Credit pxhere - Paul van de Velde

Dutch Research Agenda (NWA)

The Dutch Research Agenda (NWA) was realised through an innovative process with the input of citizens and scientists. The aim of the NWA is to utilise knowledge to make a positive, structural contribution to the society of tomorrow, by building bridges today and jointly ensuring scientific and societal impact.

  • Questions and routes

    The Dutch Research Agenda was realised through an innovative process with the input of citizens and scientists. The Dutch knowledge community, united in the Knowledge Coalition, grouped almost 12,000 questions from citizens in cluster questions: urgent issues for research and innovation. Twenty-five routes were established on the basis of these issues. These are self-organising networks that investigate important scientific, societal and economic issues and put them on the agenda.

    The routes play an important role in the NWA. Their connecting role in the NWA programme ensures innovation in the scientific agenda, the involvement of the entire knowledge chain and the bringing together of parties.

    • Overview of the NWA questions
    • Overview of the NWA routes
  • Activities organised through the NWA

    The Dutch Research Agenda covers many activities that supplement and strengthen each other:

    • the scientific agenda “Portfolio for Research and Innovation” was presented by the knowledge coalition (see “Partners”) in 2016 and was designed on the basis of the routes (see “Questions and routes”);
    • the research programme, realised by NWO, is aimed at scientific breakthroughs and societal impact, and consists of four programme lines;
    • public campaigns (realised within programme line 4) to make science accessible for a broad public and to increase trust in science.
  • NWA approach

    There is a broadly felt need for the structural strengthening of the connection between science and society. Research within the Dutch Research Agenda realises this through:­­­­­­­

    • encouraging scientific breakthroughs and societal change­;
    • facilitating knowledge development and dissemination via interdisciplinary and knowledge-chain-wide (fundamental, applied and practice-oriented research) collaboration;­­ 
    • proactively involving society and societal partners in the formulation, set-up and realisation of research.­­­

    The dialogue between science and society is further strengthened by targeted communication and outreach activities and by the active involvement of citizens in science and research, for example through citizen science.­­­­­

    In addition, the programme ensures the sustainability and renewal of routes and networks (see “Questions and routes” above).­­­

  • Programme committee

    The NWA programme committee advises the NWO Executive Board about the design, realisation and development of the NWA programme. Its advising covers all aspects of programme development and monitoring, such as the choices of the themes in the thematic programme line realised with governments and the call for proposals texts. In addition, it monitors, for example, how the NWA project portfolio contributes to the objectives of the NWA.

    The members of the programme committee are:

    Prof. Bert van der Zwaan


    Prof. Maarten van Steen

    Member Science Domain Board

    Prof. Peter Paul Verbeek

    Member Social Sciences and Humanities Domain Board

    Marjan Kreins

    Representative on behalf of Applied and Engineering Sciences Domain Board

    Prof. Annelien Bredenoord

    Board member Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw)

    Prof. Huib de Jong

    Board member Taskforce for Applied Research SIA

    Prof. Frans Brom

    Secretary and director Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR)

    Prof. Appy Sluis

    Independent external scientific member

    Mardjan Seighali

    Independent societal member


    Independent societal member


    Other committees and competencies of the Dutch Research Agenda:

    • The decision-making competency for the entire NWA programme lies with the NWO Executive Board.
    • The advisory committee of the NWA is comprised of members of the Knowledge Coalition and the government knowledge institutions.
    • An independent selection committee, appointed per each call for proposals, advises on the ranking and awarding of pre-proposals and full proposals.

    For some (thematic) programmes, a supervisory committee is appointed to monitor the overall progress of the projects and the programme. In addition, consortia funded within Research along Routes by Consortia (ORC) have their own advisory committee.

  • Partners

    • Ministry of Education, Culture and Science: On behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, NWO has funded research in the context of the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA) since 2018.
    • Knowledge Coalition: The coalition consists of the universities (VSNU), universities of applied sciences (VH), university medical centres (NFU), Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), NWO, Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW), Royal Association MKB-Nederland and the institutes for applied research (TNO/TO2).
      The organisations affiliated with the Knowledge Coalition jointly drew up the Dutch Research Agenda. Together with the government knowledge institutions, the members of the Knowledge Coalition form the NWA advisory committee.
    • Government departments: Within the thematic programme line of the NWA, thematic research programmes are developed with and by government departments.
    • Media partners: Various media partners are collaborated with in the public campaign of the NWA.

Programme lines

On behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, NWO has funded research in the context of the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA) since 2018. As such, NWO brings together research, government bodies and civil society organisations, and funds knowledge-chain-wide consortia (with fundamental, applied and practice-oriented researchers). In line with the aim of the NWA, NWO also funds science communication and realises public campaigns.