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 2016. 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 2016, 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 2010-2016, 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. As of 2016, the Clingendael institute no longer reports its multi-annual program for the ministry of Foreign Affairs as institutional funding. This causes a shift of approximately €2 million from institutional funding to project funding.


In 2016, the total income of the public knowledge organisations rises for the first time since 2011. Compared to 2015, the income is 2.2% (€ 47.8 million) higher. Institutional funding rises with 1.9%, project funding with 3.7%.

Over the entire period projected in this factsheet, 2010-2016, the total income has decreased by 6.1% (€ 142.2 million). We see a similar downward trend for all sources of funding. Institutional funding fell by 7.3% and project funding by 5.3%. This means that the fall in the national government’s structural funding is not compensated by extra contract research income. The ‘other income’ category rises slightly, by 1.3%.

Trens in public knowledge organisations' income 2010-2015 and 2010-2016, in %, per group

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

As figure 3 shows not all public knowledge organisations benefit equally from the rise in income. Income rises in 2016 for all groups except the TO2 institutes. It rises steepest at the professional research and training organisations (8,1%) and policy-oriented organisations (7.4%). The income of the Police Academy increases by 8.5%, due to a rise in project funding.

The institutional funding of the policy-oriented organisations CPB and SCP rises in 2016 (with respectively 21.2% and 37.4%). As a consequence, both have a higher income than in 2010. The institutional funding of PBL decreases in 2016. Project funding rises at this organisation, but despite that total income declines slightly in 2016.

The government laboratories as a group have a higher income in 2016 than they do in 2010. The income of all government laboratories of which we have data for 2016 (CBS, KNMI, NFI and RIVM), grows in 2016. The results of this group 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 rise by 1.4% instead of the 3.9% indicated in figure 3.

The income of the TO2 institutes continues to decline in 2016. The income of TNO and Deltares rises slightly this year (with respectively 2.8% and 1%). Deltares has a rise in project funding, but a fall in institutional funding. At TNO, both sources of income decline.

The income of the other four TO2 institutes decreases in 2016. The decline is steepest at NLR, with 12.8%, and is caused by a fall in project funding. The income of Wageningen Research decreases with 4.9% (€ 15 million). Institutional funding decreases with € 4,3 million (3.4%) and ‘other income’ decreases by € 9,2 million (18.8%). Project funding slows a slight decrease. At ECN and MARIN, total income decreases by 5.5% and 4.8% in 2016.

Although the total income of the sector-oriented foundations falls between 2010 and 2016 for 8 out of 10, the situation in 2015-2016 is the reverse. Total income in this year has risen or remained the same for 8 out of 10 foundations.

Sources of public knowledge organisations' income, per group, in % of total, 2016

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 (79.8%). For the government laboratories, it accounts for more than three quarters (76.6%).

The share of institutional funding is smallest at the TO2 institutes (34.2%) and the sector-oriented foundations (34.5%). At the sector-oriented foundations and the professional research and training organisations, the share of institutional funding in the total income has declined significantly in comparison to 2015.

The share of institutional funding for sector-oriented foundations has decreased from 40.1% on average to 34.5% on average. This percentage varies from 13.6% at Vilans (a centre of expertise for long-term care) to 71.5% at the Institute for Road Safety Research (SWOV).

At the professional research and training organisations, the share of institutional funding has decreased from 60% in 2015 to 54% in 2016. Shares differ per PKO: from 8.2% at the Clingendael institute to 97.7% at the Netherlands Defence Academy.

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 2010-2016, in millions of euros’ and ‘Trends in income public knowledge organisations 2010-2015 and 2010-2016, per group, in %'.
  • Due to a lack of data, the income of IFV for 2016 has been equalized to 2015.
  • 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, Deltares (from 2016), 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 (from 2015), Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI), RIVM (from 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 (to 2014), Research and Documentation Centre (WODC).