Impact Scout

The Dutch Research Council NWO wants to use the Impact Scout process to help researchers discover new opportunities for social impact in their research projects. To this end, NWO is working with ‘impact departments’ at universities and research institutions. They gain access to interim and final reports of current or recently completed NWO projects and scout for opportunities.

Unforeseen opportunities

This process makes use of the interim and final reports that researchers already have to submit to account for their NWO projects. In other words, it does not require the researchers to put in any additional time or work. The universities’ impact officers then study the reports to see if they can identify opportunities for social impact. This concerns a broad interpretation of impact: from policy notes to new products or services and so on. If the impact officers identify opportunities, the university contacts the researcher to discuss them. This helps researchers discover unforeseen opportunities. In addition, the process can help uncover potential stories for public communication. NWO and university communication departments cooperate in deciding how to communicate the results.

Successful trial run

The method was given a trial run in NWO’s Science domain with Vidi and Vici projects. To this end, NWO’s Science domain worked with the impact partners at the university in question, such as the Technology Transfer Offices (TTO) and the Knowledge Transfer Offices (KTO). As a result, various projects that receive NWO funding were assisted in the best possible way to discover new opportunities for social impact. Due to its success, NWO will expand the system in June 2021 to NWO’s Applied and Engineering Sciences and Social Sciences and Humanities domains. There are plans to involve more funding instruments in the future.

A number of researchers from the pilot were interviewed about their project and experiences with knowledge utilisation. Click on the links below to read their stories.

Interested in participating?

Researchers do not have to take any action to participate in the Impact Scout trajectory with their NWO project. They will automatically be informed if they have an ongoing or recently completed Vidi or Vici project. If you are interested in participating but did not receive a message, then please contact us.

Impact officers from universities and research institutions who are interested and have not yet been invited through their organisation can contact the Impact Scout coordinators to discuss whether they can also participate as a scout.

The Impact Outlook Approach

NWO has three approaches within its knowledge utilisation policy. The Impact Outlook approach was developed for research that focuses primarily on scientific impact, which is not necessarily linked to a social issue. Nevertheless, this type of research can also generate (unforeseen) opportunities for social impact. With this approach, NWO is facilitating the discovery of these (unforeseen) opportunities for social impact and stimulating opportunities to monitor them. Impact Scout is one of the first components that NWO is making available.

Read more about the Impact Outlook approach

Questions or more information?

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact the Impact Scout Team at