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NWO (Netherlands) wants an extra 433 million euros per year for top research


The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) wants an extra 433 million euros per year for top research. The organisation announces this on 22 May with the launch of its strategy for 2007-2010. The money is intended for excellent researchers, consolidating strengths and improving the benefits for society.

If the Netherlands is to contribute to the Lisbon objectives, as agreed within the EU, then a number of bottlenecks in its knowledge system need to be vigorously tackled. Or as NWO chair, Peter Nijkamp, states in his foreword: ’Its about time that the Netherlands invests in its best. The Netherlands must start to value its scientific sector.’

Nijkamp realises that the extra 433 millions euros per year requested is a considerable sum. ’Yet it is a vital investment, if we believe that our future is linked to the success of the Netherlands as a knowledge based country.’

*** Consultation with science, government and public parties ***
The policy document ’Science valued! NWO-policy 2007-2010’ was compiled in close consultation with all parties in or associated with the scientific sector. Over the past year NWO has consulted scientists, government departments, the private sector and other public bodies. As a result of these open discussions, the strategy can count on widespread support.

On 22 May NWO chair Peter Nijkamp will present the strategy memorandum to the Minister for Education, Culture and Science, Maria van der Hoeven. This will take place during a launch in the Grote Kerk in The Hague. Top scientists, politicians and representatives form public bodies will attend the event.

*** Three lines of action ***
NWO is requesting an extra 433 million euros per year on top of the current basic budget of 423 million euros. The money is intended for three lines of action. First of all opportunities for researchers must be created. For example, good facilities, special subsidies for top talent and more possibilities for researchers in the so-called open competition subsidies. Secondly strengths must be consolidated. For example, via large subsidy programmes and international cooperation. Thirdly NWO wants to expand its efforts in the area of knowledge transfer and cooperation with social partners.

*** Line of action 1: Opportunities for researchers ***
Excellent researchers in the Netherlands often lack the opportunities to perform at their best and to profile themselves at an international level. NWO wants to improve the career perspectives via so-called person-specific talent programmes. Further NWO wants to increase the possibilities for adventurous research. In addition to this state-of-the-art research facilities must be created and NWO wants to attract talent from abroad.

*** Line of action 2: Consolidating strengths ***
There needs to be a consolidation of strengths at a national level if scientific research in the Netherlands is to be boosted. NWO wants to develop ’National Research Initiatives’. These are programmes with a budget of about 30-50 million euros in scientific areas where the Netherlands is a world leader. In addition to this NWO hopes, in cooperation with the innovation agency SenterNovem, to realise a sequel to the successful one-off BIG programme for investments in large research facilities. Further NWO hopes to stimulate European cooperation and to incorporate smaller subsidies into larger programmes.

*** Line of action 3: Science for society ***
Societal questions and the call to strengthen societal and technological innovation are resulting in an increasingly stronger demand for rapidly applicable knowledge. As an intermediary organisation, NWO brings together knowledge requesters and scientists. NWO will develop societally-inspired programmes by working together with government departments, the private sector and other public bodies. In addition to this NWO will intensify the partnership with sister organisations TNO and SenterNovem. Moreover NWO will realise ’academic practice workshops’ and the Smart Mix scheme. Further NWO will select Societal Top Institutes as instruments for innovative research of societal issues. NWO also wishes to increase researchers’ awareness in the area of knowledge utilisation.

*** Lisbon and background ***
Three successive cabinets have expressed the political aim that the Dutch knowledge economy must be one of the most successful in Europe by 2010. This ambition follows on from the so-called Lisbon strategy to which the European government leaders committed themselves in 2000. That was after the alarm had been raised that Europe was failing to perform well enough in science and technology and the large-scale exodus of top European talent. By 2010 the EU must have developed into one of the most dynamic and competitive knowledge economies in the world. The second Balkenende cabinet fully committed itself to this course in 2004. That was following an interim report about the Lisbon strategy by a commission under the leadership of Wim Kok. The Innovation Platform was requested to provide a strategic framework for these ambitions.

Innovation and quality. These are the two driving forces behind NWO’s approach to the future of science in the Netherlands. Together with scientists, national and international scientific organisations, and the private sector, NWO develops and finances top-quality research programmes. NWO funds the work of more than 4500 researchers at universities and research institutes. NWO’s annual basic budget is 423 million euros.

David Redeker | alfa
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