The Netherlands is well placed to take a major role in addressing retirement, social insurance and pension issues in Europe in a broad life-cycle context. As a public-private partnership, Netspar will take up this challenge.
The publicity surrounding the Spinoza prize awarded by the Dutch National Science Foundation to Lans Bovenberg gave Netspar a head start. This publicity, the dedication of this prize to Netspar, and an urgently felt need at all levels of society to create a scientific forum devoted to the economics of ageing, induced public and private parties and several universities to support Netspar. Netspar has also been recognised as an important research network, the first one in the social sciences, by the Dutch Innovatieplatform chaired by the Prime Minister.
A wide range of public partners and market parties support Netspar not only through their financial support but also through their active participation in brainstorm and seminar events. Current partners are: pension funds ABP, PGGM; asset liability management companies SFB group and Mn Services; financial conglomerates ING, ABN AMRO, Fortis ASR, and Achmea; Interpolis as the insurance arm of Rabo; the ministries of Social Affairs and Employment, Finance and Economic Affairs, the Netherlands Bank, Stichting Instituut Gak and the Social Insurance Bank. Representatives of these partners, together with representatives of the participating universities, make up the advisory board of Netspar, thereby assuring that it adheres to its aims and core values of openness, scientific quality and independence.
Netspar has a board of three directors. Lans Bovenberg is the academic director and supervises research related to macro economic issues. He served as deputy director of CPB, the independent economic research unit of the Dutch government, and worked for the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC.
Chairman of the board is Theo Nijman, a pioneer in developing financial econometrics in the Netherlands. Nijman is responsible for the research area of finance and institutional economics. Arie Kapteyn supervises the micro economic part of the research agenda of Netspar. Kapteyn is the founder of CentER and CentERdata at Tilburg University.
The three directors are assisted by seven programme directors from various Dutch universities. Indeed, whereas Netspar has been founded by Tilburg University, researchers from other Dutch universities also participate in the network. Arthur van Soest is the education coordinator responsible for the educational programme. Rob Bakker, a former research director with Dutch Pensions and Insurance Supervisory Authority, is responsible for the exchange of information between the non-academic partners and the researchers of Netspar.
Netspar’s scientific council consists of renowned international scholars with academic expertise in the research area of Netspar. This council advises the board of
directors on the composition of the research and educational programme, as well as on the procedures for selection of researchers. Members are Olivia Mitchell (The Wharton School), David Wise (Harvard), Luis Viceira (Harvard), Axel Börsch-Supan (Universität Mannheim), Paul Embrechts (ETH-Zentrum) and Richard Blundell (University College London).
The ageing of the population raises numerous policy questions at the levels of the macro economy, financial institutions, and individual households. Netspar formulates and executes a programme of independent and internationally-oriented scientific research on pensions, retirement and social insurance in a broad life-cycle context. It provides critical mass and focus to this programme by bringing together academic researchers from different fields, disciplines, backgrounds and institutions.
At the macro economic level, high and volatile pension contributions may produce sizable macro economic effects. Moreover, pension policies give rise to substantial intergenerational redistribution, while differences in retirement institutions within Europe yield international spillovers across countries. At the institutional level, the trade-off between risk and return for pension institutions and their participating members, as well as the supervision and regulation of pension funds and insurers are key research issues.
At the micro level, the programme focuses on the behaviour of ageing individuals and couples, who save for retirement, make decisions concerning their actual retirement, and decide on consumption, saving, labour supply, social participation and intergenerational transfers over their life cycle.
Netspar aims to increase the awareness of the macro-economic and micro-economic implications of ageing and retirement policies and the interaction of these policies with innovation, risk taking and human capital formation.
The inside ring of senior researchers of Netspar are selected in a process of open competition on the basis of research proposals and the quality of the researchers themselves as evidenced by past performance. The scientific directors, together with the programme coordinators, decide which researchers are funded as core researchers. These senior researchers are funded by Netspar on the condition that the universities at which they are employed also donate (in kind) research time. Other conditions for Netspar funding are that researchers produce publications in excellent academic journals, conduct part of Netspar’s research programme, write and present position papers that are easily accessible to Netspar’s partners, and participate actively (among other things, as discussants) in Netspar seminars.
In addition, a number of young top-notch researchers will be recruited on the international job market. These junior researchers, who have just received their PhD degree at US and European academic institutions, will be put on tenure-track positions at Tilburg University and other Dutch universities. Also a number of doctoral students will be appointed at these academic institutions.
External fellows from Dutch and foreign institutes and universities – the outer ring of Netspar – are also appointed.
A one-year Master of Science programme on the economics of ageing is being developed at Tilburg University for international students. It will start as of September 2006. Several courses will be developed specifically for this Master of Science programme, such as the macroeconomics of ageing, empirical analyses of retirement behaviour, investment analysis for retirement, retirement and taxation, actuarial science and life insurance, the sociology of life-course behaviour, and valuation of derivatives.
In addition, university lecturers, leading practitioners and important international partners will teach mini courses and lectures. These events are intended for mid- and top-level management executives, interested academics and experts from participating institutions in the private and public sectors.
If you want to be updated regularly on the events that Netspar organises, please inform the Netspar secretariat (

Snapshot: Netspar’s high-level launch
Netspar is a research network founded in October 2004 at Tilburg University in the Netherlands (see Its activities will officially commence on March 30, with a seminar featuring Jim Poterba of the Massachussets Institute of Technology and Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, as keynote speakers.
Netspar aims to stimulate social innovation in addressing the challenges and opportunities for pension systems that are raised by ageing and other developments. This innovation should help reconcile stability and flexibility in a dynamic knowledge-based economy in order to maintain social cohesion and credible social protection, while at the same time safeguarding a well functioning labour market that utilises and maintains human resources.
The three pillars of Netspar are: independent and fundamental research; high level education; and exchange of information with institutional and market
parties. Its key values are accessibility for private and public partners and an independent and scientific approach.