65 years of collaboration in the heart of the Brainport region

January 18, 2022

The heroes of the month of January, the ‘13th month’: our many partners with whom we collaborate in the Brainport region. TU/e was founded by Eindhoven's industry and in our lustrum year we strengthened our bonds with our high-tech Brainport partners.

Collage: Bart van Overbeeke

Without the industry based in Eindhoven, TU/e would not have been founded sixty-five years ago. “Our shared history is long and rich, and we cherish it. We count ourselves lucky to have all the partners we do in the Brainport region, some of them going back to the days when the university was established,” says a proud Robert-Jan Smits, President of the Executive Board of TU/e. “These bonds with ASML, DAF, Philips, NXP, VDL and Prodrive Technologies, among others, are stronger than ever after sixty-five years and hugely important to both parties. In the triple helix collaboration that makes our region so unique a special role is played by the municipality of Eindhoven.”

TU/e scores high in the rankings when it comes to the collaboration between research and industry. The seeds of these close ties were sown back in 1946 in the living room of DAF founder Hub van Doorne. To a Brainport meeting avant la lettre, he had invited, among others, industrialist Frits Philips and Jan de Quay, then Queen's Commissioner of North Brabant. Everyone present was keenly aware that the south of the country needed its own technical college of higher education, to produce well-trained technical staff for the region. This was the first step towards the Technische Hogeschool Eindhoven, founded in 1956.

Over the years, DAF and Philips continued to support the college of higher education (and later TU/e) in diverse fields. One avenue of support, for example, aimed to turn Eindhoven into a vibrant student city. Van Doorne put a villa at the disposal of the Eindhoven Student Corps and contributed funds to help establish the student cafe AOR (Algemene Ontmoetingsruimte). A few years later both Philips and DAF donated funds towards the construction of the Bunker, which would go on to occupy an illustrious place in the lives of Eindhoven's students.

DAF-president Harry Wolters and TU/e president Robert-Jan Smits. Photo: Odette Beekmans

Appreciation in lustrum year

This involvement between industry and university has never waned. On the contrary, it is today greater and more important than ever. In TU/e's recently concluded lustrum year, DAF PACCAR underlined its good ties with the university by donating a state-of-the-art electron microscope, for research on ‘soft matter’.

“DAF has a strong partnership with TU/e. Over the course of decades we have collaborated on many scientific articles and technical research projects. More than 350 TU/e engineers work at DAF Trucks,” said Harry Wolters, president of DAF Trucks and vice president of PACCAR by way of illustration, as the gift was presented.

Hybrid lecturers

From a host of companies in the Brainport region, high-tech professionals have been coming to our university since 2020 to share their knowledge with students as hybrid lecturers. In this pilot run by Brainport Development, which also involves Fontys University of Applied Sciences, they bring real-world practice into lecture theatres. To date, 54 hybrid lecturers have been engaged by TU/e.

Frank Schuurmans, ASML's vice president of research (r), gives a wafer as a symbolic gift to Professor Martijn Heck, scientific director of the brand new Eindhoven Hendrik Casimir Institute, and to TU/e President Robert-Jan Smits (l). Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

ASML helps new institute

At the opening of the new Eindhoven Hendrik Casimir Institute in September, ASML underlined the strong bond between the company and the university with no fewer than four high-tech gifts, valuing in total 3.5 million euros. One of these is a CD-SEM (critical dimension scanning electron microscope). This is a device for inspecting the dimensions of lithographically produced photonics elements at nano scale. The university is also receiving a direct laser write lithography system, which uses an ultra-precise laser beam to produce micropatterns.

These two pieces of equipment will play an important role in research into microchip technologies of the future. For the rest, ASML is financing the furnishing of the new student labs, and handling the maintenance of TU/e's ASML scanner.

TU/e Executive Board President Robert-Jan Smits said the gifts get the Eindhoven Hendrik Casimir Institute off to a flying start while also helping the university to train to an even higher standard the engineers so needed by this region's employers.

President of Philips Netherlands Sylvia van Es and Robert-Jan Smits affirm the strong collaboration between Philips and TU/e, December 2021. Photo: Bastiaan van Musscher

A bond for life with Philips

Philips and TU/e have been working together for decades; this is one of the world's strongest research collaborations between a company and a university. “There has been a close bond between TU/e and Philips since day one. Together, we focus on accelerating clinical innovations. This innovative power is indispensable to our society and contributes significantly to our common prosperity and well-being,” says Sylvia van Es, President of Philips Netherlands.

In the last thirty years, this collaboration has produced more than three thousand research publications and over the years thousands of TU/e graduates have found positions at Philips.

One-third of our master's alumni start their careers in Brainport. Of our PDEng alumni, an outstanding example of our collaboration with industry, four out of five work in the Brainport region.


Philips and TU/e also collaborate in e/MTIC, the Eindhoven MedTech Innovation Center, which includes Catharina Hospital, Máxima Medical Centre and Kempenhaeghe. Within e/MTIC some one hundred doctoral candidates are currently pursuing medical technology research.

TU/e's president Robert-Jan Smits (left) and Lars Reger (CTO NXP).

NXP: master's grants and cleaner transport

NXP Semiconductors, with its head office in Eindhoven, is an important partner for TU/e. In 2020 the NXP Foundation, NXP's non-profit sister, established a grant program for master's students of Electrical Engineering. Guido Dierick, Country Manager NXP Netherlands, said at the time: “Microchips are becoming ever smaller and extraordinarily complex. This is a challenge for both semiconductor businesses and universities. Good collaboration is therefore more important than ever to enable the Netherlands to continue to lead the field in innovation.”

