Strategic Alliance Eindhoven-Utrecht

From now on, Utrecht University , Eindhoven University of Technology and UMC Utrecht will be cooperating in an alliance. Their cooperation will extend from research and education to knowledge valorization and operations. This will unite in one creative hotbed the fundamental approach with the technical and clinical approaches. The three institutions are strengthening their existing bonds in research, education and knowledge valorization and are building on those areas in which they complement one another. The focus in the alliance lies on renewable energy, medical image processing, medical imaging and regenerative medicine.

Preferred parntership
The preferred partnership offers the partners greater access to each other’s science parks. TU/e is contributing its technology and applications of scientific concepts, Utrecht University its fundamental research and UMC Utrechtits clinical research and patient care. The partners are investing in joint research, have created part-time appointments for each other’s professors and are offering their students access to each other’s education. A new Master’s program has been jointly developed in the field of biomedical technology. With the preferred partnership, the three institutions have taken an important step towards close and long-term cooperation.

Competitive position
The cooperative alliance is very much in line with the recommendations of the Veerman Committee. In the spring of 2010 the committee urged the universities to choose a profile and to pursue cooperation. The Utrecht region and the Brabant region both number among the Europe’s top-10 most competitive regions. The continued development of a shared, high-quality scientific knowledge infrastructure will help reinforce the competitive position of both regions.

Research

Medical imaging
UMC Utrecht, Utrecht University, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and Philips have clustered their knowledge, expertise and innovative power to collaboratively research and develop new methods of diagnosis and treatment involving medical imaging. Within the Innovative Medical Devices Initiative, they are concentrating on the more effective treatment of cancer, brain diseases and heart and vascular diseases. The consortium is directing its energies at the development of new minimally invasive, image-driven treatments that are based on high- precision MRI and X-ray imaging. The remit also includes the development of navigation technologies designed to increase the accuracy of treatments of this type and reduce their complexity. In short, ‘Operating without cutting.’

Regenerative medicine
Repairing damaged tissues or organs using the patient’s own living tissues and cells; this is the essence of regenerative medicine. Stem cells have a key role to play in this process. They provide the material for cultivating blood vessels, heart muscle or bone fragments. TU/e and UMC Utrecht are also cooperating in the field of regenerative medicine. An example: the group in Utrecht is keen to research tissue repair and the behavior of stem cells under conditions found in the body, for example under certain pressure or traction. The group in Eindhoven is able to simulate an environment in which such testing is possible.

Solar Fuels
The sun provides sufficient energy to meet the needs of the entire world population indefinitely. Today’s most important research question is: how can we capture this energy effectively and efficiently and store it for use at a later date? The Solar Fuels graduate program examines whether and how catalysis can be used to produce fuels directly from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. This is a research project in which eventually it will become necessary to integrate expertise in such fields as spectroscopy, molecular catalysis, electrocatalysis and photocatalysis. The dream we cherish is to be able to take CO2 from the air and, with the aid of sunlight, convert it to liquid fuel. This and other fuel conversions depend entirely on catalysts.

Education

The alliance has developed the two-year Master’s program entitled Regenerative Medicine & Technology. This MSc trains multidisciplinary scientific researchers who can work at the interface of biomedical sciences, technology and clinical application.

SUMMA-tech
As of the academic year 2013–2014, the cooperation in education will be expanded; the selective medical SUMMA  Master’s program (‘Selective Utrecht Medical Master’) will acquire a major field for students with an affinity for the technical side of things: the SUMMA-tech. This track is intended for students keen to combine patient care with research into new medical technologies. As well as medical theory and practice, SUMMA includes a substantial scientific component. The MSc is a four-year program.

Graduate Program Solar Fuels
In education, Professors Hensen (TU/e) and Weckhuysen (UU) are setting up a Solar Fuels Catalysis Graduate Program for Master’s students and doctoral candidates. University of Twente and Leiden university are also participating. Students follow a set of electives in Solar Fuels that helps prepare them for a doctoral position. The program includes internship-like assignments and final projects at two universities. In September 2012 the application submitted by the Netherlands Institute for Catalysis Research (NIOK) for the development of the Graduate Program was approved by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

Innovation

The consortium partners stand much to gain from sharing their knowledge and valuable, complex innovation facilities, such as UMC Utrecht’s clinical laboratories and Eindhoven’s excellence in microscopy. Cooperation becomes easier  and innovation is accelerated. The accumulated knowledge, methodology, software and technology of academic science and industrial R&D will translate to the industrial production of new systems that can be applied in practice.