Fundamental Research

What makes fundamental research different from other types of research?


As a research University, Leiden University focuses on fundamental research and research-based education. Fundamental research is typically curiosity-driven and researchers develop their curiosity through their observations. In science and technology, unexpected outcomes or practical problems are often at the basis of research into the most fundamental characteristics of nature. Fundamental research frequently leads to new insights into the essence of nature, the human mind, and the complex interactions between their elements. From this starting point, innovations, new developments and solutions to old problems emerge.


In contrast to profit-driven research, such as most applied research and development work, fundamental research is usually unpredictable in terms of its course and outcomes. Fundamental research requires a special way of thinking that often combines seemingly unrelated facts and explores unknown fields necessary to make new discoveries. It is for this reason that cutting-edge, fundamental research is frequently multidisciplinary in nature. 


Standardised methods, techniques and procedures that were developed to solve relatrively clearly defined problems are generally not sufficient in fundamental research. A stroke of genius or an unconventional idea is usually needed to increase understanding of the environments, both natural and man-made, in which we live today. The talents necessary in fundamental research may be largely innate, but they do need a stable environment to develop.

Inspiring Atmosphere

Leiden University aims to create an inspiring atmosphere where researchers and students can operate independently and in line with the view of fundamental research described above.

Last Modified: 13-11-2008