Foundation Board, office, institutes and the Executive Board
The full name of the NWO-I Foundation is the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes. As in every foundation, NWO-I is managed by a board that focuses on day-to-day matters and the organisation of the foundation. An exception to this is the scientific policy, including the missions of the nine NWO Institutes, which is set by the Executive Board of NWO. NWO-I is part of NWO and has its own operations office. This NWO-I office is in Utrecht, from where it supports the Foundation Board in preparing and carrying out its decisions. The office also provides similar support for the Executive Board as regards scientific policy. In addition, the office helps to facilitate the nine NWO Institutes in terms of financial operations, HR, legal affairs, strategic policy, real estate and communication.
Spending cuts and investments
Since the merger, the NWO-I Foundation has had to contend with a budget deficit which was in danger of rising to six million euros per year. In August 2020, the Executive Board instructed the NWO-I directors to come up with proposals to achieve a sound financial position. A substantial parcel of measures to achieve this was endorsed by the Foundation Board in July 2021 and is now being implemented. In addition to spending cuts, non-recurring, long-term investments are needed to further scale up the relatively young NWO-I organisation. This expenditure will also still have to be discussed with the Executive Board of NWO in connection with the overall NWO budget. The budget deficit had a number of causes. On the one hand, it related to a deficit dating from before the merger, which was more or less brought along by the office, and on the other, it related to the innovation of the three research vessels under NIOZ management. If we were to include future building maintenance and innovation costs, the deficit would be considerably higher. Funding for that is still a separate topic of discussion with the Foundation Board.
Governance of NWO-I under scrutiny again
A new governance model came into operation at NWO-I in early 2020. That was followed by the appointment of two new directors: Jan van der Boon began working as director of operations NWO-I on 1 September 2020 and Miriam Luizink followed as director of NWO-I a month later. Their task was to take NWO-I into its next development phase. Unfortunately, Miriam Luizink decided to resign from her position in the summer of 2021. Jan van der Boon has temporarily taken over her tasks. In the meantime, the Foundation Board has asked an external adviser, Jaap Winter, former chair of the Executive Board of the VU Amsterdam, to take a close look at the revised governance model. His assignment was discussed with the directors of the NWO Institutes and the COR. The Foundation Board strives to take a decision before the end of the year about the way the position is to be filled.
Further development of operations at NWO-I
Various steps have been taken to strengthen operations at the nine NWO Institutes and the NWO-I Office and take advantage of the benefits of collectivity that resulted from the merger which created the current NWO-I Foundation. There is now a single employer and many the conditions of employment have been harmonised in the meantime. The new financial system project, combining the many different financial systems into one application for the whole organisation, was completed in early 2021. Considerable efforts are being made to create a joint accommodation strategy, and structure has been introduced for aligning and exchanging information in the various operational disciplines. Ambitious plans are currently in progress with the help of an external agency to structure operations of both the institutes and the NWO-I office further and make them more efficient. An action plan is expected in mid-November 2021.
Newsletter Inside NWO-I, September 2021