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Funding public knowledge organisations

fact sheet
04 March 2024
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 2.8 billion in 2022.

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 2.8 billion euro. More than half of this comes structurally from the state.
  • TO2 institutions receive 43% 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 2022. 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. This]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 2022. Between 2011 and 2014, the revenues decrease. From 2014 onwards, the income fluctuates more or less at the same level. In 2022, the revenues are 22% above the 2010 level. The total income for 2022 amounts to 2.8 billion euros. 

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 (+78 million euros between 2019 and 2022), but institutional funding is also rising (+400 million euros between 2019 and 2022). 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. To address this, the RIVM's institutional funding increased by more than 80 million euros in 2020 and 175 million euros in 2021. In 2022, it decreased again by 37 million euros.

Trends within the five groups

The figure below shows the income development over the period 2010-2022. This shows that not every group of public knowledge organizations has the same financial development. We will go through the five groups below.

Within the group of professional research and training organizations, income equals the 2010 level in 2022 after a decline in the period 2010-2017. This mainly reflects the developments at the police academy. While the income of the Clingendael Institute and the NLDA has increased by 61% and 25% respectively since 2010, the income of the Police Academy has dropped slightly: -2%.

At the TO2 institutions, income increased in 2018 for the first time since 2010. In 2022 their income is higher again than in 2010 (+7%). This is mainly the result of the investments in applied research resulting from the coalition agreement of the Rutte III cabinet. Although institutional financing is increasing at all TO2 institutions, this is not the case for project funding. We see that while the total revenues at NLR and MARIN (2010-2022) increase by approximately 30%, the total revenues of Deltares and Wageningen Research increase less than 10% and those of the ECN-TNO combination increase by 2.7%.

Within the group of policy-oriented organisations, income increased by 10% compared to 2010. An increase can be observed at all knowledge organizations, except at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), where income in 2022 is almost back at the 2010 level (-1%).

At the sector-oriented foundations we see that income decreased by 8% up to and including 2015. This decrease takes place at seven foundations. From 2016 onwards, income increases again, returning to the 2010 level in 2017 and rising further thereafter. This recovery is mainly due to changes in project financing, which decreased by 13% up to and including 2015, but grew again by 32% in the following years. This decreased slightly again in 2022. Ultimately, the income of this group is 23% above the 2010 level. This increase can be seen at six foundations: the Trimbos Institute (+11%, 2.3 million euros), Vilans (+107%, 24.4 million euros), the Mulier Institute (+134%, 2.6 million euros), SWOV (+7%, 0.4 million euros), Nivel (17%, 2.4 million) and the Boekman Foundation (+56%, 0.7 million euros). At the LKCA and ARQ Foundation, whose financial development we have monitored since 2013/2014, we have since seen an increase in income of 18% and 31% respectively.

The income of the government laboratories as a group will be 50% above the 2010 income level in 2022. This is because income has started to rise again after a decline in the period 2010-2014, except for a slight decline in 2022. The income of the RIVM in particular is increasing sharply, from 339 million in 2014 to 644 million in 2021, an increase of 90%. This mainly has to do with extra  funding during the COVID-19 pandemic. They received more than 80 million euros in additional institutional funding in 2020 and 175 million euros in 2021 for vaccination and research programs regarding COVID-19. The income of the KNMI increased by 62%, of the NIPV (particularly in 2021) by 39% and of the NFI by 22%. This also explains the slight decrease in 2022 when additional financing related to COVID-19 has decreased somewhat.


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.