Additional funding earmarked primarily for innovative research
The development of a supercomputer that can perform enormous amounts of computation, or research into new materials, climate change, sustainable food, but also inequality of opportunity. These are just some of the projects that could benefit from millions of euros in additional funding for science; a proposal that was set out in the coalition agreement. The cabinet has approved the plans of Minister of Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven to release this additional funding. 'Through these plans, we're making a substantial investment in science and providing more scope for innovative research,' said the minister.
The government has decided to gradually increase the budget for fundamental research to €200 million per year from 2020. Applied research and innovation will receive the same amount. Finally, two lots of €50 million will be made available for improving scientific research infrastructure. In total, the government is investing an additional €500 million in science and research, €400 million of which will be a permanent budget increase.
National Science Agenda
The extra funding will primarily go to innovative and socially relevant research carried out as part of the National Science Agenda. To this end, an additional €70 million will be made available in 2018, increasing to €108 million in 2019 and €130 million per year from 2020. The National Science Agenda brings together universities; universities of applied science; other knowledge institutions, such as the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI); as well as various organisations and stakeholders in the private sector to work on scientific breakthroughs and social issues. Examples include research into water management, safe societies, cybersecurity, sustainable food, inequality of opportunity and even the origins of life. 'This type of cooperation is vital for tackling social issues effectively. And it gives science a greater impact,' said Ms Van Engelshoven.
The National Science Agenda has already been launched on a limited scale but now, through the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), it will ultimately result in a programme for annual calls worth €130 million. The focus will be on multiyear research carried out by research consortia.
The plans also include a significant focus on digital research infrastructure, which can improve the uptake of research and optimise access to data ('open science') in the interests of seeking solutions to scientific, social and economic issues. From 2018 an annual budget of €20 million will be set aside for digital research infrastructure, with the biggest part of this earmarked for high performance computing. This involves supercomputers with enormous storage and computational capacities, which help facilitate big data research. Such research is vital in order to improve the understanding of issues such as climate change. Supercomputers also play an increasingly vital role in making data accessible and fit for practical application in sectors like health and social care.
Science and technology
The government recognises that the science and technology sector is facing significant challenges. More funds will therefore be made available each year (up to a maximum of €70 million) to increase the scope for high-quality research and graduate training in the sector. There will also be greater scope for investment in social sciences and the humanities, both of which play a crucial role in areas such as sustainability, conflict mediation and healthcare. This additional funding will be made available via sector plans.
The Netherlands is keen to increase the role it plays in world-class international research facilities like CERN and ESO, and €60 million will be made available for this purpose. This is not only important for the highest-quality international research; Dutch participation in new research projects can also create more opportunities for the Dutch private sector to be involved in building the required facilities.
Universities of applied science bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical innovation. As a result, they are well placed to make a significant contribution to research focused on innovation and social issues. And they also have a considerable regional impact. To strengthen applied research by universities of applied science, extra funding will be made available, increasing gradually to €25 million from 2020.
The development of the different sector plans has already begun, in cooperation with the relevant ministries and partners in the knowledge coalition (Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU), Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW), Royal Association MKB-Nederland, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and Applied Research Institutions (TO2)). 'I firmly believe that, with these investments, we can give a long-lasting, significant boost to fundamental and applied research, as well as to science as a whole,' said Ms Van Engelshoven.