Frontier research

An effective symbiosis between independent research and programmed research is essential to achieving scientific breakthroughs and addressing societal challenges. At Utrecht University, independent and affiliated research complement one another, as they must if we are to realise and maintain a position in the scientific vanguard. 


Multidisciplinary collaboration

Utrecht University has been promoting multidisciplinary research collaborations for many years. Working within the context of the four strategic themes, researchers help find solutions to the problems facing society. The multidisciplinary research in the strategic themes is based on fundamental and applied research and features a strong disciplinary basis. 

The strategic themes are now indispensable to our profile.

The strategic themes are now indispensable to our profile. They provide the starting point for collaboration both within the University and with external partners, such as in our alliance with Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research and University Medical Center Utrecht, and in strategic partnerships with international universities and cooperation with local and national governments, companies and other organisations. We intend to further anchor the strategic themes within our organisation in the coming period. We will use hubs, focus areas and other initiatives to continue to foster innovation of research.

Lines of action

  • We will ensure structural funding for the strategic themes. We will also work to structurally embed the themes in our education and research policies at the faculty and University-wide levels, such as in the Professor Policy.
  • We will further coordinate the research being conducted within the strategic alliance with Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research and University Medical Center Utrecht and bundle the available expertise.
  • Together with our international strategic partners, we will be formulating projects regarding specific profile themes that can substantively enhance our research while also working to shape new forms of international collaboration that are less dependent on physical mobility.
  • We will be joining a larger number of international networks. For each international network, we will be formulating a multi-year strategy linked to our strategic aims. At the same time, we will be making clear choices for a limited number of strategic partners, with whom we will cultivate intensive, long-term partnerships.

Opportunities for independent research

An effective symbiosis between independent and affiliated research serves as the basis for attracting talented academics from within the Netherlands and abroad, an inspiring work environment, motivated employees, team science and the development of the strategic themes. It is the same basis that makes the University an attractive collaborative partner and enables it to successfully secure research funding. We will also cooperate with the Utrecht University Fund to obtain funding for special research projects.

Lines of action

  • We ensure that we remain an attractive employer for talented researchers from the Netherlands and abroad and invest in outstanding research teams, with room for independent and affiliated research with good facilities.
  • We provide support to research teams in order to position their funding applications as effectively as possible.
  • To maintain a solid share in the external funding of programmed research, we are combining our strengths within the alliance with regard to contract funding, i.e. the ‘third flow’.

Trailblazer in open science

The University wishes to be a trailblazer in the field of open science, with optimum interaction between science and society. Greater emphasis will be placed on the quality of publications. Expanding the availability of research results and research data will serve to similarly increase their transparency, applicability and reuse. This will allow valuable knowledge to be shared and applied by researchers, politicians, the business community and civic institutions in our country and elsewhere.

Research and education are the result of teamwork, in which every contribution is seen and valued.

Research and education are the result of teamwork, in which every contribution is seen and valued. We are actively working toward open science based on the strategic themes as well.

Lines of action

  • In late 2020, every Faculty Board will oversee the integral implementation of open science within its faculty.
  • Every student and scientist will work according to the principles of open science in terms of open access, FAIR Data and Software, public engagement and ‘Recognition and Appreciation’. Students and employees will also conduct themselves as professionals in their dealings with civil society actors. To that end, we will provide optimum support to students and employees.
  • We will recognise and appreciate the impact activities of our scientists. In the coming years, we want to further increase this impact by expanding the visibility of how we, through our education and research, are realising exchange with society.

Development of young researchers

PhD candidates and postdocs are a crucial group within our University community and are vital to the future and innovation of academic research and education. The University sees a role for itself in the professional development of all young researchers, also in light of next steps in their career, whether within or outside the academic community.

Utrecht University assumes responsibility for creating a safe working environment for PhD candidates and supporting them in their personal development. 

In addition to academic development, the University is investing in the development of practical and personal skills in preparation for the job market. The well-being of PhD candidates is important both to the candidates themselves and to the University. Utrecht University assumes responsibility for creating a safe working environment for PhD candidates and supporting them in their personal development. 

Lines of action

  • We effectively prepare young researchers for their continued career by (among other things) helping them gain experience with teaching and research, familiarising them with academic integrity and offering them opportunities to earn qualifications.
  • Career Services develops activities specifically aimed at young researchers in order to prepare them for a career outside the university setting.
  • Under the auspices of the Graduate Committee, we are optimising the support and guidance for PhD candidates, with special attention paid to their well-being.

A strong research infrastructure

Utrecht University connects ecosystems of knowledge and innovation by investing in research infrastructure in connection with the strategic themes. All major university infrastructures are widely accessible and include facilities for multiple disciplines. Where desirable, the university research infrastructure will be part of a larger national and international infrastructure, enabling UU to expand access to advanced equipment and datasets for its researchers. To ensure effective investment, we will coordinate with our alliance partners and other parties. 

Utrecht University will intensify relationships in the regional knowledge chain to create space for joint innovations, sharing expertise and inspiring one another. Entrepreneurship in research will be encouraged and supported in the broadest sense: entrepreneurship, valorisation and spin-offs. This goes hand in hand with the further development and integration of entrepreneurial education into the curriculum and the more explicit ‘Recognition and Appreciation’ of impact activities.

Lines of action

  • We will continue the Research IT programme. To the same end, we will be realising a digital infrastructure that provides a safe and secure environment for the data and infrastructure that researchers need to collaborate, including support for research data.
  • We will strengthen the entire research innovation chain, from encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship and start-ups to matching business intelligence and business development support.
  • We will develop creative workshops and testing grounds as incubators for innovation in collaboration with alliance partners and partners in Utrecht Science Park, the city and the region.
Utrecht University conducts pioneering research that contributes to the realisation of the SDGs. This figure shows the number of Utrecht University publications per SDG in 2019.

The faculties on the theme Research

What is the vision of the different faculties on frontier research? Choose one of the faculties to go directly to their visions.

Strategic Plan 2025