The alliance of TU/e, WUR, UU and UMC Utrecht has awarded three 50,000-euro grants for research that shapes and facilitates the long-term partnership between the institutions. The research projects are innovative and multi-disciplinary and focus on the health of humans and animals.

The strategic alliance’s mission is to encourage collaboration across the boundaries of scientific disciplines and institutions. In so doing, the knowledge institutions create new opportunities to examine major global issues from different perspectives and to arrive at innovative solutions. The seed money fund was created to support the realization of that goal. There are three seed money calls each year, in this call 19 researchers received funding to work on three separate research projects. These are:

  • Centaur
  • Lasting interventions for active ageing
  • Tomorrow’s Value Conflicts


Horses play an important role in the human society. Beside its role in commerce, sport and recreation, the animals are interesting objects to study since they are characterized as nonruminant herbivores. Besides, horses share several metabolic disorders with humans, making the horse an interesting animal for comparative studies. In a first approach to create complex cell cultures mimicking the digestive physiology of the horse equine GI organoids have been successfully developed. As the liver plays an essential role in metabolic homeostasis, the project aims to develop an equine liver organoid with the mid/long-term goal to combine equine liver organoids with equine intestinal organoids in a microfluidic system as a model to study liver metabolism and metabolic diseases. Ultimately, the combined understanding of GI and liver metabolism, genetic basis and identification of (dietary) concepts that may prevent, or lower disease risk will lead to improved human and veterinary medicine.

Betrokken onderzoekers: Jürgen van Baal (WUR), Bart van der Hee (WUR), Robin van den Boom (UU), David van Doorn (UU) (hoofdaanvrager), Louis Penning (UU) Bart Spee (UU), Sabine Fuchs (UMC Utrecht), Saskia van Mil (UMC Utrecht).

Lasting interventions for active ageing

This project aims to devise a methodology to promote lasting active ageing in urban neighbourhoods, as the long-term evaluation of interventions and methods developed for this purpose are lacking. To this end an interdisciplinary approach (urban design, industrial design, public health, data science and information technology) is used. The core aspects of active ageing can be found in group gardening, as it benefits the physical, social and mental wellbeing of older adults. Within this collaboration industrial design experts focus on the co-design process and its social aspects of group gardening (identifying user needs and a shared vision for a desirable garden). Information technology experts design and construct the smart garden bed and gather and analyse user behavior patterns in space (monitoring the intervention in terms of frequency of garden visit, activity hot spots) through non-intrusive sensors. Urban design experts contribute to the design of the built environment interventions in relation to user preferences and behavior (e.g. deciding the location and types of gardening areas in the center/neighborhood). Public health experts look into the motivations and satisfactions of older adults and explore how to scale this project to target groups with diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

Betrokken onderzoekers: Dena Kasraian (TU/e), Carlijn Valk (TU/e), William Hurst (WUR), Marielle Jambroes (UMC Utrecht)

Tomorrow’s Value Conflicts

The 21st century will require applying ethical insights to highly complex environmental and technological challenges. On the one hand, the decisions we make today about CO2 emissions, the use of scarce natural resources, and non-renewable energy will define the ethical dilemmas of the future. On the other hand, enhancement technologies offer human beings the chance to upgrade their bodies, eliminate common illnesses, and prolong their lifespans. While ecological changes constitute existential threats to life itself, enhancement technologies stand to transform the very meaning of human flourishing. Both challenges complicate the ethical conflicts that future generations will be forced to resolve and situate today’s ethicists onto unfamiliar terrain. Tackling these problems requires us to grapple with sets of questions: Which value frameworks should we apply to impending ecological and technological challenges? How can ethicists and engineers evaluate new technologies before future generations directly experience their consequences? How can ethicists and engineers understand future value conflicts? Can empirical data better equip them to deal with emerging ethical challenges? Can this improve how we teach ethics at the institutions of the alliance?

Betrokken onderzoekers: Matthew Dennis (TU/e), Lily Frank (TU/e), Minha Lee (TU/e), Vincent Blok (WUR), Steven Kraaijeveld (WUR), Sven Nyholm (UU), Chao Zhang (UU)