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Growth Fund provides vital boost to knowledge and innovation

Today, the advisory committee of the National Growth Fund will advise the Dutch government to invest €1.6 billion in the plans for knowledge and innovation. VSNU President Pieter Duisenberg: 'This is a vital boost for science, for solutions to social issues and for the earning power of the Netherlands. We are pleased by the success of these proposals. We see the "leverage effect" at work here, as public investment serves to attract new private investment as well.'

A major boost for Dutch knowledge and innovation
The recommended investments from the National Growth Fund for research and innovation are divided between the broad investment programme AiNed for artificial intelligence (€276 million), QuantumDeltaNL for strengthening the Dutch quantum ecosystem (€615 million), the Green Capability of the Dutch Economy, a green hydrogen ecosystem (€338 million), Health-RI for a national health data and research infrastructure (€69 million) and RegMed XB for regenerative healthcare (€56 million). While the committee praises efforts to increase the sustainability of the food chain, it has chosen not to fund the FoodSwitch project. The universities regret this decision. 

These public investments are expected to attract an estimated €3.8 billion in private investments in turn. Duisenberg: 'This demonstrates the incredible leverage effect of public investment. When the government invests in research and innovation, it generates a multitude of investments from private parties. This is crucial for the future of the Netherlands and our ability to face the challenges that lie ahead. To that same end, we also advocated for public investment in knowledge and innovation, together with our partners from the Knowledge Coalition, in order to increase investment in knowledge to 3% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

More opportunities in lifelong development and digitalisation
The committee feels that, while the proposals of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science with regard to lifelong development and digitalisation are important, they still need a more solid foundation, including in terms of scientific substantiation. To that end, the committee is offering clear recommendations, including with regard to the role of the educational sector and the Ministry, which we wholeheartedly endorse. We will work together on new, well-founded plans in which we will make sharp choices together. 

Opportunities for the next round
The universities applaud the committee's recommendation that – rather than only the ministries – educational and knowledge institutions, businesses and other parties should be given opportunities to submit their own proposals as well. The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis writes that a stronger focus on societal challenges could refine the scope of proposals in the future. University science is uniquely qualified to deepen and connect themes such as the energy transition, key technologies, healthcare and physical and digital security. Duisenberg: 'The lessons from this round will provide a solid basis for next time. We fully endorse the committee's plea for stronger involvement of the social sciences and the humanities for the purpose of successful applications and transitions, and we intend to begin working toward this goal.' 

In addition to the Growth Fund, investments in the basis are needed
The Growth Fund is a good and important start for more investments in scientific research and education. Nevertheless, it is not a long-term solution for structural shortages at universities. PwC recently confirmed the accuracy of this plea by concluding that universities’ basic funding leaves them with a shortfall of €1.1 billion. The VSNU is calling on the new government to address these problems. Duisenberg: 'If we want effective contributions from the universities, the structural underfunding will need to be addressed as well. Many employees are in dire straits, and the quality of education and research is under pressure. We have to move towards a Normal Academic Standard.'


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