With a festive ceremony in the Waaier hall, the University of Twente opened its Academic Year 2017-2018. Robert-Jan Smits, who is Director-General for Research and Innovation at the European Union, delivered the keynote speech.
This year’s theme was A Taste of Red Hot Innovation, referring to the red color of the Twente region as well as the necessity for world-class innovation to address the world’s societal challenges. These innovations will only come about as excellence in science, education and business are brought together.
All over the world, countries are pushing forward in their research and innovation efforts. Europe cannot remain at its current level, but may have to invest more extensively, Robert-Jan Smits stated. “I know that Europe has the potential to become once again the global science and innovation leader. We have the best science base in the world and with only seven per cent of the world's population, still produce one third of the world's knowledge.”
The European Union’s ambition for excellence requires commitment and dedication from all of its members. Victor van der Chijs, president of the Executive Board of the University of Twente, presented his critics on the Dutch efforts. “The Rathenau Institute published an analysis today which shows that government spending on Dutch universities is severely lacking. The last zeven years government hardly increased its budget for universities. Simultaneously, the number of students grew strongly, most notably at the four Dutch universities of technology. If you look at the chart for Twente, the problem is immediately clear: many more students, hardly additional means. There is an enormous demand for highly skilled staff. But the funding is lacking.”
“This lack of funding is also strongly detrimental for our research efforts. There is still so much to be discovered. Our society badly needs solutions for many problems. But what we do instead, is spending unreasonable amounts of time to obtain limited research funds.”
New ways of working and thinking
Taking the next leap in research and innovation in Europe is more than a financial matter. Raising the bar requires a new way of working and thinking. Robert-Jan Smits: “In that perspective, I believe the time has come to broaden our approach to evaluate and rank our universities much more on basis of what we expect from them.” As an example, he referred to the education of talented youngster. “To meet the needs of our modern society, students need to be trained to be entrepreneurial, to be able to manage complex information, to think autonomously and creatively, to use resources, including digital ones, smartly, to communicate effectively and be resilient.”
Bachelor student in Advanced Technology Elise de Groote supported that vision. “Broadening your horizon with projects like the Model United Nations brings so much more than exploring new technologies or cool innovations. It will actually help in understanding the context and the reasons behind why other peoples behave and think the way they do”, says Elise de Groote, who has been the initator of the Model United Nations at the University of Twente and presented her learning experiences at the ceremony.
The Opening of the Academic Year is traditionally the event for awarding appreciation for outstanding achievements in research and education. Bram de Rooij, Yoeri Boink, Max Klaassen, Carolyne Danilla and Rick Driessen received the Graduation Award for the best graduation within their faculty. They were presented a certificate and financial grant by Rector Thom Palstra. Pieter Roos received the Central Education Award for the best educator at the University of Twente. The TGS Award 2017 was presented to Koen Dwarshuis, student of Mechanical Engineering.
During the ceremony, Herman Hazewinkel was presented the medal of honour of the University of Twente. He received the appreciation for his contribution as chairman of the Twente University Fund Foundation.
Marieke Huisman was announced as the new chair of the Ambassador Network, and the newly-born Electric Superbike Twente team was presented to the attendees. Dutch band Rondé provided the music at the ceremony.