10 million euro will be made available for PhD graduations in the private sector. The industrial doctorate is intended to ensure wider application of scientific insights.

The Dutch government is keen for the research world to make a greater contribution to solving social problems and to innovation in the private sector. The industrial doctorate is one of the ideas for facilitating this.

During their PhD studies, students will work partly at universities and partly at companies, State Secretary Dekker wrote today to the Dutch House of Representatives. The idea is that this will improve the chances of scientific insights ultimately being applied.

Science agenda

10 million euro will be made available in order to kick off such graduations. That money will be paid by the private sector, the universities and research financier NWO. The government has linked this plan to the National Research Agenda, for which funds had already been set aside previously.

That research agenda is intended to ensure that Dutch research focuses more on major social issues and commercially attractive subjects. The government has recently earmarked 32 million euro as a ‘kick-off stimulus’ for this purpose. The industrial doctorates will be financed partly from these funds.

Afraid of conflicts of interest

The Netherlands PhD Network is happy with the extra money. The organisation also hopes that this will give PhD students better job opportunities after they graduate. ‘About 75% of PhD students do not carry on working at the university after they graduate: it would be good if this cooperation led to better career prospects’, says chairman Rolf van Wegberg.

At the same time, Van Wegberg also understands the critics who worry about conflicts of interest with private companies. ‘I do share some of those concerns. The independence of researchers must remain assured: they must not become solely dependent on the private sector.’

National valorisation prize

The extra money is not the only way in which Dekker aims to encourage the application of scientific insights. He also wants the NWO, in its assessments of research proposals, to take account of how well researchers make their knowledge applicable.

There will also be a national valorisation prize: ‘The prize will be awarded to a researcher who has achieved exceptional success in the application of knowledge for society.’