Without this additional investment, the Netherlands will find itself lagging behind countries like Germany and Denmark, argues the Knowledge Coalition, a group of companies, universities, universities of applied sciences, hospitals, research institutes and the Dutch Research Council (NWO).
In view of this extra government funding, the coalition anticipates that the business community will also dig deeper into its pockets. However, predictions about this are vague and there have been no hard promises.
The coalition members have produced an eight-page summary of their ideas. Most of the extra money should be spent on the ‘basics’ of research and innovation, in other words unfettered research. The rest should be devoted to ‘theme-based’ research.
In this, the coalition is providing a counterbalance to the National Growth Fund, which aims to provide funding for projects that benefit the Netherlands’ ‘capacity for growth’. That primarily refers to theme-based research.
If the Cabinet (or the next coalition) pays heed, Dutch expenditure will be in the region of three percent of GDP (a percentage agreed as a target by the European countries two decades ago) by 2030.
Ten years is a long way off, so only time will tell whether these predictions prove accurate. Whatever the case, the coalition takes the view that any investments in knowledge and innovation will benefit economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Return on investment
The Knowledge Coalition also cites the Rabobank. For every additional euro spent by the Cabinet on R&D, society would get back € 4.50 in return, according to the bank. However, as stated in the bank’s report, there is some uncertainty in these calculations.
The coalition’s document did not come completely out of the blue. The House of Representatives asked the Cabinet to talk to the Knowledge Coalition about achieving the three-percent target. Germany is already exceeding it.
During yesterday afternoon’s online University Council meeting, rector Frank Baaijens made it clear that the 3 percent norm is a decisive factor in the future when it comes to ensuring that TU/e will be able to maintain its teacher-student ratio at 1:17 in Eindhoven. That ratio, the Executive Board says, is vital for keeping the quality of education at the required level. Baaijens: “This is the clear message that we, but the other universities too, send to the government, if we want to realize the ambition as regards education, outlined in Strategy 2030.