The Da Vinci Programme 2024

Become a changemaker, contributing to innovative sustainable solutions. Get outside your comfort zone and work on real-life problems in an interdisciplinary environment.

The Da Vinci Programme is a profile (30 EC) that offers you an immersive learning experience that enables you to become a changemaker, a connector, and an innovator that contributes to the transition towards a sustainable world. In collaboration with private and public partners you will tackle real-life sustainability challenges.
In an interdisciplinary student team, you will work part time at a stakeholder’s (partner organization) location. All teams will be mentored by supervisors from the partner organizations and by a coach from university. During the programme you will be offered weekly workshops, supporting you in the process for solving the challenge. Through the workshops you will be trained in design thinking, systems thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration. The coach will support you on a personal development journey.
There will also be additional educational activities, such as field trips, showcasing inspiring real-life examples of sustainability innovation.

For more information about the Da Vinci Programme download here the Da Vinci brochure (PDF).


In collaboration with external partners the Da Vinci Programme offers challenges to choose from. When you sign up for this programme, you are required to submit a motivation for one of them.

Choice 1. Towards a fossil free refinery in cooperation with the ETCA (Energy Transition Campus Amsterdam) and Shell

By 2030, CO2 emissions from both households and industry should be significantly reduced. To ensure that we can still make our everyday products in the chemical industry, which currently is very dependent on fossil resources, we need a new refinery concept. What does this new refinery look like and where does the carbon and energy come from to make our fuels and materials?

Take the Netherlands, for example. Where should this refinery ideally be located and how big will it be? Many small refineries or one big one? What should you all consider when building this new refinery? What is desirable? What is feasible? What is viable? And by far most important, what is sustainable and circular? Furthermore, it would also be interesting to look at what is currently being developed in startups and which hurdles those innovations must pass before they become realizable and before they can be integrated in a new refinery.

These are all complex questions that need to be answered by people with different scientific backgrounds.

For more information watch this video.

Choice 2. Transition to animal free testing in cooperation with Unilever

Do you want to save animals from suffering and death by promoting cutting-edge technologies? This is not a hypothetical question. It is a real challenge that you are invited to take on.

You probably know that animal testing is still required by regulations applied to many chemicals, pesticides and drugs. But you may not know that animal testing is unreliable, unethical and unnecessary. Many studies have shown that animal models do not accurately predict what happens in humans. On the other hand, new scientific methods like artificial intelligence (AI) and human organoids offer more reliable and relevant alternatives. Methods called New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) are already used for cosmetic products in the EU. However, the EU chemical regulation called REACh still requires animal testing for chemical cosmetic ingredients, creating a contradiction with the cosmetic product regulation.

This is where you come in. You will be part of a multidisciplinary team of Masters students who are passionate about this topic. Your goal is to help shape the future of safety evaluations under the EU chemical regulation. You will investigate the following questions:

– Why is animal testing still demanded and what are the drawbacks?

– What are the current scientific developments that can replace animal testing under REACh?

– What are the economic benefits of replacing animals with advanced scientific tools?

– How can we get regulatory approval and implementation of NAMs?

– Who are the key stakeholders that need to be involved and persuaded in this process?

You will conduct research, analysis and synthesis to come up with a roadmap to the European Authorities on how to achieve the regulatory implementation of NAMs. You will also craft powerful messages to influence different stakeholders to support this change. You will present your findings and recommendations in a report and filmed presentation.

Are you ready to take on this challenge and make a difference for animals, humans and the planet? Let’s get started!

Choice 3. Encourage the sustainable disposal of counterfeited goods with REACT

Have you ever wondered what happens with confiscated counterfeited goods?
It may have never crossed your mind that these goods are usually destructed causing unnecessary pollution and emissions.

REACT ( is a not-for-profit anti-counterfeiting network running for over 30 years. It has 360 business members in all sectors and activities in 120 countries.

REACT Sustains is a program developed by REACT to encourage the sustainable disposal of counterfeited goods. REACT’s ambition is to work towards a complete processing program, preventing any unnecessary destruction of useable components found within counterfeit products, thereby preventing unnecessary pollution and emissions.

The people from REACT need your help in encouraging sustainable processing of counterfeited goods! Dive into questions on component usability for example. You may have ideas on how to recycle of upcycle. Or maybe you are more interested in the legal side and wish to analyze the EU Waste Directive. There are many more complex questions to work on!

Choice 4. Contribute to energy transition: work together with VDL Hydro Systems.

The energy transition is essential to combat global warming. In Europe, agreements aim to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 by reducing CO2 emissions.
The foundation of the energy transition is the shift from fossil energy to green energy (such as wind, solar, and hydropower) where no CO2 emissions occur. The disadvantage of (some of) these energy sources is that they are not always available. Hydrogen is an energy carrier that addresses this problem and is therefore a much-discussed topic in the energy transition. Technologies such as water electrolysis can be used to convert green electricity into hydrogen.

Currently, the costs of hydrogen produced with green electricity are much higher than those of hydrogen produced from fossil sources. As a result, parties looking to go green are waiting until it becomes more economically favorable. Consequently, the supply chain for equipment needed for the energy transition is not progressing.

In partnership with VDL Hydrogen Systems in Eindhoven, the Da Vinci Programme offers a challenge to map out the hydrogen chain in the Netherlands and Europe—from electricity production to application. The goal is to identify and address bottlenecks that could delay the development of the European hydrogen economy. Based on these insights, you will explore how VDL can contribute to the transition to green hydrogen. You will not only develop recommendations but also design interventions, build prototypes, and test them.

VDL Hydrogen Systems in Eindhoven develops sustainable energy systems with a focus on energy storage and conversion. It develops electrolysers with which green hydrogen can be produced. VDL Energy System is developing a series of mobile hydrogen fuel cell generators to convert hydrogen into electrical energy called Hydrogen Power Units in the range from 50 KW to 500 KW and also works on the development of Alkaline and Solid Oxide based technologies.


  • Start: September 9th, 2024
  • End: February 7th, 2025
  • Study load: 30 EC
  • Language: English
  • Master students from all disciplines are welcome to join
  • Dates live events will follow.


  • Will be equipped with knowledge, soft and hard skills, and mindset to tackle sustainability challenges.
  • Will get experience on interdisciplinary research, stakeholder management and other leadership skills.
  • Will practice with creative thinking, building and testing prototypes and critical reflection.
  • Will discover how you can add value to an interdisciplinary environment to solve complex problems.
  • Will have gained in-depth knowledge on a specific sustainability issue.


To register send a email to:
Registration ends on the 26th of August. We urge you not to wait, as the number of places is limited!
Note: The Da Vinci programme starts on September 9th 2024 (as opposed to September 2nd 2024, as mentioned on the registration form).

We accept a maximum of 30 students In case the number of applicants exceeds the maximum, a selection will be done by the coordinators of the program, based on three aspects:

  1. We aim to create interdisciplinary student teams, which means ideally an equal representation of alpha, beta, and gamma sciences. Some challenges require certain disciplines and for some challenges particular disciplines are more desirable than others.
  2. Students must submit a video with their motivation when they register for the program.
  3. Students that have registered and submitted a sufficient quality motivation video will be invited for an interview and will be asked to perform an assignment. Based on the criteria of composing the best interdisciplinary teams, the quality of the motivation, the interview and the assignment, the coordinators retain the right to reject students.


Hannah Thuijs