Robert-Jan Smits

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Robert-Jan Smits (born 1958) is the President of the Executive Board of the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands since May 2019.[1] In 2018-2019, he was a senior adviser for open access and innovation at the European Political Strategy Centre and from 2010 to 2018, he served as director-general of research and innovation (RTD) at the European Commission. He is known for his key roles in planning Plan S, to ensure that all publicly funded scientific publications are available in Open Access by 2020, as well as for being one of the main architects of Horizon 2020.

Early life and education[edit]

Robert-Jan Smits was born in 1958 in the Netherlands. He has degrees from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Switzerland, and Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy in the United States.[2]

Following his studies, Smits worked for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs from 1985 to 1989, and left in 1989 to work at the European Commission.[3]

Career and impact[edit]

Smits is considered one of the main architects of Horizon 2020, an EU Research and Innovation program providing €80 billion of funding between 2014 and 2020.[2] Smits has also played leading roles in developing the European Research Council, the European Research Area, and the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures.[4]

Recently, Smits has spearheaded the Plan S initiative, which requires scientists make their publications open-access immediately on publication. 11 national funding agencies in Europe, who collectively spend €7.6 billion in research grants per year, have signed up to Plan S.[5]


In May 2023, Smits was criticized for physically removing student climate activists engaged in an occupation of two meeting rooms on campus and that were seeking, among other demands, that the university cut its ties with fossil fuel producers and increased transparency about the university's commercial collaborations.[6] GroenLinks and Party for the Animals members of the Eindhoven municipal council questioned Smits' physical intervention and mentioned a previous incident in March 2022 when police had "disproportion[ately] and unlawful[ly]" intervened in a previous student climate protest.[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh (2016)[2]
  • Lifetime achievements award from EuroScience (2016)[2]
  • Academy Medal from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2017)[4]
  • Excellence in Global Science award in South-Africa (2017)[8]
  • Nature's 10 (2018)[9]


  • Plan S for shock[10] (with Rachael Pells)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Robert-Jan Smits Profile". TU/e. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "Robert-Jan – EPSC – European Commission". EPSC. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  3. ^ "Robert-Jan Smits Curriculum Vitae" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b "Robert-Jan Smits". Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  5. ^ Else, Holly (4 September 2018). "Radical open-access plan could spell end to journal subscriptions". Nature. 561 (7721): 17–18. Bibcode:2018Natur.561...17E. doi:10.1038/d41586-018-06178-7. PMID 30181639.
  6. ^ "Physical intervention during new occupation at TU/e". 11 May 2023. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
  7. ^ "Answers to council questions about physical confrontation during protest". 13 June 2023. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
  8. ^ "Mr Robert-Jan Smits". SFSA. 30 October 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Nature's 10". Nature. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  10. ^ Smits, Robert-Jan; Pells, Rachael (27 January 2022). Plan S for Shock: Science. Shock. Solution. Speed. Ubiquity Press. doi:10.5334/bcq. ISBN 978-1-914481-16-1. S2CID 246369795.