Extra money for science: what should we use it for?

The knowledge coalition requested 1 billion euros per year for scientific research and the Dutch Cabinet has given several hundred million euros. What is the best use of that money? Three experts give NWO advice.

Text: Malou van Hintum

Barend van der Meulen (credits: Monique Wijbrands)

Barend van der Meulen

Head of Research at the Rathenau Institute and Professor of Evidence for Science Policy, Leiden University

'Over the past ten years applied research has suffered from indiscriminate cutbacks; it is good that investments are now being made in this area. On top of this, more money should go to the lectorates. The latter were intended to make universities of applied sciences more knowledge intensive but their development has stagnated. Students at universities of applied sciences account for 65 percent of students in higher education.

The quality of our knowledge system will become skewed if we let it depend solely on the universities.

Students at universities of applied sciences scarcely come into contact with research, even though many of them end up in knowledge-intensive and innovative professions. The quality of our knowledge system will become skewed if we let it depend solely on the universities. Universities are strongly inclined to think solely about scientific excellence and to relegate the importance of applied research. However, our knowledge society needs such research. Sustainability, health and social cohesion require not just a scientific explanation but also innovative solutions in everyday professional practice.’


Thomas Grosfeld (credits: Monique Wijbrands)

Thomas Grosfeld

Secretary innovation and industrial policy Dutch Employer's Federation (VNO-NCW) and Royal Association MKB-Nederland, involved in the knowledge coalition

'VNO-NCW and Royal Association MKB-Nederland would like to see investments in the fundamental knowledge base (especially natural sciences and technology), in the intensification of public-private partnerships, and in applied research and innovation in SMEs. For this the priorities in the coalition agreement form the beacons for the top sectors energy, food, and water, as well as for several key technologies.

We would like to see the government contribution to public-private partnerships increase to 50 percent. Currently the government invests 25 cents for every private euro that goes to research. A higher percentage will make it more attractive for companies to invest, knowledge institutions will acquire more impact, and the government will have a stronger negotiating position.’

We would like to see the government contribution to public-private partnerships increase to 50 percent.

Marijtje Jongsma (credits: Monique Wijbrands)

Marijtje Jongsma

Chair VAWO, trade union for the academic community

'As far as the extra cash is concerned: fund researchers and not research projects and use the money directly for safeguarding non-programmed university research. That is desperately needed to maintain the interdependence of education and research and to offer talented researchers career possibilities. The Netherlands scores low with respect to the public funding of research: just 60%, compared to 90% in Germany for example. I have no objections to privately funded research but it should preferably take place within the R&D departments of companies.

The Netherlands scores low with respect to the public funding of research

400 million euros is a nice sum, but still too little. According to the European standard for publicly funded research – 1 percent of the gross national product –  it still means a shortfall of 760 million euros. So in my view this additional funding is just a first step.’