Energy Research Knowledge Centre


Research themes and prioritisation


In the coming years the Dutch government aims to increase the use of green energy and decrease dependence on oil, gas, wind, biomass and nuclear power, despite rising energy consumption. The government will prioritise energy conservation by extending the Green Deals approach and stimulate businesses and the public to use more renewable energy. In 2010 the share of sustainable or renewable energy in national energy consumption was 4 %; the target is a 16 % share for renewables by 2020. These measures will be taken with due regard for the competitiveness of energy-intensive sectors and the impact on jobs.

The main themes to which priority will be given are the bio-based economy, offshore wind, smart grids, solar energy, energy conservation in the built environment, energy conservation in industry, and gas.

Organisation of research


The Netherlands has three governmental funding mechanisms for public-funded research: direct public funding from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) to universities and knowledge institutions; indirect public funding via intermediary organisations such as NL Agency, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM); and other sources including private organisations and other government ministries (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Direct and indirect funding of publicly financed energy research in the Netherlands in 2011 (2012 for TKIs).

Based on Figure S.2 in 'Monitor publiek gefinancierd energieonderzoek 2011', November 2012, p. III, published by Decisio.
EZ = Ministry of Economic Affairs; BZK = Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations; I&M = Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment;
OCW = Ministry of Education, Culture and Science; TKI = Top Consortia for Knowledge and Innovation;
NWO = Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research; FOM = Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter

The Dutch government recently identified nine ‘Top Sectors’ which aim to increase the competitiveness of the Dutch economy by stimulating development in nine sectors: agriculture and food; creative industries; energy; horticulture; life sciences and health; water, high-tech systems and materials; logistics; and chemistry. Each Top Sector is governed by a Top Team which include two representatives from the private sector (large companies and SMEs), one representative from a research institute and one from the Dutch government. These Top Teams decide on R&D priorities and funding. Under the Top Sector Energy are seven Top Consortia for Knowledge and Innovation (TKIs), which are public-private partnerships between research institutes and industry addressing the themes as mentioned above under Research Themes and Prioritisation. The TKIs define and execute plans described in so-called Innovation Contracts and a Human Capital Agenda.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs is the largest contributor to public-financed energy research, focusing on biofuels, carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), sustainable energy (wind, bioenergy, solar, geothermal, ’green’ electricity, green gas), power generation, smart grids, energy policy, energy conservation, natural gas (production, transport, infrastructure), nuclear energy, and oil. The overall aim is to create an energy infrastructure that is reliable, safe, sustainable and competitive.

In recent years the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) has also invested in energy-related programmes, focusing on energy efficiency in agriculture, horticulture, industry, traffic and transport, the built environment, energy conservation in ICT, and Green Deals for energy conservation in buildings. To a lesser extent the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (I&M) also finances energy-related projects.

One of the main intermediary organisations responsible for the management and control of a large part of the budget for the energy innovation agenda is the Energy and Climate Change section of NL Agency. NWO mainly funds research carried out by universities.

Table 1. Overview of energy research in the Netherlands, 2007–2011 (€ million)

Programmes and budgets


Budget overview

From 2012 onwards more and more of Dutch R&D funding will be coordinated by the Top Sectors. Their aim is to stimulate private-public cooperation in research and innovation through the TKIs. Industry is expected to contribute 40 %, the rest being made up from public funding. The total budget for energy R&D in 2013 is €77 million, increasing to €89 million from 2016 on. The projects eligible for grants cover fundamental research, industrial research and demonstrations.

Government budgets for energy research in 2013 cover seven TKIs, each associated with one of the innovation contracts in the Top Sector Energy.

Under current government policy, support for energy research is continuing to shift from specific subsidies to fiscal stimuli. One of the new options is the so-called Research and Development Deduction (RDA), in addition to the existing WBSO (Research and Development Promotion Act). An extension of the RDA, known as RDA+, has been set up specifically to incentivise private investment in public research. Both RDA and RDA+ aim mainly to support small and medium-sized companies in developing energy innovation, improving the knowledge infrastructure and stimulating cooperation with universities and research institutions.

The government has also decided to support specific initiatives under Green Deals with society (i.e. actors involved in these initiatives). These Green Deals intend to remove obstacles such as regulatory bottlenecks which stop results from being achieved quickly.

Table 2: Main energy research programmes in the Netherlands

Programmes and initiatives

CO2 Capture, Transport and Storage (CATO-2)

​CO2 Afvang, Transport en Opslag (CATO-2)

The Dutch national R&D programme for carbon capture, transport and storage, with a consortium of nearly 40 partners. The programme is funded partly by the government and partly by industrial partners. The planned budget for CATO-2 is approximately €62 million from 2009 onwards.

