RIO Country Report The Netherlands 2014

The RIO Country Reports, co-authored by JRC policy analysts and independent experts, give an update on the performance of the national research and innovation systems, and examine policies to address key R&I challenges, assessing their effectiveness. They serve as a tool to inform EU and national policy-makers, and support policy learning in Member States (MS).

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The annual RIO Country Report analyses and assesses the development and performance of the Dutch national research and innovation system and related policies in the perspective of EU strategy and goals.

The report highlights recent national policy and system developments occurring and assesses the match between national policy priorities and the structural challenges of the research and innovation system. It addresses among others:

  • The progress of the Netherlands towards achieving the Innovation Union, focusing on areas where action is needed.
  • Progress in responding to the ERA actions, particularly in light of the ERA progress report findings published in September 2014.
  • Country specific R&D and innovation recommendations as indicated in COM(2014) 400 final '2014 European Semester: Country specific recommendations, Building Growth' adopted by the Commission on 2 June 2014 and endorsed by the Council on 27 June 2014.
  • Progress in tackling research and innovation system challenges beyond those outlined above.
  • Areas highlighted by the Commission's Communication on 'Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth' (COM(2014) 339 final) and its accompanying Staff Working Document 'State of the Innovation Union, taking stock 2010-2014' (SWD(2014 181 final).

The RIO Country Report 2014 builds on the experience of the ERAWATCH project. The ERAWATCH Country Reports from previous years are also available for download on this page. 

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RIO Country Report 2014_The Netherlands.pdf
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National economic and political context

After facing recessions since 2008, the Dutch economy started to shows signs of recovery in 2014, with a growth of 1.25% to be expected in 2015. Between 2012 and 2015, the government has been active in a large amount of new policies in fields such as sustainable economic growth, healthy public finances and a balanced distribution of growth. While the TKI budget was increased in the 2015 Budget, applied research centers can expect decreasing funding. Budget cuts also affect measures focused on entrepreneurship.

ERA priority 2: Optimal transnational co-operation and competition

The Dutch government supports international research cooperation in a number of ways. Participation in JTIs and EUREKA-clusters is encouraged with a budget of €33 mln (2015). Participation in ESA, ESO, CERN, EMBL and EMBC is also supported, and the creation of large-scale research facilities plays an important role as well. Research funding is increasingly designated to topics also having priorities in other countries: this is the case for both TKIs and NWO. In addition, €50mln is annually available for Horizon 2020 funding.

National R&I strategies and policies

A prominent role in the Dutch R&I policy is played by the Enterprise Policy. Key elements include fewer subsidies in exchange for more R&D tax incentives, less and simpler rules, broader access to corporate finance, alignment of different policies and the concept of top sectors. The Dutch government has identified 9 top sectors which it actively strengthens, mostly through several top teams. In the policy domain of education and science, continuation and stability is the adagio of the ministry of ECS. Key policy elements include specialization and the introduction of performance based funding of HEI’s.

National Reform Programmes 2013 and 2014

The NRPs of 2013 and 2014 explain how The Netherlands are addressing the five EU-wide priorities for growth. This includes measures to reduce the administrative burdens for companies, measures for restoring normal lending to the economy, as well measurs aimed at promoting growth and competitiveness.

ERA priority 3: An open labour market for researchers

In the Netherlands, individual institutions have a large amount of autonomy concerning staffing issues. Despite the fact that measures for active recruitment of researchers are scarce, the Dutch labour market is open to international R&D personnel (including academics).

Open, transparent and merit-based recruitment of researchers:

As individual institutions have a high level of staffing autonomy, procedures regarding employee recruitment vary. Various universities apply the recruitment code of the Dutch Association for Personnel Management & Organisation Development (NVP). In addition, the growing number of universities that has obtained or is applying for the ‘HR Excellence in Research’-status.

Access to and portability of grants:

The portability of grants is relatively well arranged in the Netherlands, as the international mobility of researchers is encouraged via a range of grants and fellowships designed to promote international cooperation between Dutch researchers and researchers of different nationalities.


The so-called bridgehead organisation responsible for coordinating the EURAXESS national network and the Dutch EURAXESS portal is Nuffic, the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education. In addition to regular EURAXESS initiatives, all vacancies in the Dutch academic world are published on one international website, called AcademicTransfer (dot com).

