'Gravitation' for Bouten, Buhrman, Dogterom and Mummery

8 May 2017

Once again six research teams of top scientists from various Dutch universities have received funding to jointly set up excellent scientific research programmes in the coming years. The Dutch Minister of Education Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, has made a total amount of 112.8 million euros available. In science, the teams of Carlijn Bouten (TUE), Harry Buhrman (CWI/UvA), Marileen Dogterom (TUD) and Christine Mummery (LUMC) are granted 18.8 million euros for their research.

The programmes awarded funding concern research in the area of regenerative medicine that makes use of the regenerative capability of the body to heal damaged or diseased tissues and organs, quantum computers and quantum networks, the construction of an artificial biological cell, research based on the Greco-Roman world, research into the origin, development and characteristics of sustainable cooperation, and the development of miniature organs on microchips for specific diseases.

University research at top level

With the grants, the researchers will be able to do top-level university research for a period of ten years and collaborate at the highest scientific level.
The grants are part of 'Zwaartekracht', the Gravitation programme funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) selected the research groups on behalf of the Ministry. In the groups, researchers from various universities work together on setting up excellent scientific research programmes. The last grants were awarded in 2013.

Minister Bussemaker emphasised the importance of fundamental research: 'With this we encourage curiosity-driven, free and curiosity-driven research that is vitally important for realising breakthroughs. I am pleased that on this occasion research proposals within the humanities and social sciences have been awarded funding as well.'

Furthermore, Minister Bussemaker was enthusiastic about the diversity of men and women within the consortia: 'Diversity within science is important. Four of the six main applicants are women and a large proportion of the researchers within the consortia are women. That was not the case in previous rounds.'

Selection procedure

NWO received 37 applications for funding within Gravitation. The assessment, comparison of the applications and selection was performed by expert referees and an international independent committee of researchers with a broad knowledge of scientific developments and experience with large scientific research groups.

Summaries of projects awarded funding in Gravitation call 2016-2017

Materials-driven regeneration: Regenerating tissue and organ function with intelligent, life-like materials
Team: Prof. C.V.C. Bouten (Eindhoven University of Technology, main applicant), Prof. M.C. Verhaar (University Medical Center Utrecht), Prof. P. Habibovic (Maastricht University), Prof. E.W. Meijer (Eindhoven University of Technology), Prof. J.C. Clevers (Hubrecht Institute) and Prof. C.A. van Blitterswijk (Maastricht University).
Official secretary: Eindhoven University of Technology.
Regenerative medicine makes use of the regenerative capability of the human body to heal damaged or diseased tissues and organs. In the Center for Materials-Driven Regeneration, materials scientists, cell biologists, tissue engineers and medical scientists are jointly working on a new approach in which intelligent materials are used to coax the body into restoring itself. With this multidisciplinary approach, the consortium wants to tackle one of the biggest and costliest challenges of healthcare: the cure of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, and organ diseases such as kidney failure.

Quantum Software Consortium
Team: Prof. D. Bouwmeester (Leiden University), Prof. H.M. Buhrman (CWI/ University of Amsterdam, main applicant), Prof. R. Cramer (CWI/Leiden University), Prof. R. Hanson (Delft University of Technology), Prof. S.D.C. Wehner (Delft University of Technology), Prof. R. de Wolf (CWI/University of Amsterdam).
Official secretary: Leiden University.
Quantum computers and quantum networks have the potential to radically change information and communication technology due to the power of quantum superposition, interference and entanglement. Several applications of such quantum computers and networks have been known since the 1990s but these require large-scale systems that still lie in the future. Smaller systems (with a very limited number of quantum bits) already exist and slightly larger quantum computers and networks will be available in the near future. This will make it possible for the first time to program quantum computers and networks as well as to develop and test the software for these. The Quantum Software Consortium will bring together researchers from computer science, mathematics and physics to invent and demonstrate the first applications for these computers and the internet of the future.
For more information about this programmae, please see the CWI website

