CWI is the research institute of the Stichting Mathematisch Centrum (SMC), a private, non-profit organization. Founded in 1946, SMC aims at fostering mathematics and computer science research in The Netherlands. CWI's mission is twofold: to perform frontier research in mathematics and computer science, and to transfer new knowledge in these fields to society in general and trade and industry in particular.  This mission is realized by several means. In addition to the standard ways of disseminating scientific knowledge, for example through publications, presentations at conferences, organization of workshops and exchange of researchers, CWI actively pursues joint projects with external partners, provides consulting services and actively stimulates the creation of spin-off companies. A technology transfer event is organized annually to promote this side of CWI's activities. Also special efforts are made to make research results known to non-specialist circles, ranging from researchers in other disciplines to the public at large. CWI has many contacts with national organizations for applied research with wide experience in turning research results directly into practical applications. Its researchers are supported by state-of-the-art computing facilities and a library of national importance.

CWI has always been very successful in securing a considerable participation in European research programs and has extensive experience in managing these international collaborative research efforts. CWI is also strongly embedded in Dutch university research: about twenty of its senior researchers hold part-time positions as university professors and several projects are carried out in cooperation with university research groups. CWI has a staff of 210 fte (full time equivalent), 160 of whom are scientific staff.