Research Landscape

Working in Europe | Research Landscape | Netherlands

Research Landscape in The Netherlands

About 25% of the research takes place at universities, about 15% at research institutes and most (about 60%) within commercial enterprises.


There are 14 research universities in the Netherlands. Universities have three tasks: providing education, conducting (fundamental and applied) research, and stimulating knowledge transfer.

Academic medical centres

Research institutes

Para-university institutes: NWO and KNAW

A number of institutes that carry out academically-oriented research do so under the flag of two intermediary organizations: the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

NWO's mission is to enhance the quality and innovation of fundamental scientific research and to promote the dissemination of research results. NWO has nine institutes of its own in the fields of astronomy, mathematics and computer science, physics, history, marine sciences, law and criminality, and space research.

  • ASTRON Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy
  • CWI National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science
  • FOM Institute AMOLF Laboratory for molecular and materials research
  • FOM Institute DIFFER Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research
  • FOM Institute Nikhef National Institute for Subatomic Physics
  • NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
  • NSCR Nederlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement
  • SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research

KNAW is responsible for the quality of science in the Netherlands. The KNAW (Royal National Academy of Science) is responsible for fifteen research institutes. The institutes are active in the humanities, the social sciences and the life sciences; one institute works at the interface of science and government policy. The Academy institutes are meant to play a leading role in Dutch and international research. They serve as national centres of expertise, manage unique infrastructures, and provide access to their collections, many of which are world-famous.

  • IISH - International Institute of Social History - examines how work and labour relations have developed globally over time. To support its research, IISH collects archives and data from all over the world.

    IISH collects and analyses data on social and economic trends from 1500 onwards. Its aim is to study how inequality arises within and between societies.

  • KITLV - Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies - it performs research in the humanities and social sciences focusing on Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, in particular Indonesia and the Dutch Caribbean. Researchers at KITLV study the continuities and discontinuities between the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods. Their empirical and theoretical research contributes to the broader debate about complex processes of globalisation.

  • NIOD - The NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies investigates the history of world wars, large-scale violence and genocides, including their long-term impact on society. The institute also manages archives and collections pertaining to the Second World War.

  • NIDI - Netherlands Interdisciplinairy Demographic Institute - conducts research on population issues and makes demographic expertise available to researchers, policymakers and the public. The purpose of this research is to describe, analyse and explain past and present demographic trends and to forecast future trends.
  • NIAS The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) has two important aims: to foster advanced research in the humanities and social sciences, and to encourage interdisciplinary scholarly cooperation in an international setting.

  • CBS - Fungal Biodiversity Centre - maintains a world-renowned microbial biological resource centre of living fungi, yeasts and bacteria. It is also a centre of expertise for mycology (the study of fungi and moulds).
  • Hubrecht Institute the Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research focusses on developmental and stem cell biology. The institute has twenty-four interdisciplinary research groups that conduct basic research using healthy and sick cells, tissue and organisms.
  • NIN - Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience - It conducts basic and strategic research in the neurosciences, focusing in particular on the brain and the visual system. The Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience examines how the human brain makes awareness, perception, movement, learning, social interaction and other cognitive functions possible. It also studies how brain disorders can disrupt these functions.
  • NIOO - Netherlands Institute of Ecology - It conducts basic and strategic research on organisms, populations, ecological communities and ecosystems on land and in water. Its researchers study how living organisms interact with one another and their environment. They examine nature in the broadest sense of the word: from the DNA of bacteria to the biodiversity of ecosystems.
  • Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging - It gives neuroscientists access to ultra-sensitive MRI scanners for basic research into brain function and brain disorders. The Spinoza Centre encourages collaboration in the Amsterdam region and offers a national infrastructure where possible.
  • Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) - the Netherlands institute for permanent access to digital research resources. DANS encourages researchers to make their digital research data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. It does this by providing expert advice and certified services.
  • Fryske Akademy - a multidisciplinary institute for the study of Friesland. The institute studies changes in the Frisian language, multilingualism, history, and past and present regional identity.
  • Huygens INGThe Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (Huygens ING) studies the history of science, Dutch history and literature. It also provides access to primary source material and text editions on which to base further analytical and interpretive research.
  • Meertens InstituteThe Meertens Institute studies and documents the Dutch language and Dutch culture. 
  • Rathenau Institute - The Rathenau Institute supports the formation of public and political opinion on socially relevant aspects of science and technology. For administrative purposes, the Rathenau Institute reports to the Academy. The institute is self-governing.

Institutes for applied research: TNO & GTI's

The Netherlands has several institutes for applied research. The largest institute is the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO). TNO's mission is to make it possible to apply scientific knowledge for the benefit of the innovative capacity of companies and the government. Key TNO research fields are: quality of life, the defence and security of society, advanced products, processes and systems, sustainable use of space and the environment, and ICT and services.

The other five institutes for applied research are called Large Technological Institutes (GTI’s). The five GTI’s carry out research and related activities in a specific area. The group comprises the following institutes:

  • The Energy Research Centre in the Netherlands (ECN): research into nuclear and other forms of energy, energy and the environment, and materials;
  • Deltares: research into ports, coastlines, rivers, ocean and inland shipping, water management and the environment;
  • The Maritime Research Institute in the Netherlands (MARIN) : research into shipbuilding, offshore and ocean engineering;
  • The National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR): research into aeronautics and space technology for civil and defence purposes.

Technological Top Institutes (TTI’s)

Nine institutes for executing collaborative projects between existing knowledge institutes and industry are in the Technological Top Institutes programme. These instututes carry out research into fields that are relevant to strong R&D-intensive sectors in the Netherlands and specific research topics of international relevance.

Institutes in agriculture

Alongside Wageningen University, several institutes that were once part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) carry out agricultural research. These institutes were privatized in the second half of the 1990s under the umbrella of the Agricultural Research Service (DLO). They then entered into an alliance with Wageningen Agricultural University. The research institutes can be found on the website of Wageningen University & Research.

Ministerial institutes

A steadily declining number of institutes are still under the direct responsibility of ministries. For example:

  • The Ministry of Justice has its own internal Research and Documentation Centre (WODC).
  • The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) is an agency of the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management (V&W).
  • The Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP) and the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) are part of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS).

Commercial enterprises

Companies carry out the majority of research in the Netherlands. The research is conducted mainly in larger companies and within the industry sector. Some 77% of the research carried out in companies takes place in companies with more than 200 employees. An important part of the research is development work. A characteristic of the Dutch situation is the presence of the five multinationals, Philips, Shell, Akzo Nobel, Unilever and DSM. These are also the companies that carry out a large part of the research, but they have been joined in recent years by companies such as ASM Lithography, Océ and Lucent Technologies.

Science hubs

In the Netherlands, many companies participate in high level research. Many of these companies are located in organized theme hubs of which the most well known are: