Vier samenwerkende teams van verschillende disciplines binnen de strategische alliantie TU/e, WUR, UU en UMC Utrecht ontvangen vandaag een Unusual Collaborations Grant. Het Centre for Unusual Collaborations (CUCo) heeft projecten gehonoreerd die ongebruikelijk zijn op het gebied van samenwerking, gebruikte methodes en de resultaten. Ook de hoogte van de toekenningen zijn ongebruikelijk tot stand gekomen: in goed overleg met alle partijen is een verdeling van het geld gemaakt. In totaal is er 830.000 euro verdeeld.

Het Centre for Unusual Collaborations heeft tot doel om ongewone samenwerking tussen de instellingen binnen de alliantie te stimuleren om zo tot ongebruikelijke oplossingen voor mondiale problemen te komen. Jessica Duncan, lid van de werkgroep Unusual Collaborations: ‘interacties tussen verschillende disciplines, die normaal nooit samenwerken, zorgen ervoor dat we buiten onze disciplinaire comfortzone stappen en met een nieuwe en frisse blik naar maatschappelijke issues kijken.’

Ongebruikelijke werkwijze

Om ervoor te zorgen dat een maximaal aantal projecten kon worden gehonoreerd, heeft het CUCo gekozen voor een ongebruikelijke werkwijze.  De deelnemende teams is gevraagd om in gezamenlijkheid te bepalen hoe het geld verdeeld kan worden over de verschillende projecten. Jessica Duncan legt uit: ‘hoewel het ongebruikelijk is, heeft het ons allemaal gestimuleerd om outside the box te denken. Uiteindelijk hebben we ons doel bereikt: het op gemeenschappelijke basis financieren van vier mooie projecten.’

Unusual Collaborations Grant

De Unusual Collaborations subsidies zijn bedoeld voor interdisciplinaire teams die verbonden zijn aan de meerdere instellingen binnen de strategische alliantie. Ze kunnen het geld gebruiken om hun projecten verder te ontwikkelen en uit te voeren. Minimaal één lid van het team is ook lid van de Young Academie van een van de instellingen.


De volgende vier projecten zijn gehonoreerd:

Structures of Strength: Unusual Collaborations on Porous Material: A Solution for Health, Food and Environmental Challenges – Maarten Smulders (WUR), Pariya Behrouzi (WUR), Amir Raoof (UU), Sanli Faez (UU), Mike Boxem (UU), Marjolijn Bol (UU), Noortje Ijssennagger (UMC Utrecht), Yvonne Vercoulen (UMC Utrecht)

Within this project a platform will be created where a team of researchers from diverse fields such as biology, medicine, culture, history, engineering and mathematics come together around the problem of porous materials. Around this common ground – porous materials are everywhere – they will work together and learn from each other in order to combine their knowledge and create solutions related to health, food, energy, cultural and environmental issues. Knowledge and insights related to bio-medicine and cultural heritage are combined to find innovative solutions. These – at first sight unrelated – disciplines have hidden similarities related to porous materials.

Jury report: “Porous materials are everywhere – body tissues, bones, foods, fabrics, batteries, filters, bricks and paints. This seemingly simple observation reveals the hidden similarities, the  common ground between all these disciplines. From there, a unique kind of synergy can be created, with broad applicability.”

“This excellent and original project will bring together a great variety of disciplines working on porous materials in order to effectively learn from each other’s methodology.”

Towards a Data-driven Dashboard to Support a Socially-just Transition to Circular AgricultureRuud JG van Sloun, (TU/e), Fons van der Sommen (TU/e), Hilje van der Horst (WUR), Wilma Steeneveld (UU)

The project proposes to develop a unique data-driven circular farming dashboard that provides actionable insight at a local, regional, and ultimately national level in order to support a socially just transition to circular agriculture, with the involvement of a broad range of stakeholders. This dashboard incorporates knowledge from a large-scale sensor, vision, and data logging network.

Jury report: “This project is unusual in its combination of young academics with expertise in data science, agricultural business economics, veterinary sciences, and sociology, together with agricultural and societal stakeholders.”

“This project will engage and bring together a truly unusual variety of societal stakeholders, such as farming, consumer and environmental organisations for bird protection, nature conservation and rural recreation.”

“This collaboration is not only unusual, but necessary!”

The Power of One: Towards the Representation of Unheard and Unseen Individuals in the Hospital, Workplace and NeighbourhoodDaniel Lakens (TU/e), Mathias Funk (TU/e), Daniel Tetteroo (TU/e), Monique Simons (WUR), Jojanneke van der Toorn (UU), Merel van Goch (UU), Martine Veldhuizen (UU), Lieke Stelling (UU), Marianne Boes (UMC Utrecht)

The project aims to find ways to collect data of people currently not included in abstract categories, datasets, or algorithms and will thus improve understanding of the mismatch between the studied sample and the underlying population, and formulate suggestions to make data collection efforts more inclusive. The project will do so by collaborating with professionals in the field to identify people who are not represented by the data used by researchers and governments to make decisions. The project sees the unseen and hears the unheard.

Jury report: “This project is truly uncovered ground and the highly unusual team will reach and engage people who are not the usual suspects.”

“One of the promised outcomes is a glossary of research terms that create confusion when used across disciplines. This self-reflexive and meta-level approach is a model of a successful unusual collaboration.”

Defeating Chronic Pain – Yoeri van de Burgt (TU/e), Sylvia Brugman (WUR), Laura Winkens (WUR), Tessa van Charldorp (UU), Madelijn Strick (UU), Janny de Grauw (UU), Frank Meye (UMC Utrecht), Martijn Froeling (UMC Utrecht), Hanneke Willemen (UMC Utrecht), M. Rijsdijk (UMC Utrecht)

This unusual collaboration aims to better understand what chronic pain actually is to those experiencing it, before redefining pain phenotypes. The project’s approach will be first to explore how to come to a multidisciplinary, multifaceted (re)definition of chronic pain in both animals and humans by combining the available expertise and knowledge within ten research disciplines. It will supplement this with input and feedback from chronic pain patients. Second, the project will uncover what new pain phenotypes can be defined to better understand a patients’ pain experience.

Jury report: “This project is unusual not only because it brings together such a diverse set of disciplines around the urgent problem of chronic pain, but also by involving chronic pain patients and animal owners in the process. This will enable them to tackle chronic pain from many different perspectives.”