Three joint research projects of researchers of the University of Twente (UT) and the University of Münster (WWU), will receive a ‘collaborative research grant’. These grants are meant as incentives for further cross-border collaboration. The three were selected out of six pitches, held on Friday 11 December.
With a total number of 23 applications, the collaborative research grants prove to be a valuable tool for starting new initiatives. Worth 80,000 euro each, paid by both universities, the grants work as a catalyst for more structural collaboration. In the meeting, UT scientist Srirang Manohar, one of the early receivers of a grant like this, pointed at the multiplier effect: thanks to the grant, several small projects in medical imaging were started. Each of these is now healthily growing, with improved chances for national or European funding. His colleague Wilfred van der Wiel can confirm this. He is now involved in the ‘Intelligent Matter’ programme, which recently received funding of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. The first ideas came to life thanks to a collaborative grant.
From all 23 applications, six teams were invited for pitching their ideas in a joint online meeting attened by the Rectors of both universities: Prof. Johannes Wessels of WWU and Prof. Tom Veldkamp of the UT. From these six, the jury chose three winning projects.
Scalable Veriﬁcation of Industrial Embedded Control Systems
Embedded control systems are everywhere around us: in our car, in robots, in airplanes. These combinations of hardware and software, more and more, control vital processes in our society. One small software bug can have far-fetching consequences for our safety. The joint research is about verifying the correct functioning of the systems, already during the design phase. Will the control system do what it is supposed to do, under highly varying circumstances? This is research on the way to a reliable digital future, as initiator Marieke Huisman said.
Prof. Marieke Huisman (UT, Software Reliability, EEMCS faculty) and Prof. Paula Herber (WWU, Embedded Systems, Mathematics and Computer Science faculty)
Microdroplet-based screening for directed evolution
From DNA mutants, it is possible to ‘collect’ large numbers of valuable enzymes. It is an evolutionary process, in which part of the enzymes will be left out, while the best ones pass another cycle. It is about very large quantities, so a fast and compact selection process is needed. The researchers propose individual droplets as micro-reactors and carriers of the mutants. Using fluorescence properties, the droplets choose a direction on a chip: either to the ‘waste bin’ or back into the selection process.
Dr Tim Segers (UT, BIOS Lab-on-a-Chip groep and Max Planck Center for Complex Fluid Dynamics) and Prof. Andrea Rentmeister (WWU, Institute of Biochemistry)
Fully biodegradable cubosomes
In discussions about the harmful effects of chemicals used in, for example, viticulture, it is mostly about the fungicides or pesticides themselves. We tend to forget that these agrochemicals are inside tiny plastic carriers that end up in our environment as well. The researchers propose a new type of porous carrier. These cubosomes not only regulate the release of agrochemicals and keep it to a minimum, they are biodegradable themselves and don’t end up in the groundwater.
Prof Frederik Wurm (UT, Sustainable Polymer Chemistry, faculteit TNW) and Prof. André Gröschel (WWU, Polymer and Colloid Science, Chemistry)
getting rid of obstacles
In his closing words, WWU-Rector Prof Wessels emphasized the importance of taking away the obstacles for cross-border cooperation. The universities are close to each-other, they are highly complementary in their knowledge and infrastructure. The Dutch-German border doesn’t seem to play any role, except when it comes to research funding: there the national systems come in. Although both governments stress the need of further collaboration, some more flexibility in research funding would be welcome. The initiative the universities started themselves, with the collaborative grants, already proves that it opens doors.