17 grants awarded for public-private research within the Science PPP fund

18 January 2019

The NWO Science Domain Board has awarded 17 projects funding within the Science PPP fund. Subjects include enzymatic reactions in blood coagulation, social protein networks in cells, and converting wastewater into polymers. With this funding round, about 5 million euros has been made available for collaboration between research and industry in the Top Sectors Chemistry, Energy, ICT, and High Tech Systems & Materials (HTSM).

In April 2018, NWO opened the Science PPP fund. This fund encourages collaboration between industry and knowledge institutions within the Top Sectors Chemistry, Energy, High Tech Systems & Materials and ICT. Project proposals must fit within the knowledge and innovation agendas of these top sectors. At the start of February 2019, NWO Science will open a new PPP fund with an open competition for bottom-up PPP proposals that fit in the Top Sectors Chemistry, Energy, HTSM, Agri&Food, and ICT.


Within this funding round, four  different types of funding were available per top sector.

  • KIEM (Knowledge Innovation Mapping) for the Top Sectors Chemistry, Energy, ICT and HTSM. In KIEM projects, researchers work together with SMEs for several months and share the knowledge acquired. A KIEM project has a budget of 20,000 to 50,000 euros; the SME contributes 20% of the costs. In this round, seven project proposals were awarded funding.
  • LIFT (Launchpad for Innovative Future Technology) for the Top Sectors Chemistry, Energy and ICT. LIFT is intended for public-private partnerships between at least one company and at least one knowledge institution, which jointly tackle the knowledge and/or innovation question of the participating industry. The private contribution to LIFT is 25% in cash. In this round, eight project proposals were awarded funding.
  • TA (Technology Area) for the Top Sector Chemistry. A TA grant is intended for a public-private partnership between at least two companies and at least two knowledge institutions. In this round, one TA project was awarded funding; 1.4 million euros went to the consortium led by Albert Heck (Utrecht University). Industry funds 30% of a TA project.
  • IPP (Industrial Partnership Programme) for the Top Sector HTSM. IPP is a project form for large public-private partnerships intended for consortia in which at least one company funds 50% of the project. In this round, one IPP with a budget of 1 million euros was awarded to a consortium led by Jom Luiten (Eindhoven University of Technology).


For more information about the funding possibilities for research in public-private partnerships, see https://www.nwo.nl/en/research-and-results/programmes/ENW+PPS+Fund.

Seven new KIEM projects

Optimal Biometric Recognition under Encryption (OBRE)
Prof. Raymond Veldhuis, University of Twente
Consortium: University of Twente, GenKey
Biometric data, such as fingerprints, are personal data. Storing such data entails privacy risks that fingerprints must be protected against. Encryption only provides a partial solution because the data must be decrypted for the recognition of the fingerprint. Homomorphic encryption can be used to realise biometric recognition with encrypted fingerprints and therefore without the need for decryption. At the University of Twente, a method for biometric recognition under homomorphic encryption has been devised that is faster and more reliable than existing methods. This project will make this basic method suitable for use by GenKey in its fingerprint recognition systems.

New medicine conjugates for an improved uptake
Dr Thomas Boltje, Radboud University
Consortium: Radboud University, PharmaCytics BV
The background to this project is the huge demand from the market for more efficient drug delivery technologies. These must ensure that the body takes up oral medication better as a result of which lower doses can be used and side effects can be mitigated. This project will investigate a new administrative form for which special medicine conjugates will be produced that use the principles of nutrients to be able to pass through the intestinal wall.

Mathematical model for dataflow analysis
Dr Marc Geilen, Eindhoven University of Technology
Consortium: Eindhoven University of Technology, ModelTech
Lithographic scanners, X-ray imaging systems, digital printers and smart TVs all use digital signal processing to control actuators and process audio/video, for example. Scenario-Aware Dataflow has been introduced to adequately specify the dynamics in modern signal processing functionality. This mathematical model also supports the analysis of functional and performance characteristics, such as the absence of deadlocks, throughput (for example the number of processed video frames per second) and latency (such as processing time). This type of analyses is not available in standard commercial tools such as Matlab Simulink or LabView. This project will investigate practical ways to realise the evaluation of boundedness of Scenario-Aware Dataflow so that it can be used in industry. Boundedness makes the stable implementation and analysis of the signal processing functionality for a finite quantity of memory possible.

