Strategic Alliance Eindhoven-Utrecht
Since 2010, Utrecht University, Eindhoven University of Technology and UMC Utrecht have been collaborating. Their cooperation extends from research and education to knowledge valorisation. The unique expertise of each of the participating institutions converge in one creative hotbed. One example has been the successes booked in the area of regenerative medicine, where fundamental science is combined with both the technical and clinical approaches.

In January 2017, the three institutions have taken a further step in strengthening their existing bonds in research, education and knowledge valorisation and in building on those areas in which they complement one another. In earlier years, the focus in the alliance had lied in the areas of climate and energy, sport and vitality, porous media, medical imaging and regenerative medicine.

Preferred partnership
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 Utrecht its clinical research and relationship with patients. 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 Master’s program has been jointly developed in the field of biomedical technology. And more recently, the University of Utrecht and Eindhoven University of Technology have kicked off a joint bachelor course in porous media (which has applications in the fields of energy and medicine).

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. This also builds upon the strength of the Utrecht and North Brabant regions, both ranking amongst 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. 

Examples of joint-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.

Vitality programme
The research groups ‘People Sports Vitality’ (TUe) and Healthy Urban Living (UU) have joined forces with Sport & Society (UU and UMCU). Their joint ‘Vitality’ programme focuses on the social issue of inactivity. The programme’s objective is to create an (inter)national centre for research and education aimed at grassroots sports and physical activities.

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.

Within the alliance, Eindhoven University of Technology and the Faculty of Medicine of Utrecht Universityhave developed a Special Master’s track, named Regenerative Medicine and Technology (RMT). This Special Master’s track, which started in September 2012, aims to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers in regenerative medicine and technology. Students gain access to state-of-the-art laboratories at both universities. The program trains multidisciplinary researchers to innovate at the intersection of biomedical science, technology and clinical applications

Graduate Program Solar Fuels
Professors Hensen (TU/e) and Weckhuysen (UU) have set 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).

New elective package bachelor: porous media
Utrecht University and Eindhoven University of Technology have designed a new package, which will provide students with an overview of the fundamentals and applications of porous media flow, such as groundwater remediation, oil and gas production, blood flow in medical tissues and geothermal energy, based on the fundamentals of mass, momentum and energy transfer. Both analytical and numerical techniques will be used and an overview of experimental approaches will be given.

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.

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