Towards resilient vital processes

Expected January 2018

Background and request for advice

Vital processes provide products and services that are essential for society’s functioning. They include drinking water, food, health, energy and telecommunications. The community at large wants to be able to rely on these products and services and expects them to meet stringent requirements when it comes to security of supply and quality. Any major or prolonged failure of vital processes can have serious consequences for society in terms of human injury (physical safety) and financial damage (the economy). It is therefore in the public interest to put in place sufficient safeguards for the continuity of functions delivered by vital processes. The vital processes are managed partly by the private sector and partly by the public sector.

There will be major changes in these vital processes in the coming years as a result of the necessary and desirable transitions in the field of energy supplies, circular use of raw materials and adaptation to climate change. The complex systems of these vital processes are obviously not established using a single design since many parties play a role in shaping and managing them. But are any guiding principles discernible that can incentivise or steer parties towards reducing vulnerabilities and increasing resilience?

The advice to be provided on this matter focuses on the challenge of designing and arranging vital processes by taking into account the increasing interrelationship caused by the transitional challenges and the interdependence of ICT and electricity. This growing interrelationship raises quality but at the same time may give rise to unexpected vulnerabilities.

How can the vulnerability of vital processes be reduced and their resilience increased, partly in light of the expected transitions and digitisation that will intensify the interrelationship of the processes? How can the shaping, configuring and governance of vital processes and accompanying measures help to reduce this vulnerability?

Towards resilient vital processes
Rudmer Zwerver / Nationale Beeldbank

Explanatory notes

Our vital processes are embedded at organisations in the public and private sectors. As the interrelationship of vital processes increases, these organisations will have to liaise with each other more and more wherever interfaces occur. A complicating factor is that in the future the vital processes and the communication that occurs at the interfaces between them will possibly be controlled (at least in part) by autonomous intelligent systems.

Therefore, there is a need to give some thought to the basic principles that can be applied in respect of the physical and organisational elements that form part of the systems that establish the processes. They must be basic principles that reduce vulnerability and increase resilience.

At the request of the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, this advice forms part of the work programme of the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure.


The advice is expected to be published early 2018.

Composition of the Council

A.G. (Annemieke) Nijhof MBA
Prof. N.S.J. (Niels) Koeman
M.W.B (Mart) Lubben, junior member
(external committee members to be added)

Information or response: 

For more information or to respond, please contact Douwe Wielenga, project leader,