EU explores foundation support for research and innovation

The collective impact of foundation programmes and funding on a particular issue is rarely assessed, but a new initiative funded by the European Commission aims to do just this. It has commissioned the European Research Network on Philanthropy (ERNOP), led by the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, to measure and compare the contribution of European foundations to research and innovation.

The study comes at a time when the need for investment in enterprise growth and transformative solutions to social challenges has never been greater. European foundations have a long tradition as major investors in national scientific, social and economic development, and the study will show how this contribution has evolved in the modern context of fast-moving information technology, the knowledge economy, open access and increasingly fluid European and global boundaries. It will provide the first systematic and comprehensive map of foundations’ expenditure on research and innovation, as well as its special characteristics, strengths and gaps.

The project has been in preparation for several months, and exemplifies successful cooperation between philanthropy researchers across the EU 27, who have combined their expertise to create a common research methodology and tools, adapted to national circumstances and cultures. National samples of foundations that support or operate research and innovation programmes, large and small, generic and specialized, have been identified. A positive foundation response to the questionnaires that drop into inboxes and letter boxes over the next few weeks asking about the nature and level of their involvement in research and innovation will ensure high-quality data. This will provide an evidence base for policymakers to support foundations’ activities, and for practitioners to share knowledge on approaches and practices.

Cathy Pharoah is co-director, Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, Cass Business School. Email

For more information
Contact ERNOP project manager Barry Hoolwerf at or Barbara Gouwenberg, project manager VU University, at

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