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4TU.Federation investing in high tech for a sustainable future

Thursday, 3 May 2018
The 4TU.Federation has awarded a total of 22 million euros to five proposals within the framework of the call ‘High Tech for a Sustainable Future’, thus giving a strong impetus to research into sustainable technology. In doing so, the Netherlands’ four universities of technology are taking the lead in making a significant impact on social challenges in the long term.

The 4TU.Federation has awarded a total of 22 million euros to five proposals within the framework of the call ‘High Tech for a Sustainable Future’, thus giving a strong impetus to research into sustainable technology.  In doing so, the Netherlands’ four universities of technology (TU Delft, TU Eindhoven, University of Twente, Wageningen University), are taking the lead in making a significant impact on social challenges in the long term.

In December 2017, the four universities of technology called upon their scientists to submit joint research proposals within the umbrella theme 'High tech for a sustainable future'. By bringing together complementary knowledge, the 4TUs aim for research innovation in order to jointly achieve maximum results. Of the 17 proposals that were submitted, five have now been awarded funding worth a total of 22 million euros for the period up to the end of 2022. The 4TUs freed up this sum within the framework of the profiling budget intended for research that contributes to the Dutch National Research Agenda (Nationale Wetenschapsagenda, or NWA).

The four universities of technology are working together on each of the five programmes. They will be conducting research into personalised medicine, disease prevention and treatment, smart industry, more resilient societies and global food demand. The research proposals are thus aligned with the focus areas of the government's Top Sector policy, the Dutch National Research Agenda and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.  

The five research programmes are due to run for five years, but they look further into the future. Developing pioneering new technology is not work for the short term, so the emphasis is on appointing permanent new academic staff to Tenure Track positions, who will be involved in both research and education. This not only guarantees the continuity of the research lines, but also ensures the connection between research and teaching. To ensure that the research results will actually lead to innovations that benefit society, collaboration with the government and the business sector is also being actively sought.

The five programmes:

DeSIRE - Designing Systems for Informed Resilience Engineering
DeSIRE aims to conduct research of societal value by connecting advances in resilience engineering (RE) with adaptive principles of societal resilience. The DeSIRE Resilience Academy will support a new generation of engineers and practitioners – 100 Resilience Fellows – to be trained to design, build and integrate infrastructures that are fit for the challenges of the 21st century. Partnerships with several public and private organizations, PP-networks and NGO’s will be established. Learn more about this programme. 

Plantenna - Botanic sensor networks, towards an Internet Of Plants
The Plantenna programme focuses on the heavily intertwined problems of climate change, pollution and food shortages. In view of the growing world population and increasing urbanisation, these are issues that are set to intensify. A key component of the project will be the development of sensor technology that will collect information within plants about the condition of the crop and its immediate environment. By linking together plants equipped with this technology in networks – an ‘internet of plants’ – the information collected can be used to monitor the climate and weather and increase crop yields through more efficient fertilisation and irrigation. Learn more. 

Precision medicine
The new 4TU programme, Precision Medicine, hopes to raise diagnostics to a new level by integrating a special form of artificial intelligence called deep learning with medical imaging techniques. The researchers’ goal is to provide better access to relevant medical information. This will mean a shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to a made-to-measure, personalized diagnosis for every individual. The researchers believe this is the best way to ensure that healthcare remains accessible and affordable for the long term. The project will initially run for four years – although it emphatically has a long-term vision – and has received funding of €4 million. Learn more. 

Pride and Prejudice - Tackling chronic disease prevention through real-life monitoring and context-aware intervention design
Physical activity and diet are two key factors for a healthy lifestyle. Both are not only difficult to modify for people on the long-term difficult, they are also difficult to measure. The novelty of this program lies in combining the monitoring in real-life through sensors (food intake, physical activity and health parameters) with development of design interventions at different levels of the system (person, group, society), and evaluation of the (long-term) effectiveness of these combined interventions. Learn more. 

Robots with a soft touch
Robots that will daily operate in human environments, will need a ‘soft touch’. The robots we know from industrial production, are extremely precise and fast, but very rigid as well. For physical and safe contact with people, or for handling vulnerable food products, they don’t perform well. ‘4TU Soft Robotics’ chooses a nature-inspired approach: the grip of a tree frog and the flexible arm of a cuttlefish. For this, knowledge of biology, fully new control systems and innovative robot design strategies go hand in hand. The partners of the technical universities strengthen each other in this. This can make The Netherlands leading in this young field of research and technology. Learn more.

TU Delft, TU Eindhoven, Twente University and Wageningen University & Research broadly share the same approach in regard to Dutch scientific research policy. This involves educating innovative engineers and securing resources to conduct pioneering research that has an impact on society and boosts the Netherlands' economic position. In this way, the 4TU.Federation is contributing to technological research within the Dutch National Research Agenda and boosting a new sector plan for Technology.

Formorge inforamtion, please contact 4TU Secretary General: IJsbrand Haagsma at +31 6 18 08 68 56 or