a budget.

When submitting a project proposal, a promoter must meet both the internal criteria and regulations regarding the project promotership of their institution and the minimum conditions set by VLIR-UOS.

Specific details of the eligibility criteria and internal regulations regarding the project promotership of the respective Flemish universities have recently been under discussion. On 10 February 2023, the Bureau UOS took the following final decision regarding the calls SI 2023, ITP 2023, and PSP FYP2.

Affiliation and statute of lead researcher

Flemish lead researcher:

For the Flemish universities

The minimum conditions set by VLIR-UOS for a lead promoter from a Flemish university to submit a proposal are the following:

  • one must be able to be an account holder within one's own institution;
  • one must have a ZAP (1) status at the time of submission, with a minimum appointment level of 10%;
  • postdocs can also submit, depending on the Flemish institution’s internal criteria and on condition that a ZAP member with at least 50% appointment of the institution with whom the contract will be signed is included in the project team as co-promoter;
  • ATP (2) members can also submit, depending on the nature of the project and provided they can be account holders within their own institution, without a ZAP member with minimum 50% appointment as co-promoter being part of the project team;

(1) ZAP: Zelfstandig Academisch Personeel (Independent Academic Personnel)
(2) ATP: Administratief en technisch personeel (Administrative and Technical Personnel)

For the Flemish universities of applied sciences and arts

  • The applicant must be professor/lecturer.

In case the professor/lecturer does not have permission to be a budget holder. Another person, e.g. the director, can be assigned as a budget holder for the project.

A researcher can be involved in only one concept note proposal.

This framework is considered a pilot project for the 2023 calls. There will be an evaluation of the impact of these new eligibility criteria on the number of proposals and their distribution.

FWB lead researcher:

The FWB coordinator of the project is

  • a staff member of a FWB HEI who is authorised and empowered by their institution to coordinate the project. This person must be authorised to sign an agreement, to manage an internal financial account and to engage the responsibility of the HEI with regard to all aspects of the coordination. They coordinate the academic and scientific aspects of the project.
  • For ARES, this person is the official point of contact for any communication relating to the project. The FWB coordinating HEI entrusts the execution of the project to them, including administrative and financial aspects. Every coordinator can only submit one project in the framework of the present call.

Partner lead researcher:

  • The applicant must be employed at a recognised higher education institution or national public (not-for-profit) research institute located in a VLIR-UOS or ARES project partner country.
  • This person is authorised and empowered by their institution to locally coordinate the project.

Which partner countries are eligible?

Researchers affiliated with Belgian higher education institutions (HEIs) (both universities and universities of applied sciences and arts), and researchers affiliated with higher education institutions in one of the partner countries of ARES and VLIR-UOS.

Concept notes need to include at least 1 HEI from Flanders, 1 HEI from the Federation Wallonia-Brussels (FWB), and 1 HEI from a partner country.

A maximum of 50% of the budget can be spent by a HEI in a partner country.

Of the funds spent by the Belgian HEIs, max. 25% of the ARES/VLIR-UOS budget can be spent on Flemish / FWB researchers respectively. How this rule will be implemented, is still under discussion and will be communicated without delay.

Budgetary framework

Three thematic Policy Supporting Projects will be funded, with the budget of each project being € 1,330,000 for the entire duration of the project.

How does the assessment procedure work?

The selection commission will be composed of DGD representatives. Two independent experts will be identified by ARES and VLIR-UOS to contribute to the selection commission activities. The selection commission will be responsible for the appraisal and selection of the concept notes.

After the inception phase, this commission will also be responsible for the assessment of the fully-fledged proposals. For information on the selection criteria, see the table on pages 13-14 in the call document.

All concept notes are assessed by the commission members, guaranteeing equal treatment and triangulation. 



How to submit a proposal?

Send your concept note by e-mail to both VLIR-UOS and ARES on the following addresses:

Did you miss the information session or do you need details on the call? Check it here.