NWO-MVI was started in 2008 as a research programme by NWO and six ministerial departments, namely the (then) Ministries of the Interior; Foreign Affairs; Defence; Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries; Education, Culture and Science, and Health, Welfare and Sport. As each of these ministries had urgent research questions concerning the ethical and societal aspects of technological innovations, they decided to join forces and cooperate with NWO to enable relevant research projects.

After a successful first phase with the six ministries, in 2012 NWO developed a follow-up to NWO-MVI which was designed to contribute to innovation within the Top Sectors (in Dutch). NWO-MVI now occupies a prominent place in all the Top Sectors, and this provides new opportunities for research into topics put on the agenda jointly by researchers and the Top Sectors, both for academic and non-academic parties. This concerns research into issues relating to specific Top Sectors as well as research on more general issues relevant to all the Top Sectors. These issues were inspired by the National Research Agenda.