Creating innovations is a matter of working together, and that requires partners. That is why, every year, we team up with some 3,000 large multinationals, SMEs, universities and public-sector organisations within and outside the Netherlands to tackle challenges.

How we work

Knowledge development is a joint endeavour. That is something we notice every day at TNO. That is why companies, public-sector bodies and other organisations frequently work with us. And we are keen to work with these parties. The collaboration takes many forms, such as projects on commission, public private partnerships, technology transfer, partnerships via associations and Joint Innovation Centres (JIC's). Interested in finding out how we can work with you?

If there is something you would like to have researched for your company, public-sector organisation or foundation, you can commission a research project. We will make agreements with you about the work, the cost, and the exclusivity of the results.

For example, we can research how you can make or improve a particular product. In addition, we advise on production processes, help with troubleshooting and carry out consultancy commissions. We employ specialists in a range of fields, from mathematicians to behavioural scientists, from econometrists to optomechatronics experts. Combining different disciplines enables us to come up with creative solutions that can strengthen your company’s competitive position or make your policy more effective. We will be happy to draw up an offer for you.

Companies and public-sector and social organisations can also work with us in public-private partnerships, which can take the form of a short-term project or a long-term program. These activities fall within the scope of Demand-Driven Programs, or the Knowledge Transfer Program designed specifically for SMEs. Every year we receive government funding that covers part of the research through the Research Cooperation Funds (SMO, Samenwerkingsmiddelen Onderzoek). The remainder of the funding comes from the partner(s). The Demand-Driven Programs fall within the nine top sectors or the five social themes that the Ministry of Economic Affairs has defined together with key stakeholders. If you can provide input, or you would like to know how to participate, please contact us.

Technology Transfer, an important part of the valorization process, involves transferring technology to the market by establishing new companies (spin-offs), or by licensing existing companies. This is how TNO innovations are transformed into products, into economic activity and into high-quality jobs.

TNO has successfully pursued this strategy for many years. Under the aegis of TNO Bedrijven, many companies have been established during this period. These companies currently employ a total of 1,100 people. However, the goal is to strengthen and expand this operation still further, as it fits perfectly within the core of TNO’s mission.

In 2016, TNO defined a programme for this purpose. This will allow promising innovations to be developed and refined into business cases and, where necessary, a proof-of-concept will be developed. This will also enable the best route to market to be determined, involving transfer either to a new company or to an existing one. To ensure that this programme is effectively implemented, a Tech Transfer team is set up in 2017, to give it a vigorous impetus.

The Tech Transfer team has expertise in the field of venturing, investment, licensing, IP scouting, deal making, project management and stakeholder management. With TNO providing appropriate, customized guidance, TNO innovations receive highly effective support during a successful market launch.

In addition to First Dutch Innovations, TNO plans to establish relationships with various other entrepreneurs and investors. One of the steps taken in this connection involves extending the cooperation with 4TU and other TO2 (Applied Research) institutions in the area of Technology Transfer.

You can also participate in our Early Research Programmes, in which we develop knowledge in fields that will be of great social and economic importance in the future, but may not generate results in the short term. For example, we study how ‘big data’ can be usefully analysed and how foods and medicines can be more effectively tailored to individual needs in order to reduce healthcare costs. We finance these studies with a fixed government subsidy. Read more about our Early Research Programmes in the Annual plan 2024 (pdf) (pdf) and Annual report 2022 (pdf) (pdf).

Partnerships via associations and Joint Innovation Centres

This table contains an overview of all project categories, their characteristics and conditions
Project categories Characteristics Typical conditions Examples
Assignment TNO is 100% funded by customers
  • TNO project costs 100% covered by customer
  • Short lead time from contact to contract
  • IP to be agreed upon between TNO and customer
  • Direct bi-lateral assignments
  • Shared innovations (research together with a group of partners), e.g. LCET
  • TNO SME platform (see
Public Private Partnership TNO is mixed funded by public funds and by customers

Public funding:

  • External programs (e.g. EU, NGF, EFRO) without private contributions to TNO
  • Internal programs (e.g. TKI, SME, ERP) with possible private contributions to TNO

Public funding from external programs conditions:

  • Customers may receive public funds for involvement
  • Funds can only be obtained through a non-guaranteed tender system
  • Contract lead time: 6 months to 3 years (average over 1 year)
  • Strict KPI monitoring and reporting for partners

Mixed funding models conditions:

  • Topic alignment with innovation agenda and specific public funds
  • IP conditions: broad knowledge dissemination required
  • TRL limitations: maximum TRL 6 to avoid state aid issues
  • TNO SME platform (see
  • Public funds available in various categories:
    - Regional or national level
    - European level:
      Horizon Europe
      Digital Europe
  • For more information, visit Subsibie- en financieringswijzer (, in Dutch)
Technology Transfer Depending on type of service Support services for licensing TNO technology, participation in start/scale-ups and creation of TNO spin-offs Tech Transfer
Partnerships via associations TNO arranges its own funding
  • Open collaboration, often with focus on standardisation
  • Conditions vary per association
  • IDTA, EU Robotics, Gaia-X, IDSA, Open Industry 4.0, NLAIC, etc.
  • Other RTOs via EARTO (Imec, Fraunhofer, FlandersMake, etc.)
Partnerships via Joint Innovation Centres (JICs) Depending on type of JIC Depending on type of JIC, see for more information the specific JIC Holst Centre, ESI, Solliance Solar, i-Botics, QuTech, Dutch Optics Centre, etc.

Partners of TNO

For us, working in partnerships is the obvious choice. Each individual partner has a particular focus, and their qualities complement those of TNO. Universities create new knowledge, for example. We focus on the application of that knowledge, and companies implement the innovations that are realised with it. Our sister organisations that specialise in knowledge application are important partners.

  • DLO in the field of food and biobased research
  • NLR in the field of defence and safety
  • Deltares in the field of building and urban development in delta areas
  • Marin in the field of maritime research

  • Fraunhofer in the field of industry
  • IMEC in the field of technology
  • VTT in the field of industry

We help these organisations to realise their ambitions, and they help us to realise ours. Are you looking for an innovation partner? Can you help us with innovations? To find out more about the subjects we focus on, you can explore our website or contact us directly.

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