Government should invest more in innovation in businesses, and less in fundamental scientific research. That is the shorthand notation for the new Dutch innovation policy, ‘top sector policy’. But this policy meets with difficulties, while financing research is increasingly unclear.
Until recently, Dutch government paid its R&D share out of natural gas profits. But as of 2011, natural gas profits pay off national debts. While he spends less money, the minister nevertheless suggests his policy to be very innovative. Universities and companies will have to confer and pay among themselves, and yet government wants to stay in command. Meanwhile, the financial situation is increasingly unclear. Much work is done on top sector policy, but strangely, we hear little about it. Which appears to be strange for such an important R&D and industry policy change.
Gradually, bottle necks become apparent. One of them: businesses have proposed many more projects on the subject of biobased materials, than can be financed by universities, ultimately by government. Universities simply lack the funds, whereas the idea was that for once the business community could decide on priorities. In other words, top sector policy does not seem to be very successful. And then, biobased materials are just one example. Only the energy top sector seems to command enough ‘old’ money. Even early supporters who hailed the policy’s innovative aspects, start to ask difficult questions. As for now, big corporations follow their own course, as a matter of fact businesses take the lead in biobased developments.
And universities? They are willing to participate in this development, but fear loss of fundamental research because of reallocation of funds. NWO (the organisation for pure scientific research) does not want at all to direct its attention almost completely toward businesses’ short-term goals. In short, people feel that Dutch innovation policy is losing its momentum. Government will have difficulty in presenting policy as being innovative, while at the same time pocketing the money which should fund it. Whereas until recently, public-private cooperation between universities and corporations had developed into a successful model.