Connecting, innovating and renovating

So what’s been happening with the Dutch National Research Agenda? Since the Knowledge Coalition presented the portfolio and investment agenda in September 2016 a lot has happened behind the scenes. 

The coalition has been busy talking to politicians and members of the cabinet. Its call to invest 1 billion euros in science and innovation is now reverberating through the corridors of government and in ministerial offices, thanks in part to the megaphone wielded by our very own Nobel laureate. It became clear during recent gatherings of the Permanent Parliamentary Committee for Education, Culture and Science that political parties are becoming ever more convinced of the need for extra investment by the new Government. 

On 24 December 2016, the present ministers cautiously indicated their willingness by approving a ‘start-up impetus’ in the form of 32 million euros, with 20 million euros reserved for thematic research and the remainder for talent development, valorisation and knowledge utilisation within the framework of the National Research Agenda.

What this means in concrete terms is that, starting this summer, eight of the NRA routes will make a modest start (see the letter – in Dutch only – by the Minister and State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science about the ‘start-up impetus’). NWO will ask the route leaders and standard bearers to submit proposals to a start-up impetus committee headed by Learned Society member Mark Bovens.

While this is a modest start, we naturally hope that the NRA will prove to be a driver for new partnerships and synergies. The Academy has always insisted on a bottom-up approach to research in the NRA. That is precisely the unifying force that we need to generate innovation.

In any case, innovation and renovation will be the buzzwords at the Trippenhuis Building – our location on Kloveniersburgwal, Amsterdam – in the months ahead.

Since 1 January, we have begun implementing the new Learned Society structure. We will be putting our heads together with four new domain chairpersons and four advisory council chairpersons to come up with an annual programme of activities. The Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences and Law domain has the honour of organising the first domain event, a meeting by and for members, on 27 February. The General Meeting of Members – previously known as the ‘Joint Meeting’ – will take place ahead of the event.

This will also be the final event held in the ‘old' Tinbergen Room. Starting on 1 March, it and the entrance hall will undergo renovation. The clutter and inconvenience for bureau staff will be considerable, but we expect great results. We have already launched our activities up and down the country.

The first on-site Academy event was held in Nijmegen, and on 9 March we will be in Maastricht. Last week we also had our very first event at Amsterdam Public Library (OBA), in a splendid auditorium just a stone’s throw from the Trippenhuis Building. We intend to organise many events at the OBA this year under the motto  ‘The best of knowledge’. 

Innovation and renovation are always reinvigorating. We will need to be ‘flexible’ this year in several different respects, but with good ‘temp to perm’ prospects.

José van Dijck
Wim van Saarloos

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