Doctoral training:

In the Netherlands, a large number of PhD programmes is part of a national graduate school. These inter-university organisations offer professional courses to doctoral candidates, facilitate knowledge exchange and provide external supervisors to mediate any problems during the PhD programme.

HR strategy for researchers (HRS4R) incorporating the Charter and Code:

In 2013, two institutions were allowed to use the ‘HR Excellence in Research’ logo; Radboud University and the Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR).  In 2014, this number has already grown to seven (out of 14 established universities).

Education and training systems:

In the Netherlands, several initiatives exist aimed at 1) realizing a sufficient supply of graduates in fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and 2) ensuring these graduates also have both the skills and mindset needed to succeed in their later career.

Policy developments related to Council Country Specific Recommendations

In 2013, the Council recommended to intensify efforts on multiple structural reforms. Several measures are highlighted as the most relevant for R&I, such as the TKI allowance, MIT scheme and the tax facilities for R&D. The Council also warns the Netherlands that growth-enhancing expenditures, such as fundamental research, education and training, should be safeguarded from the required consolidations.

ERA priority 5: Optimal circulation and access to scientific knowledge

e-Infrastructures and researchers electronic identity:

The harmonization of access and usage policies for research and education-related public e-infrastructures in the Netherlands is organized and stimulated by SURF, the collaborative organisation for ICT in Dutch higher education and research.

Open Access to publications and data:

The ministry of ECS stated the ambition for all Dutch research publications to be open access in 2024, and all Dutch higher education institutions have signed the Berlin Declaration. Almost half of all scientific information provided by Narcis, the organisation that organizes central access of Dutch scientific information, is open access.

Framework conditions

A major pillar for creating an innovation-supportive environment is the Patent Act, but also approaches like the Green Deal program are of importance. As part of the Enterprise Policy, the Dutch government also has been undertaking efforts to make individual policy measures more accessible, as well as efforts to strengthen cyber security. Relatively few policies aim to support R&I by targeting the demand for new knowledge, however.

Science-based entrepreneurship

Science-based entrepreneurship in the Netherlands is being supported through several measures. Consortia of academics and entrepreneurs can apply for the Valorisation Grant, designed to take innovative start-ups through different growth phases. The Valorisation Program subsidizes 50% of the costs of partnerships focused at knowledge valorization. There is a wide range of funding policies for the development of innovative enterprises.

Funding trends

Funding flows:This section describes a number of indicators on public and private research funding. This includes trends in GERD, BERD and GBAORD. This sub-section also discusses the role of important role of R&D related FDI. The national investment target for R&D expenditures (GERD) is 2.5% of GDP in 2020.  One reason for setting this target below the 3% which is pursued by the EU as a whole is the sector composition of the Dutch economy.Project vs. institutional allocation of public funding:As noted in the table above, the GBAORD share allocated in the form of project funding lays around 30% in The Netherlands. Compared to the proportions in other countries for which EUROSTAT data is available, 30% is more or less on the average. In the past years, the government has started to make university funding more performance-based.R&I funding:With the introduction of the Enterprise Policy, the government reconsidered the way in which support to research and innovation helps to support economic growth. Instead of directly subsidizing R&D&I, the ministries of EA and ECS only support firms to participate in public-private research collaborations (see sections 2.2 and 4.4). In terms of funding, the main policy shift concerns the increasing importance of generic policy in the form of fiscal incentives for R&D.

Smart Specialisation

In the Netherlands a Smart Specialisation strategy (RIS3) has been developed for four separate regions: the north, south, west and east of the Netherlands. Each strategy identifies several strong regional clusters, sectors or priority areas. Themes such as agro & food, HTSM and the Biobased Economy are mentioned in almost all cases. The four regions agreed to perform a nationwide monitor of the RIS3 every two years.

Knowledge markets

IPR are seen as important to the Dutch economy and to the overall innovation performance of the Netherlands. The main Dutch system for the protection of IPR is the Patent Act. While not primarily related to the distribution of knowledge, the Dutch government has also created several policy instruments to stimulate and thus strengthen the Dutch knowledge markets; several tax facilities stimulate private R&D expenditures. Moreover, a large share of university patents results in commercial applications.

