Young researchers from TU/e, WUR, UU and UMC Utrecht have received a Spark Grant to be spent on three projects. The grant are 9000 euros per project and are intended to initiate or explore unconventional and unexpected collaborations between colleagues from different disciplines and knowledge institutions. The alliance of the four institutions aims to stimulate these ‘unusual collaborations’.

The Centre for Unusual Collaborations (CUCo), which was created especially for the alliance, provides an (online) place where young researchers can come together, pitch their research and exchange ideas. The centre is closely affiliated with the Young Academies at TU/e, WUR, UU and UMC Utrecht.

Spark Grants

Each year, the CUCo awards Unusual Collaborations Grants and Spark Grants to researchers who dare to think outside the box and have fresh ideas about collaboration between the institutions and fields of research. The Spark Grant provides funds for researchers to explore and flesh out opportunities for collaboration at the start of a project.

The following three projects have received Spark Grant funding:

The FAIR-Battery Challenge

In the development of sustainable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power, it is important to study how the energy can be stored effectively and cheaply. This will immensely benefit developing countries and remote rural regions: better access to these sources of energy will help the areas develop more rapidly and independent of outside assistance. This project brings anthropologists, technicians, chemists and economists together with local users to develop a FAIR Battery: an energy storage system that is ‘findable, accessible, interoperable and reproducible’, or FAIR.

Project researchers: Antoni Forner-Cuenca (TUe), Yali Tang (TUe), Maarten Voors (WUR), Stephanie Hobbis (WUR), Sanli Faez (UU), Peter Ngene (UU)

Imagining More-than-Human Communities

Can humans and nature coexist without exhausting natural resources and destroying nature? Too often, the answer seems to be ‘no’. That is precisely why the research project aims to focus on this question: how can the human and non-human worlds join together as equals? The coronavirus pandemic is a clear example of the dependency and interrelationships between the two worlds. All of the researchers involved in the project have been working on the question from within their own discipline, but with the Spark Grant they now have the opportunity to study the issue together. Their collaboration may result in an exhibition, or perhaps even a children’s book on the topic.

Project researchers: Irene Kuling (TUe), Bernice Bovenkerk (WUR),

Clemens Driessen (WUR), Kári Driscoll (UU), Liesbeth van de Grift (UU), Heidi Lesscher (UU), Marjolijn Bol (UU), Anne van Veen (UU), Kathrin Thiele (UU)

Unusual Perspectives on Dynamic Networks: Building Interdisciplinary Understanding

Solutions to major global challenges, such as climate change, require insight into the complete network of stakeholders in order to better understand their interests and interrelationships. Researchers are not the only people looking for answers to these questions: businesses and social organisations are also active in this area. Together they form a dynamic network with mutual dependencies. The researchers in this project come from the fields of Design, Ecology Studies, Molecular Biology, Political Science, Sociology, Human Geography en Science & Technology Studies. They are aware of these dependencies, and through their research they aim to combine and analyse multiple perspectives on dynamic networks.

Project researchers: Joep Frens (TUe), Holly Robbins (TUe), Lenneke Kuijer (TUe), Mary Greene (WUR), Juul Limpens (WUR), Jesse Hoffman (UU), Jeroen Oomen (UU), Jurian Schuijers (UMC Utrecht)

All in the same boat: Unusual solutions for cleaner water

The health of nature and society depends on sufficient water quantity and quality. Clean water integrates these aspects and is challenged in many  ways. Climate change (including drought and flooding) complicates the  availability of clean water. Contamination (e.g., pathogens, nutrients, and  plastics) and inequality in price and access among sectors (e.g., industry,  drinking water, and agriculture) reduce clean water and impact the health of  nature and society. The water-nature-society interactions  are thus complex. Therefore, identifying solutions for water-related  challenges requires inter- and transdisciplinary approaches that unite efforts  and innovations from governments, companies, academics, and the general  public. ‘Our mission is to develop an unusual collaborative network for addressing water-related challenges and to use this network to drive solutions for clean water for nature and society’.

Betrokken onderzoekers: TU/e: Yali Tang, Matias Duran Matute, Clemens V. Verhoosel WUR: Maryna Strokal, Ingrid van de Leemput, Maarten Smulders, Annette Janssen, Kevin Matson, Lisa Becking, Louis de Smet, Mengru Wang, Sabrina Simon, Maarten Voors, Jaime Dingeman Hoogesteger van Dijk UU: Erik van Sebille, Niels van Helmond, Herman Gilissen, Aleksandra Cvetkoska, Timme Donders UMC Utrecht: Erhard van der Vries

Smart Origami metamaterials for diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases

In the quest for designed materials with exceptional properties beyond what can be found in natural materials (metamaterials), Origami structures have attracted much interest. Recently Origami was shown to be a substantial source of inspiration for the innovative design of metamaterials with customizable properties and a robust method for making shape morphing structures. Combining Origami design with actuating elements that can be triggered by stimuli, offers new opportunities for designing smart deployable materials with shape responsive properties. Recent developments in 3D printing and multi-material printing enable us to use biocompatible/biodegradable materials for the fabrication of such a meta-structure. The main aim of this proposed research is to investigate the potential of Origami in healthcare and nutrition as a non-invasive method for monitoring/treatment and programmed local drug/nutrient delivery.

Betrokken onderzoekers: TU/e: Irina Kostitsyna WUR: Mehdi Habibi, Guido Camps, Guido Bosch, Betina Piqueras-Fiszman UU: Tina Vermonden UMC Utrecht: Magdalena Lorenowicz, Riccardo Lovato, Caroline Lindemans

The Ultimate Plasticity

Since the beginning of modern science, natural scientists and humanities scholars alike have predominantly been conducting monodisciplinary research to conceptualize the phenomenon of plasticity (in italics, to stress its broad sense usage that includes both the narrow sense plasticity, acclimation, and similar terms from other disciplines). With the future impact of humankind on the environment (the Anthropocene), new approaches for understanding fundamental plasticity mechanisms on all of its levels and its full complexity are needed. ‘We believe that to support novel research projects concerning plasticity and for adopting novel approaches to utilize the plasticity potential for societal utilization, in-depth comparative science and transdisciplinary approach that will bring together natural scientists, social scientists, and humanities scholars is needed’.

Betrokken onderzoekers TU/e: Loai Abdelmoshen WUR: Julia Krug  UU: Kaisa Kajala, Chantal Kemner, Corné Pieterse, Tamalone van den Eijnden, Abby Waysdorf UMC Utrecht: Yaron Caspi, Elly Hol