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Funding public knowledge organisations

fact sheet
28 September 2020
Public knowledge organisations Funding
In this factsheet we provide information on financial trends at Dutch public knowledge organisations (also known as public research organisations). We show that their income, after a decline in the years 2011-2014, has remained relatively stable from 2014 onwards. Over the entire measures period, 2010-2019, their income has declined by 2%. In 2019, we see the income of the TO2-institutes rise for the first time since 2010. The total income for public research organsations was 2.4 billion in 2020.

In short

  • Public knowledge organisations are institutions such as TNO, FNI, RIVM and the Trimbos Institute.
  • The total income of public knowledge organisations is approximately 2.4 billion euro. About half of this comes structurally from the state.
  • TO2 institutions receive 47% of the total funding.

Tasks and scope

Public knowledge organisations generate, collect and disseminate knowledge to safeguard the welfare, prosperity and safety of the Netherlands now and in the future. In doing so, they contribute to the fulfilment of government responsibilities (such as food safety) and to the social objectives set by the government (such as economic growth). The public knowledge organisations' right to exist is therefore not based on the research they do, but on the public interests they thereby safeguard. The work of these organisations is driven by the knowledge needs of governments, businesses, industry, the police, social workers, patients and consumers.

The Rathenau Institute distinguishes five different groups of public knowledge institutions in the Dutch knowledge infrastructure, based on their functions:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • TO2-institutes support businesses, industry and  government by conducting and/or facilitating research and innovation, often pre-competitively and in consortia with public authorities, businesses and knowledge-based organisations. They manage large-scale facilities for this purpose.
  • Sector-oriented foundations 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.
  • 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.

In the figure below we show the size of these different groups, based on their total income in 2020. We see that the TO2-institutes and the government laboratories together receive over 75% of the total income of public knowledge organisations.

Three types of funding: institutional, project, other

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

  1. Institutional funding: structural funding provided by the national government. This includes the budget allocated by the responsible ministry (for example a government contribution of institutional subsidy) and recurring annual programme funding not obtained in competition with others.

  2. Project funding: 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 public knowledge organisations.

  3. Other income: funding that public knowledge organisations receive for products or services that are not related directly to research or knowledge-intensive activities, such as income from licensing or leasing of facilities. Interest income and charges are not included in the figures in this factsheet.

In the figure below, we show that the proportions of the three funding sources differ between the groups of public knowledge organisations. This reflects the differences in their function: the more a public knowledge organisation is focused on supporting policymaking by the central government, the larger the proportion of their total income that consists of institutional funding. That means that, for example, the TO2-institutes receive a much larger share of their income in competition than the policy-oriented organisations. 

General financial trends

The figure below shows how the revenues of public knowledge organisations developed between 2010 and 2020. Between 2011 and 2014, the revenues decrease. From 2014 onwards, the income fluctuates more or less at the same level. In 2020, the revenues increase again and are 4% above the 2010 level. The total income for 2020 amounts to 2.4 billion euro's. 

The decline in the period 2011-2014 can be seen in project funding (-8%) and institutional funding (-9%). The decline in project funding was mainly due to lagging revenues from contract research for other parties. On the other hand, temporary assignments from the government increased by 23 million euro in 2014 compared to 2011.

After slight fluctuations, in 2019 not only does the income from temporary assignments for the central government continue to rise (+26 million euros between 2019 and 2020), but institutional funding is also rising (+129 million euros between 2019 and 2020). The growth in revenues is therefore mainly the result of additional investments by the state, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the nitrogen emission. 

Trends within the five groups

The figure below splits the revenue development for the period 2010-2020. This shows that not every group of public knowledge organisations has the same financial development. We will discuss the five groups here:

Within the group of policy-oriented organisations the income of all organisations increases in proportion to 2010, except at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) (-5%). The growth in income between 2014 and 2020 shown in figure 4 can be attributed fully to the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) (14%), the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) (27%). The income of the first two rises constant over the past four years while the income of the PBL only rises in 2018, due to a rise in project funding.

The income of the government laboratories rises above the level of 2010 in 2020 by 23%.  As figure 4 shows, this is because income levels start to rise again after 2014. This is true for all individual government laboratories except IFV, where the income decreases by 13% between 2014 and 2020. Furthermore the income for RIVM increased in the period 2014-2020 by 40%. In 2020 the institutional funding for RIVM increased by 88 million euro's. 

At the TO2-institutes, 2018 sees the first rise in income since 2010. This is due to an increase of the institutional funding by 14% (€ 50 million). This rise of the total income and institutional funding counts for all 5 TO2-institutes. It is due to the investments in applied research as agreed in the last coalition agreement. Project funding from the government has also risen. Despite the rise, total income still lies 2% below 2010 levels.    

The income of the sector-oriented foundations decreases with 8% up until 2015. This decrease takes place at 7 out of the 10 foundations. From 2016 onwards the income increases again and returns to 2010 levels in 2017. Only Movisie shows a continuing decrease in income. The other foundations show an increase in income. This recovery is mainly due to changes in the project funding. This decreased from 2010-2015 by 13% and has since increased with 16%. The institutional funding has declined over the entire period (2010-2020) by 2%.

Finally, the decrease in income of the professional research and training organisations is caused entirely by the declining income of the Police Academy (-14%). The income of the other two organisations in this group increase (with respectively 6% (Netherlands Defence Academy) and 50% (Clingendael institute)).


The data on financing come from the following sources:

Annual reports: CBS, Clingendael, Deltares (from 2016), ECN, Mulier Institute, IFV, NFI (until 2014), NJi, RIVM (until 2014), SCP (until 2017), SWOV, veiligheidNL, Vilans (until 2017) & Wageningen Research (WUR).

Annual accounts: Boekman Foundation, Geonovum, Movisie, NLR, Police Academy, VeiligheidNL, Trimbos, TNO.

National annual report: NFI (from 2015), KNMI, RIVM (from 2015).

Supplied by the organisation: CPB, Deltares (up to 2015), FMW-NLDA, MARIN, Nivel, PBL, RIVM (up to 2014), SCP (2018, 2019), Vilans (2018, 2019) & WODC.