BaSyC – Building a Synthetic Cell
Team: Prof. A.M. Dogterom (Delft University of Technology, main applicant), Prof. G.H. Koenderink (AMOLF), Prof. B. Poolman (University of Groningen), Prof. J. van der Oost (Wageningen University), Prof. W.T.S. Huck (Radboud University) and Prof. C. Dekker (Delft University of Technology).
Official secretary: Delft University of Technology.
The construction of an artificial biological cell is one of the biggest scientific challenges of the 21st-century. We have an extensive knowledge of the molecular building blocks that form the basis of life but we do not understand how these building blocks work together to make life possible. Therefore in BaSyC we will bring together our knowledge in chemistry, physics and biology to construct a synthetic cell by using a bottom-up approach. In other words we will combine the biomolecular building blocks to make an autonomous cell that can maintain itself, grow and divide.
A fundamental understanding of life in a cell will lead to enormous intellectual, scientific and technological benefits. Yet at the same time it will elicit philosophical and ethical questions about how society can best use the new insights and possibilities.

Netherlands Organ-on-Chip Initiative
Team: Prof. M.D. Ferrari (Leiden University Medical Center), Prof. J.C. Clevers (Hubrecht Institute), Prof. C.L. Mummery (Leiden University Medical Center, main applicant), Prof. P.M. Sarro (Delft University of Technology), Prof. A. van den Berg (University of Twente) and Prof. C. Wijmenga (University Medical Center Groningen).
Official secretary: Leiden University.
For many common diseases in humans, there are no good laboratory models to study the condition. Using stem cells from patients we will develop 'disease-specific miniature organs on microchips' to investigate precise mechanisms underlying diseases of the heart, brain and intestine and the effects of intestinal bacteria and drugs on these processes. Simulating and studying the smallest functional building blocks of these tissues in 'organs-on-a-chip' will allow us to identify new drug targets. Linking organ chips together will also allow us to investigate how diseased organs and intestinal bacteria influence each other. With this approach we hope to learn more about how certain diseases arise and how they might be treated.

Anchoring Innovation
Team: Prof. A.P.M.H. Lardinois (Radboud University), Prof. J.H. Blok (Utrecht University), Prof. C.H.M. Kroon (University of Amsterdam), Prof. L. de Ligt (Leiden University), Prof. I. Sluiter (Leiden University, main applicant) and Prof. M.J. Versluys (Leiden University).
Official secretary: Radboud University.
The ancient Greeks and Romans were great innovators. New ideas abounded in science and technology, literature and arts, politics, the economy and many other domains of life. How did those innovations come about? How do inventions and new ideas turn into actual (accepted) innovation? This is studied by a team of Dutch classicists (OIKOS).
Our hypothesis is that tradition and innovation are not simply juxtaposed or even opposed. In successful innovations, people perceive a meaningful coherence between the new and the familiar. For this multifaceted phenomenon OIKOS uses the concept of 'anchoring'. Developing this concept in an investigation of Greco-Roman antiquity results in a new and better understanding of innovation processes of all times.

SCOOP: Sustainable Cooperation - Roadmaps to a Resilient Society
Team: Prof. N. Ellemers (Utrecht University), Prof. M. van Hees (VU University Amsterdam), Prof. T. van der Lippe (Utrecht University), Prof. R. Spears (University of Groningen), Prof. B. van Bavel (Utrecht University) and Prof. R.P.M. Wittek (University of Groningen, main applicant).
Official secretary: University of Groningen.
Cooperation is key to resilient families, communities, and organizations. Through cooperation, individuals can realize benefits they cannot achieve on their own. But why do some cooperative arrangements decline, whereas others remain impressively stable and thrive? Will our current cooperative arrangements remain effective when confronted with major societal transformations, like population aging, mass migration, and the digital revolution? Integrating the expertise of sociologists, psychologists, historians and philosophers, SCOOP investigates novel solutions to enhance sustainable cooperation in the domains of care, work, and inclusion. An innovative mixed-method research design assesses their effectiveness and delivers evidence-based policy advice.


Source: NWO