Polymers from wastewater
Dr Adrie Straathof, Delft University of Technology
Consortium: Delft University of Technology, Greencovery BV
In a circular economy, no waste streams are produced. Various companies want to ensure zero emission for their installations by adding value to the components from their waste streams. Our new technology facilitates the implementation of this concept by extracting carboxylic acids from diluted aqueous solutions through the use of ion exchange and CO2-expanded alcohol. The technology is less intensive than the current processes because mild conditions are used and no new waste streams arise. This technology can be used to convert wastewater into polymers.

Cost-effective protein repelling coatings for point-of-care diagnostics
Prof. Han Zuilhof, Wageningen University and Research
Consortium: Wageningen University & Research, Aquamarijn Micro Filtration BV
Undesirable, non-specific adsorption of proteins to surfaces is a problem in the use of medical devices. This process occurs as soon as foreign materials come into contact with biological fluids such as blood. This leads to problems in the use of biomedical appliances such as biosensors. Consequently, there is a need for simple polymerisation techniques for applying protein-repelling polymers to complex microfluidic chips for biomedical applications. This project will develop a cost-effective and scalable approach for the coating of microfluidic chips. The coatings developed will subsequently be used in point-of-care (POC) diagnostic tests.

Discarded electrodes from the steel industry as a source of functional nanomaterials
Prof. Harry Bitter, Wageningen University and Research
Consortium: Wageningen University and Research, Graphinnovat BV
Discarded electrodes that were used for the production of steel form a waste source that can be used for the production of chemically modified nano-graphite. With the help of an innovative chemical-mechanical processing technique, nano-graphite can be produced in an efficient, sustainable and upscalable manner. The consortium will investigate how the properties of this material correlate with the conditions of the chemical-mechanical processing. Modified nano-graphite has a huge potential for high-value applications, such as batteries, solar cells, catalysts, (ad)sorption materials and (highly) conductive coatings.

Personalised and radiation-free treatment pathway for shoulder instability based on artificial intelligence and 3D printed implants
Prof. Harrie Weinans, Delft University of Technology
Consortium: Delft University of Technology, UMC Utrecht, MRIguidance BV, Meander MC, Stichting Protospace
Shoulder instability is a frequently occurring disorder in young people (prevalence 2%) that leads to disabling complaints and severe limitations in sport, daily life and work. The current diagnosis and treatment trajectory consists of an X-ray photo, MRI and CT scan that are time-consuming and expensive and expose patients to harmful radiation. In cases of significant bone loss, a piece of bone is sawn from the shoulder and placed against the bone defect. This non-personalised approach can lead to complications. This project seeks to develop a more efficient, personalised treatment trajectory that uses a BoneMRI based on artificial intelligence in combination with patient-specific, 3D-printed titanium prostheses. This treatment pathway should be more effective, safer for the patient, and provide a healthy business case for the medical specialist and the medical suppliers.

Eight new LIFT projects

Smart stickers to combat food waste
Prof. Albert Schenning, Eindhoven University of Technology
Consortium: Eindhoven University of Technology, FreshStrips FnB BV
The current globalised supply chain involves a lot of food waste that has both economic and ecological consequences. Smart monitoring techniques are the key to counteracting food waste while at the same time guaranteeing the freshness and safety of refrigerated products. In this project, sensors without batteries will be developed that change colour according to their temperature history so that is easy to tell whether the product is still fresh enough, thereby combatting waste.

New materials from biomass – can we produce these in an environmentally friendly manner?
Dr Evgeny Pidko, Delft University of Technology
Consortium: Delft University of Technology, Croda International
Converting fatty acids into "fatty acid esters" and "fatty alcohols" is a crucial step in the production of so-called platform chemicals from biomass, which are used in many high-tech and practical materials. Fatty acids can be extracted from biomass or old frying fat, for example, which, in principle, makes this production method CO2-neutral. Although the technique works, its industrial application is difficult because at present, a relatively large amount of catalyst, high pressures and high temperatures are required for the reaction to proceed well. We will study this reaction under realistic conditions to make the industrial production of fatty acid esters and fatty alcohols possible in an environmentally friendly and CO2-neutral manner.

