Netspar (Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement) supports innovative academic research on all aspects of pensions, aging and retirement. Netspar encompasses a large variety of academic disciplines ranging from economics to law, sociology, psychology, communication, epidemiology and applied data science. We invite applications for Theme Grants for research projects with a duration of three years, for a maximum of €350k per project. This year, Netspar, together with co-funding partners intend to fund four Theme Grants (for a total amount of €1.4 million).


We invite research proposals from all relevant disciplines that can contribute to the Netspar Knowledge Agenda 2023-2027. Relevant topics include but are not limited to:

  • Pension reform and optimal pension system design.
  • Transition of the pension and insurance industry to the new Dutch pension system.
  • Choice architecture and activation in pension decisions and financial planning by individuals.
  • Communication about pensions.
  • Pension investments: life-cycle planning, risk measurement & management (e.g., interest rate, inflation, and climate risk), sustainable investments.
  • Digitalization: e.g., data science developments, data quality, automated financial advice, legal and privacy issues.
  • Vulnerable groups (e.g., freelancers, migrants, women, financially illiterate people, people incapacitated for work) / diversity in pension outcomes, poverty, livelihood security.
  • Measurement of risk and sustainability preferences.
  • Labor market developments: e.g., flexible contracts, working longer, vitality, productivity.
  • Relation of pension decisions to housing and healthcare.
  • Trust in the pension system.
  • Supervision and regulation.
  • Governance of pension institutions.


Main characteristics of the grant

  • Funding for three years with a maximum of €350k.
  • The project team consists of several academics, plus representatives (‘pension specialists’) from several organizations (e.g., pension funds, insurance companies, asset managers, employer and labor associations, Dutch government ministries, supervisors, consultancies) related to the Dutch pension and insurance industry (including at least one of the Netspar partners).
  • The goal of the project is to contribute to the academic literature as well as to knowledge exchange with the pension and insurance industry.
  • The project leader is responsible for the project in terms of content and finances. The project leader also serves as the first point of contact for project monitoring.
  • The project team members are expected to be available for knowledge exchange activities over the course of the project; these include presenting research results at Netspar events or at events organized by Netspar partners, to present industry-oriented Netspar publications resulting from the project during short after-lunch webinars, and to contribute to short summaries of such paper (one-pagers), podcasts and/or short videos.

Match Making Event

On February 6, 2024, Netspar will organize a Match Making Event to connect researchers interested in submitting a Theme Grant application to representatives from Netspar industry partners from the Dutch pension and insurance industry who may be interested in joining the project. At this event, Netspar will also provide detailed information on the grant application process. It is not compulsory, but highly recommended for potential applicants to join this event.

Application Requirements

Proposals for a Theme Grant must contain the following documents:

    • Completed Application Form [link].
    • Annex I [link]: Detailed Description of the Proposal
    • Annex II [link]: Budget Plan, in accordance with the prescribed format. Please contact us in case you apply from a University Medical Centre regarding the rate setting in salary costs.
    • Annex III [link]: Output Commitments, in accordance with the prescribed format.
    • Annex IV: CVs of the applicant and all project members (converted into a single pdf-file).
    • Annex V: Brief written confirmation (e.g., by email) of participating pension specialists and support letter of (at least) one Netspar partner endorsing the application.

Co-funding by Instituut Gak and by CLICKNL

This call is co-funded by Instituut Gak and by CLICKNL. The mission of Instituut Gak is to contribute to the quality of social security and the labor market in the Netherlands by funding, among other things, societal projects and research projects. To be eligible for the extra funding opportunity by Instituut Gak, please tick the box on the application form for your consent.

CLICKNL is the knowledge and innovation network of the creative industry in The Netherlands and aims to enhance the creative professional’s knowledge base in order to strengthen the industry and the innovative capacity of the Netherlands. Proposals that are selected for co-funding by CLICKNL an additional €25k is available for development of a ‘design component’ (e.g., tool, app, serious game) that links the proposal to the CLICKNL knowledge and innovation agenda. The procedure will be clarified during the Match Making Event 2024.

Selection Process

There is one selection round each year.

  • Applications will be evaluated on academic quality by the Netspar Scientific Council. At least three members of the Scientific Council or additional reviewers will evaluate the academic quality of the proposals. In some cases, additional reviewers will be approached by the chair of the Scientific Council if specific expertise is needed. Proposals must receive an average of 3.5 points (out of 5) in order to proceed to the next evaluation round. There is no opportunity to appeal to the outcome of the Scientific Council evaluation. Applicants with proposals that pass the 3.5 hurdle do get the opportunity to briefly respond to the reviewers’ comments.
  • Applications with sufficient academic quality will be submitted to the Netspar Partner Research Council (consisting of practitioners representing the Netspar partners from the pension and insurance industry, employer and labor associations, and Dutch government ministries and supervisors) which will make recommendations to the Netspar Board of Directors.
  • Grants are awarded by the Netspar Board of Directors.


Selection criteria

  • Proposals must be related to the Netspar Knowledge Agenda 2023-2027.
  • The application must be submitted by a Dutch university or knowledge institute, which will be responsible for the administration if the grant is awarded. The proposed project leader must be employed by this university or knowledge institute.
  • At least €25k of the budget provided by Netspar must be spent on one or more forms of international cooperation with academic researchers affiliated with a foreign university within the context of the grant (e.g., joint research projects, outbound or inbound visits to/by academic researchers abroad, research visit abroad by PhD student or post doc).
  • In-kind matching by universities or knowledge institutes strengthens the research projects and is strongly encouraged.
  • Active participation in the Match Making Event is highly recommended when submitting a proposal.


Timetable for 2024

February 6            Match Making Event (If you intend to submit a proposal and present at the MME, please let us know before 8th of January)

March 21                Deadline for submitting draft version of application (completed Application Form [link] and Annexes I, II, III and IV).

March 25 – April 5 Feedback meeting with the Netspar Research Director or Program Coordinator(s)

May 17                   Deadline for submitting final application (including all documents, completed Application Form and Annexes I, II, III, IV, and V)

May 24 – June 24   Evaluation by Netspar Scientific Council

August 8                Deadline for applicant responses to comments made by Netspar Scientific Council

September             Recommendation by Netspar Partner Research Council

November              Formal decision by Netspar Board

December              Administrative kick-off meeting

January 2025         Start of project



Please submit your application to [email protected] and mention ‘Application for Netspar Theme Project’ in the subject line.



For questions, please contact Netspar: Silvie van Halder, Policy Officer, +31 (0)13 466 3793, [email protected]

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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