Advanced Dutch Energy Materials (ADEM)

Advanced Dutch Energy Materials (ADEM)

ADEM is a joint initiative of ECN and the technology universities of Delft, Eindhoven and Twente. The budget of the first tranche in 2009 was €15 million. The laboratory contributes to a diverse range of sustainable energy technologies, exploiting, for example, solar energy, wind and biomass. In 2011 the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (now EZ) and the ADEM consortium decided that the second phase of ADEM would be part of the Green Deal Materials for Energy Applications (GDME). The programme will thus be fully integrated in the new Dutch innovation policy framework, with clear involvement of and commitment from the private sector. However, the administrative procedure has not been concluded, so the second tranche of €15 million is not yet available and ADEM’s investment programme is partly on hold.

Energy Research Subsidy (EOS)

Energie Onderzoek Subsidie (EOS)

The EOS programme supported the Dutch Energy Research Strategy which was formulated in 2001 and followed the subsidy programme known as Sustainable Energy in the Netherlands (DEN). The available budget for Dutch institutes and SMEs was divided among biomass (22 %), energy efficiency in industry and agriculture (23 %), built environment (29 %), new gas/clean fossil fuels (11 %), power generation and grids (11 %), and other (4 %).

Climate Neutral Gaseous and Liquid Energy Carriers (GAVE)

Gasvormige en Vloeibare Klimaatneutrale Energiedragers (GAVE)

GAVE is a government programme which supports the development and introduction of climate-neutral fuels in the Dutch transport sector. The programme's most important task is to support the implementation of the European Renewable Energy Directive into Dutch national legislation with respect to biofuels. This Directive states that by 2020, 10 % of the energy used in the transport sector must be derived from renewable energy.

Top Sector Energy – Innovation Contracts (TKIs)

Topsector Energie – Innovatiecontracten (TKIs)

Companies, academia and the Dutch government cooperate as a public-private partnership in the Top Sector Energy, which aims to increase the global competitiveness of Dutch industry and the business sector. Within the Top Sector Energy, seven so-called Innovation Contracts (TKIs) were defined in 2012: SWITCH2 SmartGrids, Wind-on-Sea, EnerGO (energy conservation in the built environment), Solar Energy, Gas, Bio-based economy, and the ISPT (Institute for Sustainable Process Technology). The Top Sector Energy TKIs also cooperate with those in other Top Sectors, including those concerned with chemistry, agriculture and food, water, and high-tech systems and materials.

National govermment departments


Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ)

Ministerie van Economische Zaken (EZ)

The Ministry of Economic Affairs promotes the Netherlands as a country of enterprise with a strong international competitive position and an eye for sustainability. It is committed to creating an excellent entrepreneurial business climate, with room for entrepreneurs to innovate and grow, by paying attention to nature and the living environment, and by encouraging cooperation between research institutes and businesses. In this way the ministry aims to enhance the country’s leading positions in agriculture, industry, services and energy and to invest in building a nation that is powerful yet sustainable.

Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK)

Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties (BZK)

One of the issues for this Ministry concerns energy saving in the built environment. The objectives of the related plan of action are to:

  • Contribute to the European objective of 20 % CO2 reduction by 2020 through energy savings in the built environment;
  • Use energy savings to give people more control over rises in living costs; and
  • Use energy savings as a boost to the construction industry.

Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (I&M)

Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu (I&M)

The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment is committed to improving quality of life, access and mobility in a clean, safe and sustainable environment. The Ministry strives to create an efficient network of roads, railways, waterways and airways, effective water management to protect against flooding, and improved air and water quality. Some relevant departments are the Directorate-General Environment and the Directorate-General Mobility. Also connected to this ministry is the Dutch Emission Authority (Nederlandse Emissieautoriteit).

National research programme management agencies


NL Agency, Energy and Climate Change section

​Agentschap NL

Stimulates international business and cooperation and a positive image of the Netherlands internationally and supports research programmes in energy. The NL Agency website provides a good overview of programmes, funding opportunities and incentives. Programmes focus on the bio-based economy, onshore wind energy, energy conservation, sustainable energy, heat and cold storage, and energy innovation.

Funding organisations at national level


The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)

Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) is the national research council and has an annual budget of more than €500 million. NWO funds the research of more than 5 000 scientists. The organisation falls under the responsibility of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). NWO’s ambitions for the period 2011–2014 are to:

  • Support talented creative researchers in developing their own ideas;
  • Increase the contribution science makes to society, for example by investing in research inspired by society's needs, including the Top Sectors; and
  • Increase the role played by knowledge utilisation in the research it funds.

NWO has adjusted its themes in response to the Top Sector policy. Its main energy-related research themes concern the bio-based economy, sustainable energy, and fundamental energy research.