Chapter 5
Human Capital

The Netherlands needs strengthened human capital to find answers to current and future societal issues, tackle challenges and permanently stimulate economic growth. A future-savvy (working) population as a precondition for a flourishing economy and positive social dynamics is the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health’s overall goal. 

In the Knowledge and Innovation Agenda 2020-2023 of the social challenge Health & Care, several deliverables for human capital are included, such as four to six learning communities and a transition agenda for the education for health and care professions in the Netherlands. In this article, we update you on the progress towards realising these deliverables.

Learning communities

Human Capital is about lifelong learning and development: learning for a diploma, learning on the job and learning to innovate. The concept learning community (see illustration in the video) was developed by the Top Sectors in 2016 as a conceptual model to optimally connect learning, working, innovation and research in public-private contexts. These collaborations involve both formal and informal learning, in which intensive and coordinated collaboration between companies, knowledge institutions, civil society organisations and government bodies strengthen each other.

As the labour market changes and evolves, people must learn and develop new skills throughout their working lives to remain competitive. In Fieldlabs, Skillslabs, and GROZzerdammen, a foundation is being laid for a new ecosystem of permanent education in these learning communities. The aim of the Top Sectors is to develop at least 100 learning communities in the coming years, an average of ten per Top Sector.

NWO call Human Capital

Learning communities as an innovation accelerator

The call “Human Capital: learning communities as an innovation accelerator” aims to acquire new knowledge about the optimal development and use of learning communities so that the interaction of working and learning leads to innovation. The focus of this call is on existing, starting or developing learning communities. The learning communities to be investigated must be active in at least one of the three following contexts:    

  • Energy transition & Sustainability  
  • Health & Care  
  • ICT

A total of € 2,628,467 is available for this call. Top Sector Life Sciences & Health is one of the funding partners. Pre-proposals are not required for this call. The deadline for submitting proposals is Tuesday 15 June 2021 at 14:00 hours CE(S)T. For more information on this call, please visit the website of the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

The focus of this call is on existing, starting or developing learning communities

Network learning communities  

Network Learning Communities, an initiative of the Top Sectors and NWO (led by the Taskforce for Applied Research SIA). This network focuses on knowledge development about learning communities and organises and stimulates the targeted dissemination and application of this knowledge in practice. The recently published action plan contains three lines of action:  

  1. Producing a position paper with a strategic and substantive position on the determination and demarcation of the concept learning community;  
  2. Opening up existing knowledge and instruments in the field of learning communities;  
  3. Strategic communication plan for the Network Learning Communities.

Action scan tool learning communities 

We developed an action scan tool to more precisely operationalise the concept of learning communities and to facilitate existing learning communities. In March 2021, the final development and (ecological / "in situ") validation of this tool for learning communities will take place with the help of three pilots in three different top sectors (Agri & Food, High Tech Systems & Materials (HTSM) and Life Sciences & Health). 

Call to action

Are you a learning community or do you think you might be one? And would you like to make a self-scan with the action scan tool? Then sign up via

Transition agenda education in the field of Health, Welfare and Care

We organised a meeting in December 2020 with administrative representatives of the different sectors (Universities [WO]/Universities of Applied Sciences [HBO]/Vocational Education and Training [MBO]) responsible for education in the field of Health, Welfare and Care. In this meeting, several social stakeholders (Netherlands Patients Federation, citizen cooperatives, Health Funds) made an ethical appeal to collaborate and to follow and implement the major changes taking place within healthcare curricula.

As a result of this meeting, an initiative group is working on a proposal for a transition agenda that will be ready at the end of the first quarter of 2021. A similar consultation will be held with various professional associations, with the intention of merging these two initiatives in the second quarter.

Jointly working towards
the future place of development

The biggest gain in the area of a healthy life expectancy will probably be obtained in people with a low socioeconomic status (SES). However, that is also where the biggest challenge lies. The differences compared to people with high SES are large and persistent: six years difference in life expectancy and fifteen years difference in healthy years. Reducing the health differences requires attention for groups with a backlog, namely people with little education, limited skills or low income.

A high-quality education infrastructure is one of the most important pillars for achieving economic welfare and citizens’ wellbeing in the past, present and future. Top Sector Life Sciences & Health (Health~Holland), together with many relevant public and private partners, helps to achieve a transition in education through the Education Alliance. This transition is mainly focused on minimising the inequality in opportunities for good education for children whose parents have a low socioeconomic position and live in fragile neighbourhoods.

A structural collaboration between schools and their neighbourhoods, companies, government, societal organisations, knowledge institutes and citizens is needed to find new modes of education that contribute to our economy and the welfare and wellbeing of all Dutch citizens. As a society, we need to jointly tackle the combination of the growing inequality of opportunities for good education, the growing shortage of teachers and the growing workload for teachers and school directors.

In doing this we will help to reach the goal that ‘by 2040, all Dutch citizens will live at least five years longer in good health, while the health inequalities between the lowest and highest socioeconomic groups will have decreased by 30%’.

Read more about the central mission of the societal theme Health & Care and how you can contribute here. The Top Sector Life Science and Health coordinates the implementation of the societal theme Health & Care in the framework of the Dutch government’s Mission-driven Top Sectors and Innovation Policy.

Quarterly sessions human capital

The various health and care coalition partners meet every quarter to learn about and discuss human capital activities in relation to the Knowledge and Innovation Agenda 2020-2023. The next meeting is scheduled for 29 April 2021.