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. KNAW has 18 institutes in the field of humanities and in the field of the provision of scientific information.

  • IISH - International Institute of Social History
  • KITLV - Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
  • NIOD - Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide studies
  • NIDI - Netherlands Interdisciplinairy Demographic Institute
  • NIAS - Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences
  • CBS - Fungal Biodiversity Centre
  • Hubrecht Institute - Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research
  • NIN - Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience
  • NIOO - Netherlands Institute of Ecology
  • Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging

Institutes for applied research: TNO & GTI's

The Netherlands has several institutes for applied research. The largest institute, with a turnover in 2002 of € 470 million, 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: