NAIN: Dutch AI for Dutch language

text scanning
Since the introduction of deep learning models in 2013, natural language processing (NLP) applications have taken off. Computers can now handle text smarter than ever before.

AI seems to be able to actually understand text! AI can classify texts, it can recognise names, addresses and other entities, it knows what a customer asks for in a chat box and it can even write full summaries of documents. This is possible by training AI on gigantic data sets.

In practice, however, performance decreases as soon as AI is applied to Dutch texts. Especially when it comes to domain-specific texts. Although there are initiatives that have trained state-of-the-art AI on large amounts of Dutch data (think of BERTje from the University of Groningen), there is still a lot to be gained in the field of Dutch AI. Both in terms of knowledge and technology, and in terms of the bias and transparency of language models.

In addition, speech technology has become an increasingly important part of our lives in recent years. We command our phones and smart phones with our voice and more and more organisations see opportunities in further automating customer services or automatically transcribing conversations, meetings and presentations. However, existing acoustic models and language models of spoken Dutch are not yet able to deal well with dialects, accents, slang, and speech in specific domains.

The aim of the project is to make speech technology available to everyone who speaks Dutch, not being dependent on large foreign commercial parties. We want to join forces and make a major improvement in speech technology as the Netherlands itself, particularly because collecting and transcribing relevant training material is not feasible for every individual Dutch organisation.

Deployment of Artificial Intelligence

NAIN aims to set up an infrastructure for Dutch AI for the Dutch language, consisting of lines of speech and text. Domain-specific building blocks such as security, healthcare and culture are built on this infrastructure. The challenge is to build AI reliably and responsibly. Issues surrounding data sharing will also be thoroughly examined. The NAIN project builds on knowledge and experience already gained from the market and research, for example the STEVIN program and BERTje. It tries to bring together ongoing initiatives in order achieve the most optimal solutions.

What challenge does it solve?

Developing an own Dutch infrastructure for speech and text gives sovereignty. Currently, models are mainly used for English, developed by foreign multinationals such as Google. Moreover, a language model developed specifically for the Dutch language potentially provides better performance, broader applications and more control over development.

First result

The NAIN consortium has presented a report (in Dutch) about the current state of Dutch language and speech technology in the Netherlands and Flanders. The report is an important starting point for further work that can be done in the coming five years to develop well-functioning Dutch language technologies. The results will be usable everywhere in Dutch society, enabling an enormous diversity of applications with great public and economic value.

Collaboration partners

In this project, led by TNO, participate the working group Security, Peace and Justice, the Ministry of Justice and Security and the NFI. They cooperate closely with the NL Speech Coalition, working groups Culture and Media, Health and Care, the business community and knowledge institutions. Subgroups are being set up on topics including speech (technical), text (technical), data sharing and responsible AI in order to take the proposal further in terms of content.

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Building blocks

The NL AIC collaborates on the necessary common knowledge and expertise, resulting in five themes, also called building blocks. Those are important for a robust impact in economic and social sectors.


    AI is a generic technology that is ultimately applicable in all sectors. For the development of knowledge and experience in the use of AI in the Netherlands, it is essential to focus on specific industries that are relevant to our country. These industries can achieve excellent results, and knowledge and experience that can be leveraged for application in other sectors.

      Become a participant

      The Netherlands AI Coalition is convinced that active collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders is essential to stimulate and connect initiatives in Artificial Intelligence. Within fields of expertise and with other stakeholders in the ecosystem to achieve the most significant result possible in the development and application of AI in the Netherlands. Representatives from the business community (large, small, start-up), government, research and educational institutions and civil society organisations can participate.

      Interested? For more information, see the page about participation.