Four awards in programme Living Labs in the Dutch Delta

16 July 2019

Four research projects within the programme Living Labs in the Dutch Delta will start. These concern large-scale nature based interventions in the coastal and river area: the Sand Motor and Hondsbossche Duinen, the Hedwige-Prosper polder and the Grensmaas. The projects will develop knowledge that improves water security and the resilience of the water system. The programme is a collaboration between fundamental and applied research, developed by NWO, the Taskforce for Applied Research (NPRO-SIA) and various public and private partners within the National Water and Climate Knowledge and Innovation Programme (NKWK).

As a low-lying delta, the Netherlands must prepare itself for the possible consequences of sea-level rise, ground subsidence, climate change and the increasing human pressure. This programme contributes to that through knowledge development via a joint effort of researchers, government and the private sector. The PPP programme is part of the NWO work programme 2018-2019 for the Top Sector Water & Maritime. The Taskforce for Applied Research (NPRO-SIA) is funding the participation of universities of applied sciences in each of the research projects. The substantive framework of the programme was developed in collaboration with the National Water and Climate Knowledge and Innovation Programme (NKWK). Various partners from this network have made financial contributions to the programme: Delta Programma; Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality; Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management; Rijkswaterstaat; STOWA; Boskalis; Van Oord; a consortium of consultancy firms (Arcadis, HKV, LievenseCSO, Royal HaskoningDHV, Svasek and Witteveen+Bos).

Assessment procedure

After a pre-proposal and joint workshop, the selection committee assessed twelve full proposals. Based on the advice of the selection committee, the NWO Science Domain Board decided to award four projects the joint amount of 4.6 million euros.


The starting point for the projects is making use of sediments and natural dynamics to improve flood security and spatial quality. The physical locations serve as a living lab for researchers from universities, universities of applied sciences and applied knowledge institutions where they can work together with companies and government bodies at the interface of geosciences, ecology and the related social and economic aspects. Ten different knowledge institutions and 26 public and private partners are involved in the four projects. A total of 11 PhD candidates, three postdoc researchers, 12 universities of applied sciences researchers and two researchers from Deltares will work on the projects.

C-SCAPE: Sandy strategies for sustainable coastal climate change adaptation
Prof S.G.J. Aarninkhof, TUD
Prof. P.M. van Bodegom LU, Prof T. van der Heide NIOZ, Dr J. Stronkhorst HZ University of Applied Sciences , Dr M. Haasnoot Deltares
Provincie Noord-Holland, Staatsbosbeheer, Zeeuwse Kustgemeentes, Waterschap Scheldestromen, Rijkswaterstaat, Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier, OBN, Van Oord, Witteveen+Bos, Natuurmonumenten, Svasek, WWF
Sand nourishments are essential as a natural measure to ensure coastal safety. They also offer unique opportunities for nature and society. Climate change will cause an increase of the annual nourishment volumes. C-SCAPE aims to develop knowledge and tools to enable this scale increase. To that end, a Living Lab will be realized at two recent, large-scale coastal reinforcement sites (Sandmotor and Hondsbossche Dunes). Existing, unique data sets will be enriched with complementary measurements, which provide insight in the morphological, ecological and socio-economic effects of large-scale nourishments. This will enable better design and evaluation of future climate adaptation measures.

The Hedwige-Prosper Polder as a future-oriented experiment in managed realignment: integrating saltmarshes in water safety
Prof P.M.J. Herman, TUD
Prof S.G.J. Aarninkhof TUD, Dr J.M. van Loon-Steensma WUR, Prof T. Bouma NIOZ, Dr T. Terpstra HZ University of Applied Sciences
Provincie Zeeland, Waterschap Scheldestromen, Rijkswaterstaat, STOWA, SVASEK, HKV, Ecoshape, WEnR
The Hedwige-Prosperpolder will be reopened for nature restoration. That has raised protests, but it will also be a lesson in innovative coastal management. Marshes protect dikes against breaching, but upon failure also restrict the extent of the breach and the flooding. Realignment can foster marsh development and thereby coastal safety. In this project we investigate technically how marshes restrict dike breaching, how realignment can foster marsh development and how dikes should be designed in this context. We monitor whether these new insights can reconnect people with the changed landscape.

Crossing borders at the Grensmaas
Dr A.P. Richter, WUR
Prof T. Filatova UT, Dr G.B.M. Pedroli WUR, Dr R.H.J. Erkens MU, Dr E.T.H.M. Peeters WUR, Dr R.E. Roggema Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen
Provincie Limburg, Globe Netherlands Foundation, Storyconnect, Indymo, Grensmaas Consortium, Cascade
It is close to impossible to kill three birds with one stone. Yet, this is precisely what the Grensmaas project, the largest river restoration projects in the Netherlands, tries to achieve. The key idea is to extract gravel and sand to (i) protect surrounding villages against flooding, (ii) develop nature, and (iii) generate profit for mining companies. But how resilient is this vision in uncertain futures? The economic climate may suddenly deteriorate and public support is notoriously fragile. This project analyzes how to cope with social, ecological, and economic surprises.

ReAShore: Resilient Anthropogenic Shores
Prof K.M. Wijnberg, UT
Dr M.F. Brugnach UT, Dr J. Limpens WUR, Dr R. van Etteger, Dr T. Terpstra HZ University of Applied Sciences
Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier, Rijkswaterstaat, Bureau Arens, HKV, H+N+S, Royal HaskoningDHV
Large scale sandy shore reinforcements like the Sand Motor and the Hondsbossche Duinen, combine flood safety and spatial quality. This project investigates how these functions can both flourish on the long term. To that end, the mutual influence is investigated of use and management of these man-created shores on the one hand, and natural processes like sand transport, vegetation dynamics and dune development on the other hand. Results are input for the development of a design tool to co-create with stakeholders scenarios for use and management that optimally serve long term objectives of coastal safety and spatial quality.

Source: NWO