The Dutch Polymer Institute

I am currently sitting through one of those corporate presentations and so have some time to blog about the Dutch Polymer Institute (DPI) which is organising the meeting I am currently attending.

The DPI was set up by the Dutch Government in 1996 as part of the “leading technology institute” (LTI – other current institutes are Netherlands Institute for Metals Research, Telematics Institute, Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences, Dutch Separation Technology Institute, Top Institute Pharma, Wetsus and TI Green Genetics) initiative. The DPI is a public-private partnership (PPP), with funding being provided by industry (25 %), academia (25 %) and government (50 %). A 2003 OECD study suggested that the DPI was one of the purest forms of PPP and is certainly one of the few examples that I know, which work well. In a typical scenario, an industrial member joins the institute (which is a virtual institute – it has no laboratories or facilities of its own) by purchasing a share (“a ticket”) in the institute, which currently is worth approximately roughly 50000 Euros per annum with a minimum commitment of four years. Academia contributes the same amount of money (in practice through in-kind contributions) and the Dutch government doubles this sum. An investment of Eur 200 000 by industry thus generates about Eur 800 000 in research funding (the DPI has minimal overheads due to the virtual nature of the institute). This is a daring scheme in many ways: the institute is international and while the largest beneficiary from this funding model is still Dutch research (and in particular the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)), international research is funded too and we in Cambridge certainly benefit from this as well. It is a great credit to the Netherlands that this is possible and I wonder how many other European governments would willing to set up such a scheme.

DPI’s main mission is to catalyse the process of developing fundamental research further and to bring it up to the end of the pre-competitive phase, so that it can subsequently be taken up by industry and developed into commercial products. The DPI does this by financing academic research and staff suggested and requested by the academic partners in the programme and approved and decided over by the industrial members. Any intellectual property generated as part of the projects will be transferred to the industrial members if there is a request to do so (part of industry’s ROI) and if not, will be disseminated in the normal way (i.e. through publications). It furthermore provides a platform for networking and recruiting.

The institute has a lot ot be proud of: DPI funded research produces between 150 and 200 papers per year and a good number of patents, a significant number of which have been transferred to industry. Fur full details check the annual report (2007) here.

A meeting like the one today shows the vibrance of its community and I can only hope, that it will continue to prosper in the future.

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