Essential contribution of science to new innovation policy

17 April 2019

NWO and ZonMw want the scientific field to be involved in the drawing up of the Knowledge and Innovation Agendas (KIAs) for the top sectors. They will therefore specifically ask researchers about scientific issues concerning the societal challenges and missions defined by the government ministries. These KIAs provide the basis for the Knowledge and Innovation Contract (KIC) with which NWO and ZonMw agree upon how they will contribute to research relevant for the government’s mission-driven innovation policy. For this, NWO and ZonMw strive to offer a wide range of clear and unequivocal funding instruments for public-private partnerships.

The Dutch government has identified four societal challenges as the basis for future innovation policy to which science can make a vital contribution. NWO and ZonMw will ensure sufficient involvement from science for the knowledge and innovation questions related to these societal challenges.

Public-private partnership for societal challenges

The government has decided that from 2020 onwards it will switch to a mission-driven innovation policy aimed at maintaining the position of the Netherlands as one of the most competitive and innovative countries in the world. This policy will further build upon the collaboration from the top sectors approach in which public-private partnership is the norm. Over the past few months, the ministries have jointly formulated concrete missions related to four societal challenges:

  1. Agriculture, water and food
  2. Health and care
  3. Security
  4. Energy transition and sustainability

There is also the overarching theme Key Enabling Technologies, such as digital technologies, advanced materials and quantum technologies.

Agreements about contributions from NWO and ZonMw

At the end of April, the government will finalise the missions in the context of the societal challenges. Based on these missions, the top sectors will draw up Knowledge and Innovation Agendas (KIAs) for each societal challenge. There will also be a KIA for the key technologies. These KIAs will be completed by 1 July 2019 and subsequently used as the basis for the Knowledge and Innovation Contract (KIC) in which it will be agreed how NWO and ZonMw will contribute to research relevant for the mission-driven innovation policy. NWO and ZonMw strive to offer a wide range of funding instruments for public-private partnerships that is clear and unequivocal.

Involvement of research in new innovation policy

NWO and ZonMw want to ensure sufficient involvement of the scientific field in the drawing up of the KIAs. NWO and ZonMw will therefore specifically approach researchers to ask them about scientific issues related to the societal challenges and missions drawn up by the ministries. This approach will enable an optimal contribution of science to the mission-driven innovation policy. The input from science will be shared with the top sectors that formulate the KIAs. The KIAs will be published on 1 July 2019 and will be drawn up by different teams. NWO and ZonMw are represented in these teams and will involve the research field where necessary. For further information please contact In addition, more information can also be found via the NWO website.

At the same time, NWO and ZonMw are working on a more unequivocal and clear set of funding instruments for public-private partnerships, which will be deployed in the next KIC. Collaboration between the humanities, natural and engineering sciences, and social sciences will become simpler as a result of this, as equally collaboration across the top sectors. The new KIC 2020-2023 will be published in November 2019. This KIC will describe NWO's input in the form of a programme design that will encourage mission-driven innovation by supporting knowledge development.

Would you like to stay informed?

Researchers and other interested persons can stay informed about the development of the new innovation policy. News about the progress of the KIAs and the KIC will be shared via the NWO newsletter. Would you like to stay informed? Then adjust your current newsletter subscription by adding the option Top sectors. You can do that in the received newsletter via the words Edit Profile that appears at the top and bottom of the newsletter. Interested persons without a subscription to the NWO newsletter can subscribe to it and tick the option Top sectors.

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Further information or questions

> Top sectors at NWO
Overview key enabling technologies
Mission-driven innovation (website 
> Contact us via the email address

Source: NWO


Dhr. ir. R. (Rolf) Bossert (Coördinator Topsectoren) Dhr. ir. R. (Rolf) Bossert (Coördinator Topsectoren) 06 51319063


Dr. Femke Tabak Dr. Femke Tabak +31 (0)70 3494599