Public knowledge organisations

This factsheet provides information on financial trends at public knowledge organisations (also known as public research organisations). Public knowledge organisations (PKOs) are knowledge organisations that receive full or partial public funding and are positioned outside the academic world of universities, university medical centres (UMCs), and the institutes belonging to the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). Their research is focused on the support of public, knowledge-intensive tasks. Examples are the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction (Trimbos-instituut) and the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael.



Public knowledge organisations help government realise its responsibilities (for example food safety) and achieve the societal aims that it sets (such as economic growth). They generate, collect and disseminate knowledge to safeguard the wellbeing, prosperity, public safety and security of the Netherlands, both now and in the future. Their raison d’être lies in the public interests that they serve with their research and related activities. Their work is driven by the knowledge requirements of government authorities, businesses, industry, the police force, social workers, patients, consumers and so on.

Five different groups of public knowledge organisations can be distinguished in the Dutch knowledge infrastructure. The policy-oriented organisations focus chiefly on research in support of policymaking. They monitor societal trends, trace the real and potential consequences of policy, and evaluate policy. The government laboratories support the national government by executing  its knowledge-intensive responsibilities. They, for example, perform forensic investigations, test foodstuffs and coordinate the National Immunisation Programme. The TO2 institutes support businesses, industry and government by conducting and/or facilitating research and innovation, often pre-competitively and in consortia with authorities, businesses and knowledge-based organisations. They manage large-scale facilities for this purpose. The sector-oriented organisations combine research in support of policymaking with a focus on the knowledge requirements of professionals and their clients in the health care, sports, culture and security sectors. They do so by collecting and proactively sharing available data, monitoring trends and developing tools such as courses, guidelines and information leaflets. The professional research and training organisations combine research (in support of policymaking) with training for aspiring and qualified professionals who work in the defence, law enforcement and diplomatic sectors.

For more background information about this classification system and the specific tasks of each public knowledge organisation, see our Facts & Figures on this topic. We provide a table listing the individual public knowledge organisations here.

The figure below indicates the size of these five groups based on total income in 2015. It shows that the TO2 institutes and the government laboratories together account for more than three quarters of the income of the public knowledge organisations.

Size of public knowledge organisations by group (in 2015, in millions of euros)

Data: Download as csv
Source: See the end of the factsheet, adapted by the Rathenau Institute


Public knowledge organisations have different organisational forms (from government agencies to private foundations) and receive funding under differing terms. This factsheet divides the sources of funding into three types of income:

  1. Institutional funding. This is structural funding provided by the national government. This includes the budget allocated by the responsible ministry (for example a government contribution or an institutional subsidy) and recurring annual programme funding not obtained in competition with others.
  2. Project funding. This is funding that the organisations obtain in competition with other parties. It includes research grants awarded through, for example, Horizon2020 or programmes run by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) and contract research for both private and public parties. Some small, one-off government contracts are awarded directly to PKOs.
  3. The third type of funding consists of income that some PKOs receive for products or services that are not related directly to research or knowledge-intensive activities, for example from licensing or leasing. They are categorised under ‘other income’. Interest income and charges are not included in these figures.

Please see the Facts and Figures publication referred to previously for information on how the Rathenau Institute divides the original sources of funding into these three categories.

The underlying Excel file provides data on the income of individual public knowledge organisations.

Income public knowledge organisations in 2010-2015, in millions of euros

Data: Download as csv
Source: see end of factsheet: adapted by Rathenau Institute
Notes: The amounts provided for institutional funding and project funding differ from the figures in the Facts & Figures publication because funding for the National Immunisation Programme by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has been transferred from the project funding category to the institutional funding category. By making this change, the Rathenau Institute has adapted its reporting to the reporting method introduced in 2015 in the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport’s Annual Report and Final Budget Act. To compare previous years, we requested data from RIVM.

Funding of public knowledge organisations decreased between 2010 and 2015 by 8.2% (€ 190.1 million). The decline noted in our Facts & Figures thus continued in 2015.

We see a similar downward trend for all sources of funding. Institutional funding fell by 9.1% and project funding by 8.7%. This means that the fall in the national government’s structural funding is not compensated by extra contract research income. The overall decrease comes to 8.2% because income in the ‘other income’ category has risen by 11%.

Trens in public knowledge organisations' income in 2010-2015, in %, per group

Data: Download as csv
Source: see end of Factsheet, adapted by Rathenau Institute

The figure above shows that the fall in income is not equal across groups. The decline is steepest for the TO2 institutes and the professional research and training organisations. It is least for the government laboratories. The results have been somewhat distorted by the Netherlands Institute for Safety (IFV), which was assigned a number of additional tasks in 2013. That year, its funding increased by 50.9%. If we disregard the IFV in our comparison, then the government laboratories saw their income decline by 6.9%.

Sources of public knowledge organisations' income, per group, in % of total, 2015

Data: Download as csv
Source: see end of Factsheet, adapted by Rathenau Institute

This figure shows that the share of total income accounted for by institutional funding differs from one group of PKOs to the next. Institutional funding accounts for the largest share of the total income of the policy-oriented organisations (80.7%). For the government laboratories, it accounts for almost three quarters (74.9%).

The TO2 institutes receive the smallest share of institutional funding at only 33.4%, with the Maritime Research Institute of the Netherlands (MARIN), a TO2 institute, receiving the smallest share of all PKOs, only 9.1%.

In the case of the sector-oriented organisations, institutional funding accounts for an average of 40.1% of their income. This percentage varies from 15.5% at Vilans (a centre of expertise for long-term care) to 69.1% at the Institute for Road Safety Research (SWOV).

Professional research and training organisations receive an average of 60% of their income in the form of institutional funding. Once again, the percentages in this group vary, from 26.7% for the Clingendael Institute to 97.7% for the Netherlands Defence Academy (Foundation for Scientific Education and Research, FMW-NLDA).

Note concerning data

  • No financial data are available on the Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis (KiM).
  • For FMW-NLDA, financial data are available starting in 2012. This organisation has therefore not been included in the figures ‘Income public knowledge organisations 2010-2015, in millions of euros’ and ‘Trends in income public knowledge organisations 2010-2015, per group, in %'.
  • Non-consolidated figures were used for TNO and the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN). The ECN’s figures do not include ECN Holding (e.g. NRG), and the TNO’s do not include TNO Companies.

Data on funding have been obtained from the following sources:

  • Annual reports: Statistics Netherlands, Clingendael, ECN, Mulier Instituut, IFV, NFI (to 2014), Netherlands Youth Institute (NJi), RIVM (to 2014), Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP), SWOV, TNO, VeiligheidNL, Vilans & Wageningen Research (WUR).
  • Annual financial statements: Boekman Foundation, Geonovum, Movisie, Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), Police Academy, VeiligheidNL.
  • National Financial Annual Report: NFI (2015), Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI), RIVM (2015)
  • Supplied by the organisation: Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), Deltares, FMW-NLDA, MARIN, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL), Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), RIVM.