National institutes

National institutes

NWO funds and manages eight research institutes. These are national centres of expertise in specific scientific domains ranging from astronomy to oceanic research. The NWO institutes perform high-value scientific research and act as powerful national instruments in science policy. They make it possible to coordinate scientific fields for the longer term and to innovate within the research.

The institutes provide researchers with access to international collaborative partnerships and research facilities and they develop innovative technologies together with businesses. They collaborate closely with research groups at universities, businesses and public organisations. Around 1,600 people work at the NWO-insitutes.

The NWO institutes

  • ASTRON Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy
  • CWI National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science
  • FOM Institute AMOLF Laboratory for molecular and materials research
  • FOM Institute DIFFER Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research
  • FOM Institute Nikhef National Institute for Subatomic Physics
  • NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
  • NSCR Nederlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement
  • SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research

Each year, the institutes jointly receive basic funding of approximately € 80 million from NWO. In addition, they obtain funding through national and international competitions and by means of partnerships.

NWO also participates in DANS (Data Archiving Networked Services) together with the KNAW (Royal Dutch Acadmy of Sciences) and in NLeSC (Netherlands eScience Center) together with SURF (Collaborative organisation for ICT in Dutch higher education and research).

Central function and national facilities

The NWO institutes ensure focus and mass in a number of specific, often interdisciplinary, scientific fields. They function as a national platform because of their prominent position, their development and their making available of state-of-the-art facilities, and because they accommodate various national and international facilities. Examples include the Netherlands Mathematics Platform at CWI and the Joint Institute for VLBI Europe at ASTRON.


Connected with science and society

Institutes and universities are joined together closely via their research collaboration. The relationships are strengthened because scientists at the institutes are also professors or lecturers at universities, because the institutes make fellowships available to university researchers and because these researchers make use of the institutes' facilities. Due to their international network and their challenging research, the institutes are a breeding ground for new talent.

In their research agendas, the NWO institutes will seek alignment with the Dutch Science Agenda and with the national strategy for large-scale scientific research infrastructure. Furthermore, the institutes strengthen their gateway function for international research and expand the collaboration with universities and businesses.


Developing and sharing knowledge

The institutes perform groundbreaking research. With this, they also contribute to innovations within the top sectors and to the European ‘Grand Challenges’. The institutes seek active collaboration with civil society and private parties in which the knowledge is passed on via incubators and start-ups, for example. In addition, NWO supports the network of Industry Liaison Officers (ILO-net) of international Big Science facilities such as CERN in Geneva.

From 2015, researchers at the NWO institutes will make their research results accessible without barriers. Furthermore, a data management policy framework will be developed for them according to the principles of  open data.


Dynamics in the institutes portfolio

Every six years, NWO assesses the institutes' mission and performance by means of international evaluations. In addition to shifts in emphasis, new lines of research can be set up or institutes may be transformed. The next round of evaluations of the institutes is planned for 2017.

NWO shares the Dutch government's vision for a more dynamic system of institutes. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science asks NWO and KNAW to evaluate their institutes in relation to each other with respect to their national function and added value. Therefore, in subsequent evaluations, NWO will also evaluate its institutes from this perspective to determine whether the institutes' portfolios still align with national priorities. In the meantime, a new and more flexible funding model will be developed that will be implemented after the next round of evaluations. The elaboration of the new funding model takes long-term agreements with the current NWO institutes into account.