Biomedical science in the Netherlands and other continental European countries is lagging behind scientific research in English-speaking countries. A comparison between the two systems reveals several crucial differences. Although levels of government funding of scientific research are approximately equal, the rigid, non-quality-based funding system of continental universities compares badly with the flexible quality-based funding systems in the USA and the U.K. The rigid, hierarchical organisation and indistinct career structure that are found in the continental European system lead to problems in funding strategy and a lack of independence among young researchers. Moreover, equalized funding by national governments to state universities has hampered the creation of centres of excellence. It is proposed that the broad introduction of a peer-review-based funding system would solve these problems and would put European science back on its feet.