Implementation and impact

ZonMw asks project leaders to give attention to implementation and impact as early as the grant application phase. This promotes project relevance.

From the very outset of a project and its grant application, project leaders are invited to describe how they plan for this project to achieve a demonstrable impact. This applies to all projects, from fundamental research through to specifically implementation-directed projects.
Naturally, the shape taken by this implementation will be different for different types of projects, but it is helpful to look at how four different areas of ‘productive interaction’ could best be designed.

A ZonMw implementation expert can be called upon to help you think about the design and execution of your project, and we offer various resources to help you in this process:

  1. Attention to impact and implementation through productive interactions.
  2. A proposal for drawing up an implementation plan.
  3. Information for creating a ‘route to knowledge valorisation’ or ‘impact pathway’.


Attention to impact and implementation in the project

We ask grant applicants to clearly indicate how they have attended to the question of implementation. For instance, this is often a component of the ‘practical relevance’ criterion. The applicant then has to describe, within the application, how the likelihood of the immediate or later application of their results has been maximised.

Barriers and accelerants

Implementation research has shown that the likelihood of gaining applicable results is greater if the so-called ‘barriers’ and ‘accelerants’ of implementation are known in advance. For this reason we ask project leaders that their grant applications include a description of how they plan to respond to the four components we call the ‘productive interactions’. We know that these four types of interaction increase the likelihood of research outcomes being applied in policy, practice, education and further research. The four types of productive interaction are as follows:

  • Collaboration with relevant stakeholders (who will make use of the results?).
  • Co-funding, to strengthen the commitment and collaboration of stakeholders (are those who expect to benefit from the application of your results also willing to help pay for them?).
  • Delivery of usable knowledge products (does the form of the results suit their practical use?).
  • Targeted dissemination and implementation activities (what are the barriers to, and accelerants of, the practical use of the results, and how will you respond to these?).

Designing an implementation plan

The implementation field has developed strongly in recent years, and use can be made of this new expertise to increase the chances that your research results will find practical application. Part of this process is broadening your support, incorporating the needs of relevant stakeholders and result users, and involving them in the design and execution of the project. Implementation requires a planned approach that covers the design and use of an implementation plan, implementation models and implementation theory.

Creating an impact pathway

With the ‘route to knowledge valorisation’ or ‘impact highway’ ZonMw aims to show how you can attend to implementation in every phase of your project. The founding principle here is its immediate or later yield for policy, further research, education and practice. This yield can be increased in the planning, execution (or monitoring) and evaluation stages of a project by attending continuously to:

  • relevance and quality (i.e. promoting responsible research practices);
  • focusing on the four factors that increase the chance of your results being used (productive interactions);
  • your chosen layout of the route to knowledge valorisation (the impact pathway).

This route to knowledge valorisation invites you to make concrete the four productive interactions for your project and to apply the principles of the theory of change (ToC), a model which describes the links between a project and its intended results (output, outcomes and impact) and how and why change takes place. The project’s aims are first established, and from these flow descriptions of all the preconditions and outcomes that will help to achieve these aims.

ZonMw praatplaat - Route naar kennisbenutting 2023
Haske van Veenendaal
If you have any questions about how to achieve impact with your project, get in touch with our implementation coordinator.
veenendaal [at]