Producing fuel from fresh air
Prof. Richard van de Sanden, DIFFER
Consortium: DIFFER, Toyota Motor Europe
If we replace fossil fuels with sustainable energy sources, then greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and climate change counteracted. However, the most sustainable energy technology produces electricity, which is difficult to store or transport. By splitting water with energy from sunlight we can produce "solar hydrogen" as an alternative for fossil fuel. Existing designs use liquid water for this. This project will investigate a design for solar hydrogen that uses water from fresh air and can therefore be used in remote areas or along roads without flowing water.

Expanding the toolkit of yeast

Prof. Marco Fraaije, University of Groningen
Consortium: University of Groningen, DSM, Syngenta
Yeast is used for many biotechnological processes due to the large range of yeast enzymes. Nevertheless, bacteria have been found to possess a class of enzymes not available to yeast. This project will develop a yeast in which these enzymes can also be used. That will increase the deployability of yeast for biotechnological processes.

Atomic resolution membrane receptor structure in the cell
Dr Gert Folkers, Utrecht University
Consortium: Utrecht University, Servier (France)
About half of all available medicines are aimed at membrane receptors. Reliable information about structures is vital for the development of new medicines. Obtaining high-resolution membrane receptor structures is complicated because these dynamic proteins are difficult to purify. The consortium will study these proteins in their native environment: the cell membrane. Medicine-dependent changes in the structure and motility of membrane receptors will be investigated using solid-state NMR. This knowledge could explain how receptors transmit external signals. Methods developed might provide possibilities for medicine development that depends on the membrane receptor structure.

Light-emitting molecules as crucial beacons for following blood coagulation
Prof. Floris Rutjes, Radboud University
Consortium: Radboud University, Enzyre BV
This project will identify complex detection molecules that can be used to easily measure the activity of enzymatic reactions in blood coagulation. At present, these molecules, which emit more light as an enzyme becomes more active, are individually synthesised and tested, which is a labour-intensive process. We propose an innovative new synthesis method with which large quantities of detection molecules can be synthesised and tested at the same time. Subsequently, suitable molecules can be further optimised for use in a diagnostic test.

Software development for autonomous cars
Dr Efstratios Gavves (University of Amsterdam)
Consortium: University of Amsterdam, BMW
The future of the car industry lies in entirely autonomous, self-driving cars. These require an advanced autonomous navigation system that heavily depends on artificial intelligence algorithms and is fed by the power of Big Data. A completely autonomous car will only be used in practice if the automatic navigation algorithms are safe, comfortable and make socially aware driving possible. This project will develop such automatic navigation algorithms for the next generation of BMW autonomous vehicles.

Sustainable production of aromatic chemical building blocks from sugar
Prof. Pieter Bruijnincx, Utrecht University
Consortium: Utrecht University, Klüber Lubrication, TNO/Biorizon
The growing demand for plastics, coatings and other products means that we need to carefully examine how sustainably we can produce the chemical building blocks used for these products. We will develop a new conversion route that, with the help of catalysis, can convert the sugars in non-edible biomass into bio-aromatics, an important category of these building blocks.

TA and IPP projects

Making social protein networks in the cell comprehensible
Main applicant: Prof. Albert Heck, Utrecht University
Consortium: Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research and Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, Wageningen University & Research, ThermoFisher Scientific-FEI, Protein Metrics
A wide range of proteins occurs in each cell of the organism, which collaborate with each other (and other biomolecules) to enable the proper functioning of the cell. This project will further develop several advanced biotechniques, bring these together and integrate them. We are doing this so that eventually the social network of interactions can be fully and dynamically described and visualised. This will enable us to understand exactly how life in the cell works.

Dynamic Phase Space Shaping
Main applicant: Prof. Jom Luiten, Eindhoven University of Technology
Consortium: Eindhoven University of Technology, ThermoFischer
An important aspect of developing new materials is being able to study them at the atomic level. The research group of Prof. Jom Luiten (Eindhoven University of Technology), together with international company ThermoFisher, will further develop electron microscopy so that it can examine materials at an even higher resolution than was previously possible.


Source: NWO