Challenges for science

In the coming years, NWO will share responsibility for the development and execution of a Dutch National Research Agenda that links societal and economic challenges to the Netherlands' scientific strengths and that can present a source of inspiration for innovative research. As preparation for such a national agenda, NWO has started to identify promising challenges for science that arise from social and economic challenges.

Discussions were held in a wide circle of scientists associated with NWO about possible multidisciplinary 'challenges' in which Dutch science is strong and in which it can contribute to tackling the societal challenges mentioned in the European Grand Challenges and in the research agendas of the Dutch top sectors. These challenges contain inspiring research topics that have the potential of yielding scientific breakthroughs. The challenges can also link knowledge organisations and inspire young and upcoming researchers. They are also an invitation to civic society organisations, knowledge institutions, government departments and the business community to join forces in shaping a Dutch National Research Agenda.

Circular economy

The transition to a circular economy: how can 10 billion people live together in a sustainable manner in 2050?

Building blocks of life

Deciphering life's building blocks: we can only start to understand life if we can create the building blocks of life ourselves.


Fundamental understanding of complex processes and systems such as the brain, (social) networks, urbanisation and advanced materials: if we can understand complex processes then we can control and influence them.

Quality of life

The changing and ageing population presents new challenges concerning people's quality of life - from early childhood through to old age, including physical, mental and social well-being.

Big data

Getting relevant information from huge volumes of data and data streams (big data) and the associated issues of privacy, security and identity.

Resilient society

Identifying adaptive and innovative capacities in society and of the social and cultural transitions and transformations that occur: determining where society's resilience comes from and how to support this.