At the end of 2021 TU/e and NXP announced plans to collaborate on smarter, safer, more comfortable and cleaner transport. Lars Reger, CTO of NXP: “All the products we use in daily life are becoming increasingly intelligent, and cars are the ultimate example. To take over the driver's tasks, cars will use artificial intelligence, allowing them to process and interpret the input from various radars and cameras. This is a good example of a field in which NXP and TU/e will be cooperating more closely.”

Seeking solutions for energy systems with VDL

TU/e and VDL Group are collaborating within the Dutch Electrolyzer consortium to develop technology for electrolyzers, which with electricity can be converted into hydrogen for later use.

“As a university, we take our responsibility to bring about the energy transition seriously. We have excellent in-house researchers working in, among other fields, energy storage and conversion. In addition, the high-tech industry and manufacturing found in the Brainport region are both fantastic and can help with the energy transition. We are clustering these strengths in our energy institute EIRES,” says Executive Board President Robert-Jan Smits.

TU/e's student teams. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

Supporting student teams

Smit cites the many student teams the university is proud to call its own as further beneficiaries of the university's collaboration with all its industrial partners. “Whether by way of knowledge, people or sponsoring, many of our partners support our ambitious student teams. This is wonderful to see and we are hugely appreciative.”

The Gate is located in the Alpha building on TU/e's grounds. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

The Gate for all Brainport start-ups

Lustrum year 2021 saw the launch of another collaboration, involving no fewer than five regional parties: The Gate. This gateway helpdesk for tech start-ups in the Brainport region brings together the strengths of TU/e, Brainport Development, the Brabant Development Agency (BOM), Fontys Universities of Applied Sciences and Summa College. “The Eindhoven region has exceptionally fertile ground for germinating tech-starters,” tells Jeroen van Woerden, director of The Gate. “But students or researchers with an innovative idea often don't have all the knowledge and skills needed to start a successful business. All sorts of facilities are available but the provision was fragmented. Now, with The Gate we are offering a single easy-access helpdesk, the gateway to every kind of expertise.”

“Start-ups are increasingly important for innovation, for economic progress, as well as for providing solutions in such fields as health and sustainability,” explains Robert-Jan Smits. “We strongly encourage our researchers and students to be enterprising. Naturally, this goes hand in hand with providing comprehensive and accessible support, to give their solutions every possible chance of reaching the market. And this applies equally to smart ideas that arise at other knowledge institutions in the region.”

Proud of start-ups

Smits is proud of the many start-ups that have come into being at the university and that have become mature businesses. By way of example, he cites Prodrive Technologies, originally a two-person venture based on the campus that for years now has enjoyed significant success. “Recently, the company has been growing at the rate of 20 percent a year. What's happening there is remarkable.”

Mayor John Jorritsma (left) hands a 3D poem to Robert-Jan Smits during MomenTUm. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

Municipality of Eindhoven

The university's close bond with the municipality of Eindhoven also stretches back years. “What makes this region so strong and unique is the powerful, unfailing wish to collaborate. The university's mindset is always ‘we'll do it together,’” Eindhoven's mayor John Jorritsma once said. “This is how we choose to do things here, because it brings us further, today and in the future. It's in our DNA. I see the university as the beating heart of the Brainport region.”

This appreciation is mutual, Smits points out. “We can count ourselves lucky to have a mayor like John Jorritsma; having a major as committed to the university as he is, that's unique. Someone who is always present at the moments most important to us. We can count on him and on the municipality.”

Brainport-wide challenge for the future

The cooperative alliances that TU/e has built over sixty-five years, will be much needed in the coming period as a considerable but positive challenge is faced, says Smits. “The growth of the high-tech sector within the Brainport region is gigantic. ASML, for example, is currently experiencing a growth spurt taking it from 25,000 to some 35,000 in the space of a few years. We are facing a quantum leap in scale and must ensure that the city and the region are ready and able to attract talent and retain it. Think of more housing, a good mobility plan, and the expansion of the cultural activities on offer. We can achieve all this only if we cluster our strengths within the triple helix of industry, knowledge institutions and government - driven by Brainport Development and with TU/e as its beating heart. It is a big challenge, but we're ready to take it on, together!”

STRONG IN THE STORM - together with our Brainport partners

‘We may be caught up in the same storm, but we're not in the same boat.’ This has been said often enough during the corona crisis. Confronted with all manner of personal challenges, in both their work and private lives, people having been finding their own way of responding - with resilience, by trial and error.

The TU/e organization is well aware that its students, employees and industrial partners have also demonstrated resilience during the pandemic; that they are keeping not only themselves but also each other and the university afloat in times that are often uncertain. And this made the lustrum theme of the 65-year-old university, ‘Heroes like You’, more appropriate than we could ever have imagined. So, every month in this spot throughout the past lustrum year we put a group of TU/e heroes in the limelight in recognition of their ‘heroic deeds’.

We felt it highly appropriate to add a '13th month' to this series. Executive Board President Robert-Jan Smits: “The many partners within the Brainport region are of inestimable value to our university. This cried out for a thirteenth month in this series. And so the heroes of the month in this extra installment are our collaborative partners in the Brainport region. To show how much we value the close bonds we have with so many different companies and institutions.”

Brigit Span
(Corporate Storyteller)

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