The National Growth Fund, a long term investment schedule in The Netherlands, puts billions of euros into research and development and infrastructure, the coming years. A selection committee led by former minister Mr. Jeroen Dijsselbloem announced which R&D proposals were selected, on Friday 9 April. This package, worth 1,35 billion euro, includes large two programmes in which the University of Twente is involved: on quantum technology and on artificial intelligence.
The largest R&D sum of the Growth Fund goes to the Quantum Delta NL consortium of which the University of Twente is a partner. The full proposal, with a value of 615 million euro, was allocated. Quantum computers will, expectedly, surpass current supercomputers in terms of processing power, speed and possibilities. They do not just use the ‘1’ and ‘0’ states for data processing, quantum bits can have more states at the same time enabling them to solve a problem by comparing many alternatives instantly. This is no longer just theory, ‘quantum supremacy’ was already demonstrated on some occasions. Quantum technology can also lead to safer networks and fully new generations of sensors.
The Centre for Quantum Nanotechnology Twente (QUANT), part of UT’s MESA+ Institute, does research on various quantum building blocks. They work on stability improvement of silicon quantum bits (‘qubits’) but they also explore other options like a quantumprocessor working with light – the photons being the quantum bits. The spinoff company QuiX introduced such a photonic processor to the market recently and just sold its first one.
Great news for Nanolabnl infrastructure
For Guus Rijners, scientific director of MESA+, it is great news: “This means a huge boost for the quantum and nano ecosystem in The Netherlands in general, and around the UT in particular. It focuses on innovations in computing, networking and sensing. Quantum Delta NL also includes an investment of 150 million euro in the national NanoLabNL infrastructure, for updating and strengthening our labs. Finally, the plans include SME companies, through NanoNextNL.”
For AiNed, new investments in artificial intelligence (AI), worth 276 million euro, will be available. AI has a growing range of applications, like in better diagnostics in health care, smart industry, food and energy. The programme aims at new technology and attracting more talent. One of the questions is: is a learning computer system a black box or can we design in it such a way that the choices the AI system makes, are transparent and justifiable? This, in fact, is a human-centered approach. Maarten van Steen, scientific director of UT’s Digital Society Institute, is happy with the large allocation by the Growth Fund: “The University of Twente has a strong position, we know how to embed AI in hardware – new chips, sensors and robots -, but also in humans and society. This is truly ‘high tech human touch’. The Growth Fund enables us to strengthen collaboration.” University of Twente in participates in AiNed through the recently founded ‘AI Hub Eastern-Netherlands’ together with, among others, Saxion and a number of companies like Nedap, DEMCON, Thales and NXP.
Green Hydrogen ecosystem
The project 'Green Power of the Dutch Economy', will receive €338 million for an ecosystem based on green hydrogen. The award consists of a conditional allocation of €73 million and a reserve of €265 million. This program aims to accelerate the use of green hydrogen - hydrogen produced using renewable solar and wind power - in the chemical, transport and heavy industry sectors through innovation and cost reduction. This fund offers wonderful opportunities for UT to capitalize on the ambitions of its Centre for Energy Innovation and several chemical engineering research groups. Research will include electrolyzer development and making the chemical industry more sustainable.
This is the first round: until 2026, 20 billion euros will be available. For this first round, 4 billion euros was granted for R&D, infrastructure and knowledge development. The Growth Fund was made possible by the Ministries of Finance and Economic Affairs and Climate.