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.

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 13 researchers received funding to work on three separate research projects.


The project focuses on collaborations in the Dutch agriculture innovation system, which faces the challenge of transforming the agri-food sector into an environmentally and economically sustainable system. Current collaborations tend to reproduce the unsustainable status-quo but fail to scale alternative sustainable solutions. REWIRE aims to develop methodologies to support innovative partnerships towards a radical and circular agriculture transition at multiple levels (organisation, ecosystem, network, policy). This consortium of university, university of applied sciences, and societal partners, works on interdisciplinary tools and process designs to assist in the matchmaking of diverse actors and avoid collaboration pitfalls in the agriculture transition. REWIRE will develop a set of methodologies for project stakeholders and users (e.g. regional/national policymakers, ecosystem managers, businesses, cooperatives and knowledge institutes) to identify new collaboration opportunities, or anticipate failures, when navigating a sustainable agriculture transition.

The consortium covers knowledge in micro/organisational level (TU/e), sectoral/system level (WUR) and collaboration network/policy level (UU) aspects of agriculture transitions. The different team members and universities run relevant initiatives individually and with various stakeholder communities. This project strives to combine this level-/field-specific expertise, research methodologies and stakeholders.

Research team: Arjan Markus (TU/e), Rianne Valkenburg (TU/e), Maral Mahdad (WUR), Iris Wanzenböck (UU), Matthijs Janssen (UU)

Towards Food Recommender Systems for People with Chemosensory Impairments

People suffering from Chemosensory loss may gain weight because they go wild on unhealthy foods rich in fats and sugars or lose weight since they don’t get positive reinforcement from food anymore and therefore lose interest and appetite. Given the continuously growing numbers of patients with persistent Chemosensory disorders due to Covid-19, it is imperative to provide these people with proper care and advice on dietary intake. Recent experimental results with people who have smell disorders suggest that offering personalized foods as a novel therapy may be an effective intervention for people with smell and taste dysfunctions. Therefore, food with a smell and taste appealing to these patients would encourage healthy eating.

One of the potential solutions to address this challenge is food recommender systems (FRSs). FRSs are software systems that intend to find suitable food items to meet users’ personalized needs. The long-term goal of the project is to develop a food recommendation model that integrates both nutritional and user preferences-related information to persuade users toward a healthier dietary pattern by considering user autonomy.

Combining new and existing databases to create a complete food dataset can transform these information silos across the whole food system into a more (re)usable Internet of Food. Following a multidisciplinary approach, this project will bridge sensory science, nutrition, psychology, ethics, semantics, data science, and artificial intelligence techniques to explore how a unique and standardised dataset is effectively leveraged for food-oriented applications.

Research team: Chao Zhang (TU/e), Sanne Boesveldt (WUR), Parvaneh Parvin (WUR), Hanna Hauptmann (UU)

Deep Dive Into Your Worldview: Cultivating Transformative Skills in Higher Education

Currently, higher education still tends to focus on the transfer of knowledge and cognitive skills. To thrive in the complex, uncertain, existentially threatened, and socially explosive world that students soon will be working in, a different approach is needed. Think of the ability to listen and include other perspectives; to reflect on oneself and constructively deal with feedback; to strategize, regulate emotions, and self-direct; to engage in cross-disciplinary collaborations and overcome oppositions; to know oneself as part of a greater whole and shape one’s aspirations from there. For the sake of our common future, we need to understand how transformation ‘works’ and how it can be supported. We also need to help the next generation of leaders cultivate wisdom, next to knowledge. The aim of this project is to develop, pilot, research, and scale an interdisciplinary Higher Education course, aimed at cultivating the transformative skills that students need to respond to the complex challenges of today’s world. This course, entitled ‘Deep Dive Into Your Worldview’, can function as a stand-alone course, or be offered in combination with courses in which students work in interdisciplinary teams on real-world challenges and/or collaborate with real-world stakeholders (i.e., in challenge based learning contexts). Because of its orientation on skill development and personal growth, the course level is adjustable, but would likely be most fitting for last year Bachelor’s or Master’s students.

Team: Johanna Höffken (TUe), Reineke van Tol (WUR),  Brian Dermody (UU), Annick de Witt (Worldview Journeys Foundation)