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Frequently asked questions

Public knowledge organisations in the Netherlands

Public knowledge organisations combine subject-specific research with the provision of knowledge-intensive services. Their main raison d’être is not to contribute to the growth of knowledge by means of research – as can be said of the universities – but rather to provide these knowledge-intensive services.

We have identified 29 public knowledge organisations based on the following five criteria:

  1. It is a ‘brick and mortar’ organisation, i.e. an organisation that occupies an actual building, and not a ‘virtual’ organisation.
  2. The organisation is not part of the academic research world made up of universities and university medical centres (UMCs) and the research institutes belonging to the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).
  3. The organisation’s main task is to conduct research or amass knowledge. It combines that task with knowledge-intensive services.
  4. The organisation operates in the public domain and helps at least one government ministry meet its demand for knowledge and/or shoulder its responsibilities.
  5. The organisation hence has a systematic relationship with at least one ministry, in the sense that:
    1. it receives long-term funding from at least one ministry, and
    2. at least one ministry influences the organisation’s activities. That influence may be limited to the research programme tied to the funding, but it can also extend to the execution of statutory tasks and the associated accountability mechanisms.

Here is a list of the Netherlands’ 29 public knowledge organisations.

  1. KNMI - Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute
  2. CBS - Statistics Netherlands
  3. RIVM - National Institute for Public Health and the Environment
  4. NLR - Netherlands Aerospace Centre
  5. MARIN - Maritime Research Institute Netherlands
  6. TNO - Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research
  7. DLO - DLO Foundation
  8. CPB - Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis
  9. ECN - Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands
  10. SWOV - Institute for Road Safety Research
  11. Boekman Foundation - Study centre for arts, culture and related policy
  12. WODC - Research and Documentation Centre
  13. SCP - The Netherlands Institute for Social Research
  14. Clingendael - Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael
  15. NIVEL - Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research
  16. VeiligheidNL - Foundation for the prevention of accidents
  17. Police Academy
  18. Trimbos Institute - Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction
  19. NFI - Netherlands Forensic Institute
  20. Mulier Institute - Centre for Research on Sports in Society
  21. SWOON-NLDA - Foundation for Scientific Education and Research - Netherlands Defence Academy
  22. KiM - Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis
  23. Geonovum - National Spatial Data Infrastructure
  24. Movisie - Netherlands Centre for social development
  25. NJi - Netherlands Youth Institute
  26. Vilans - Centre of expertise for long-term care
  27. Deltares - Institute for applied research in the field of water and subsurface
  28. PBL - Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
  29. (N) IFV - Netherlands Institute for Safety


Public knowledge organisations take on board tasks that are the responsibility of the national government, for example inoculation against diseases (RIVM), food safety monitoring (DLO), and flood protection (Deltares). They provide the following services:

  1. Policy support: Research that delivers the information and knowledge needed to develop, implement, and evaluate policy (note that implementation includes practical support and over­sight).
  2. Policy implementation: Research that helps government perform its tasks, for example purchasing vaccines and securing food safety. A number of these tasks have been established by law and are thus defined as statutory research tasks.
  3. Knowledge generation for stakeholders: Research and knowledge used to support and improve the work of stakeholders in trade and industry, in public organisations and in civil society. There are two ways that this can happen:
    1. R&D/innovation support: helping enterprises and other organisations develop innovations.
    2. professional platform: providing a platform for knowledge-sharing and co-creation between professionals.
  4. Accumulation and management of facilities, data and knowledge: Ensuring that knowledge, data and/or large-scale research facilities are and remain available in the most efficient way possible.
  5. Professional training: Offering training and courses for professionals at different points in their career, focusing on specific occupations.

In 2014, public knowledge organisations generated a total income of 2,1 billion euro. Of that amount, more than 1 billion euro was in the form of long-term funding by the national government. This sum consisted of institutional payments and multi-year programme funding.

The organisations do not compete for this funding but have it allocated to them under multi-year agreements that they have concluded with the ministries that support them financially. The funding is intended to maintain the organisations and their facilities, but it is also tied to specific tasks or to a research programme in support of policy that is adopted annually by the relevant ministry in cooperation with the organisations concerned.

Alongside long-term funding by the national government, public knowledge organisations also compete for funding. This takes the form of contracts with public and private parties, project funding, and/or research funds. A number of organisations also generate income by providing data, licences or other services – for example library memberships, courses, and the leasing out of facilities – for payment.