ZonMw stands for innovation: we enable others to develop new (scientific) knowledge. And we do everything we can to ensure that this new knowledge is used in policy and health care practice.

If we are living longer lives, how will we stay healthy? How should we respond to the increased prevalence of such diseases as depression, obesity and dementia? Will we have enough health care workers? And how will we keep health care affordable?

Research and innovation help to answer these kinds of questions. In the Netherlands, ZonMw has a central role in this area as national funding organisation. Our activities cover the entire spectrum from basic research to the implementation of new treatments, disease prevention, and health care improvements. In everything we do we link research, practice, policy, education and training – and we provide opportunities for patients and clients to participate in projects.


Our 2016–2020 policy plan addresses itself to the greatest challenges facing health care, and describes how research and innovation contribute towards new solutions. This goes further than simply developing new therapies. ZonMw also directs its efforts towards

  • the constant renewal of science itself,
  • providing opportunities for and stimulating the dynamics between basic, translational and applied research,
  • developing scientific talent.


Research results need to have an impact on science and on society, so we design our granting programmes in collaboration with the parties for whom the information is intended; which makes it much more likely that new knowledge is actually used in practice. Nevertheless, roles remain distinct. ZonMw is responsible for knowledge development, dissemination and promoting implementation; the job of actually implementing this knowledge is taken on principally by other parties.

Positive health

Our policy is founded on new ideas about what actually constitutes good health: a person’s ability to adapt and to successfully manage their own health when their physical, social or emotional condition changes. In this positive approach to health, people with a disease can also be healthy; we put emphasis on the power that people have to self-manage their situationalso in the presence of disease or disability. This vision of health was introduced to the Netherlands in 2012 by the doctor and researcher Machteld Huber, with the support of the Gezondheidsraad (the Dutch Health Council) and ZonMw.


ZonMw’s principal commissioners are the Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). ZonMw also increasingly works on behalf of other parties, such as local authorities, health funds, health care insurers, private companies, and professional associations.

Policy priorities

ZonMw has defined six policy priorities:

  • large, long-term sustainable programme clusters
  • international collaboration
  • independent research and talent development,
  • The Dutch National Research Agenda
  • programmes directed towards practice, participation, and knowledge agendas
  • strengthening the impact of research

ZonMw and NWO

ZonMw is an independent self-governing organisation. We work closely with the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). ZonMw is responsible for health care research, and the NWO for other scientific research areas.

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