Opening Academic Year: building bridges and connecting talents

Building bridges, this year’s theme of the Opening of the Aademic Year, is mainly about connecting talented people. By collaborating, but also by bringing together people with very different opinions. Annemieke Nijhof, CEO of Dutch engineering Tauw, likes to be a connector, for example in current discussions on our sustainable mobility. UT student Sevim Aktas, all too often, sees students underestimate themselves while they have the key to change. The news of the day: the start of an R&D campus on the Technology Base Twente. A major new partner for the UT in energy transition research.

Annemieke Nijhof, who studied Chemical Engineering and an Executive MBA in Twente, likes to consider herself as an ‘emulsifier’. An emulsion is a mix of two fluids that, in fact, don’t like mixing. An emulsifier helps: while its tail likes to be in one fluid and its head in the other, there will be mixing after all. As a chemical engineer, Nijhof litterally worked with emulsifiers, but more than that she worked as a emulsifier herself. As the CEO of Tauw, she recently chaired the ‘mobility table’ of the Dutch Climate Agreement, a group of stake holders with very different opinions en visions that needed a connecting element. Her message to the audience: be aware of your full human being, look at what you can contribute and be inspired by the right teachers and leaders.

Future universities

In his opening address, UT President Victor van der Chijs mentioned the healthy growth of the inflow of students, 11 percent for the Bachelor’s programmes is above average in The Netherlands. Strong growers are typically programmes that are interesting for the current labour market, like Business & IT, Technical Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering. In his address, Van der Chijs also raised the question if the university, in fifteen years from now, will still be the same type of institution. Will we see the evolutionary changes we’ve always seen, or will they be disruptive and radical, looking at  changes in society as a whole? Van der Chijs invited the audience to join the discussion on this, using the working title High Tech Human Touch 2030 (HTHT2030) for this.

Energy transition

Sustainability and energy transition, another central theme during the celebration, is one of the major research themes for the University of Twente. Van der Chijs illustrated this with the example of a new type of windturbine, installed just a few days earlier at the Danish coast. By using superconductors in stead of conventional magnets, the weight and size of these turbines can be reduced drastically while the generated power is still the same. UT sustainability research also includes solar power, biomass, CO2 capturing. And the student teams work on future means of transport, even on the racing track. The roaring petrol engines are replaced by electric and superfast motorbikes. UT’s Electric Superbike Team did well on the TT track, just a few days earliers. One of the success factors: a good battery. And that was the 'bridge' to introducing Mr. Kees Koolen, who is a motorbike lover and who introduced a major new initiatieve: a R&D campus on lithium energy storage and mobility, at the former Airforce Base Twenthe, now called Technology Base. His company Lithium Werks will be an important partner for the university. More about that in this press release.


Overijssel’s new King’s Commissioner, Andries Heidema, presented himself for the first time for a UT audience. He mentioned new collaborative effort with UT’s DesignLab, for example in developing knowledge for tackling societal challenges, from nature preservation to ICT and all topics in which the people of Overijssel want to contribute to policy-making. According to Heideman, Overijssel is the very first province starting this type of collaboration with a university.

Active students

Sevim Aktas, an Advanced Technology student, is an active ‘ University Innovation Fellow’, an initiative of Stanford University. She also contributed to the Green Team Twente, the Living Smart Campus project and the ‘Model United Nations UT’. When she started studying, she couldn’t have guessed that she would one day be the person she now is; she saw some opportunities, but at the same time she realized that you need talented people around you with the same type of mindet. Having said this, the stage rapidly filled with active students, little moments before Rector Thom Palstra officially opened the Academic Year 2018-2019.

During the celebrations, a number of prizes were awarded. More on that in this press release

Wiebe van der Veen
Press relations (available Mon-Fri)