Evaluations, consultations, foresight exercises

Developments and policies in the fields of innovation & economy and science & education are permanently and systematically monitored and evaluated. This is especially the case since the Dare to measure report was released in 2012, which analysed possible ways of objectively measuring the impact of policy measures. Some important texts were the Progress Report of the Enterprise Policy, the Trends in Focus reports, Balance of Top Sectors and the Make it in The Netherlands action plan.

Knowledge transfer and open innovation

Improving circulation and exploitation of scientific knowledge by supporting triple helix collaboration is a main pillar of the Enterprise Policy and its Topsector approach. To improve the connection between education and labour market, several Centres of Expertise (higher education) and Centres for innovative craftsmanship (vocational education) were established. Moreover, the RAAK Programme and several programmes of the Technology Foundation STW are aimed at applied sciences and applied research.

Performance of the National Research and Innovation system

In the Innovation Union Scoreboard (IUS) 2014 the Netherlands held the fifth place, corresponding with the position of an innovation follower. While the research system was deemed excellent, with high scores on scientific (co-)publications, the business expenditure on R&D was below-average. The Netherlands scored high on license and patent revenues until 2011, yet 2012 shows a sudden decline.

Structural challenges of the national R&I system

Challenges for the Dutch national R&I system include a better utilisation of the public knowledge infrastructure by firms, improving the availability of funding for SMEs, reorganizing the institutes for applied research, dealing with cross-sectoral societal challenges and improving the quality of the overall higher education system. The OECD has also mentioned weaknesses such as the lagging productivity in some sectors and the frequent number of changes in innovation policy.

Meeting structural challenges

Stimulating closer links between enterprises, knowledge institutes and government has been a key motivation for the introduction of the Enterprise Policy. Moreover, several of the instruments in the Enterprise Policy aim to support innovation by providing access to funding. In order to clarify and improve the role of public institutes of applied research, the government is developing a new Science Agenda. Finally, a 2014 brochure named Global Challenges, Dutch Solutions clarified how the Top Sector Policy contributes to solving societal problems.

Innovation framework for SMEs

Recognizing that especially small, young firms face problems with acquiring capital, there are multiple additional (non-fiscal) policies exclusively devoted to facilitate private R&D spending by SMEs. The Action plan SME funding, submitted in July 2014, expands on several existing policies. In total, SMEs receive 65% of all innovation policy spending.

Venture capital markets

Only one instrument exists that specifically facilitates private R&D by large and medium-sized companies: the Business loan guarantee scheme allows them to borrow substantial amounts of money. A generic development in the field of financing research and innovation is the government’s intention to support alternative forms of funding (e.g. credit unions, crowd funding, SME obligations). In addition, a co-financing facility is in the works in cooperation with the EIF, aimed at professional business angels.

Innovative public procurement

Policy measures with a demand-side perspective are increasingly present in the Dutch innovation policy. The program Innovative Procurement Urgent (Inkoop Innovatie Urgent) aims to increase governmental expenditure on innovative solutions (ideally 2.5%). Like in the existing Small Business Innovation Research Programme (SBIR), the initiative is project-based.

The country in the European R&I landscape

The Dutch knowledge economy is among the better performing countries in the world, responsible for 4,6% of the total EU28 GDP. GERD as percentage of GDP is similar to the EU28 average (1.98% in 2013), while BERD is relatively low (1.1% in 2013). GBAORD is well above average, however (0.75% in 2013). According to the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014, the Netherlands is one of the ’innovation followers’.

Main features of the R&I system

The R&I system in the Netherlands is overall highly centralized, with central government responsible for formulating both research and innovation strategy and policies. However, increasingly so, central government is withdrawing from regional economic policies. In terms of R&D funding, the balance between public and private funding is quite stable. GOVERD remains on the same level, while BERD and GERD have risen over the years.

Structure of the national research and innovation system and its governance

The main actors and institutions in the Dutch R&I are the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (ECS) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs (EA). The main bodies responsible for managing and implementing policies are NWO, STW, the KNAW and The Netherlands has 14 research universities, 47 universities of applied sciences and many public and private (non-profit) research institutes.  

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