From vertical agriculture to virtual delta: 26 million euros for innovative research

7 November 2019

From today, 75 scientists will start working on research aimed at technological innovations. They will do that within five new research programmes, which have jointly been awarded 18 million euros in funding. In addition, 57 companies and organisations involved will jointly invest another 8 million euros in the research programmes, which are aimed at economic opportunities within societal challenges.

Perspectief is a programme of the Dutch Research Council (NWO), which is funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. The programme challenges scientists to set up new lines of research that have economic and societal impact in collaboration with industry and civil society organisations.


The research programmes awarded funding this year focus on innovative forms of food supply, protecting freshwater supplies, improving animal welfare in intensive livestock farming, accurate medical imaging, and smarter maintenance of high-tech systems. With the funding, the researchers will be able to work on their projects for the next six years. In addition, the companies involved have pledged to deploy 12.5 FTE in manhours within the projects.

The composition of the five different research consortia is typical for Perspectief. In all of the projects, the companies and civil society organisations involved represent the societal interests as well as the economic opportunities these provide: from manufacturers of tools and architects to doctors, farmers, water boards or high-tech companies that as end users benefit from the knowledge that the research yields.

Click on the image to see a video of the programmes awarded funding
Click on the image to see a video about the new Perspectief programmes

Contribution to worldwide challenges

‘Dutch researchers and entrepreneurs contribute with their inventions, products and services to solutions for global challenges’, says State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Mona Keijzer. ‘In doing this, they also contribute to Dutch welfare and jobs. That is the core of our mission-driven innovation policy: Dutch solutions for global challenges. The Perspectief programme helps our researchers and entrepreneurs to jointly realise their world-class ideas.’

‘This year, we are once again awarding funding to an impressive series of research programmes with the involvement of various university groups, industry, SMEs and other parties’, says Jaap Schouten, chair of NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES). ‘Perspectief can be seen as a breeding ground for new innovative research programmes that will eventually give further form to the mission-driven innovation policy as well.’


The Perspectief programme was established 11 years ago. In 2018, its ten-year jubilee was extensively celebrated during the annual innovation festival TEKNOWLOGY. Also this year, the programmes awarded funding were announced during TEKNOWLOGY on 7 November in the Rijtuigenloods in Amersfoort.

The announcement of the programmes awarded funding at TEKNOWLOGY 2019

Programmes awarded funding Perspectief round-2019

Smarter system due to digital twin
Integration of Data-drIven and model-based enGIneering in fuTure industriAL Technology With value chaIn optimizatioN (DIGITAL TWIN)

High-tech systems are increasingly complex and difficult to design, produce and maintain. The DIGITAL TWIN programme develops methods to make accurate digital twins of such systems: virtual software versions with which you can make simulations to predict, for example, how changes in the design influence the performance, how the control can be improved or which part requires maintenance at which moment. Digital twins are now mostly still based on static theoretical models that assume normal behaviour. By linking these models to measurement data that indicate exactly how the system functions and by combining these data with artificial intelligence, the researchers can make digital copies that continually improve and adapt themselves. The research focuses on several model systems that have been contributed by the Dutch high-tech companies involved in the programme.

Programme leader: Prof. B. Jayawardhana (University of Groningen)
Participants: Airborne, Altran, ASML, ASMPT, Demcon, Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology, Océ, Philips, University of Groningen, Stamicarbon, Tata Steel, TU Delft, Eindhoven University of Technology, Tilburg University, TNO, Leiden University, University of Twente, VDL Groep

Better life for pigs and chickens
AnIMAL Group sENsor – Integrating behavioural dynamics and social genetic effects to improve the health, welfare and ecological footprint of livestock (IMAGEN)

The IMAGEN programme brings research into animal behaviour together with computer science to improve the health and welfare of pigs and laying hens and to reduce the ecological footprint of the food production.
The researchers are developing a system that automatically detects the behaviour of pigs and chickens in large groups. For example, the system must be able to detect perpetrators and victims of undesirable behaviour such as tail biting or pecking to prevent animal suffering and early mortality. The researchers will also map the relationships between genes and behaviour. That will allow them to identify which animals are genetically the most suitable for living peacefully in large groups.
The research involves not only breeding companies, technology companies and the Netherlands Agricultural and Horticultural Association, but also the Royal Netherlands Veterinary Association and the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals.

Programme leader: Dr P. Bijma (Wageningen University)

Participants: Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals, Farm Result, Hendrix Genetics, Royal Netherlands Veterinary Association, Netherlands Agricultural and Horticultural Association, Noldus Information Technology, Sorama, Eindhoven University of Technology, Topigs Norsvin, Utrecht University, Vencomatic, Wageningen University

Light for a better view of illnesses
Photonics Translational Research – Medical Photonics (MEDPHOT)

PET scans based on radioactivity, image deviant tissue such as inflammations and tumours. By using light instead of radioactivity, images ten to one hundred times sharper can be produced, which means a cluster of just a few cells can be seen. The MEDPHOT programme wants to develop a light-based counterpart of a PET scan. The researchers will develop fluorescent markers for diseases, such as oesophageal cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, lung cancer, asthma and Alzheimer's disease. These markers will bind to the molecules that are specific for the disease concerned and will light up if they are illuminated by a light source.
In order to see the markers, the researchers will develop the technology needed to detect the small light beams emitted. With this approach they will make the cells sought visible.

Programme leader: Prof. J.F. de Boer (VU Amsterdam)
Participants: Amsterdam University Medical Centre, ASML, CHDR, Elesta, Exometry, GlycanScan, Leiden University Medical Center, Mauna Kea, Ninepoint Medical, Optos, Percuros, Spectradyne, TU Delft, Thorlabs, TNO, University Medical Centre Groningen, Utrecht University, University of Amsterdam, Utopics, VU Amsterdam

Guaranteeing freshwater with a virtual delta
SALTISolutions – Salt intrusion through urbanizing deltas: Solutions

Freshwater is vital for drinking water, nature, agriculture and industry. However, the availability of freshwater is under pressure in deltas throughout the world. Salty seawater is penetrating further up the rivers due to human intervention, such as the deepening of waterways, as equally climate change. Within SALTISolutions, the researchers, together with the partners involved such as Rijkswaterstaat, water boards, port authorities and dredging companies, will produce a virtual model (digital twin) of the Rhine-Meuse Delta. This model will integrate knowledge about processes on various spatial and time scales: from turbulent flows at the smallest scale level to the consequences of climate change in the long-term. They will use this to predict how, where, when, and how long salt from seawater will penetrate, and how measures such as implementing nature-based solutions influence the freshwater supply. These insights will be tested worldwide, as a result of which the position of Dutch delta technology will be further strengthened.

Programme leader: Prof. J.D. Pietrzak (TU Delft)
Participants: Arcadis, ARK, Boskalis, Bureau Waardenburg, BAM, Deltares, Evides, Flanders Hydraulics, Port of Amsterdam, Port of Rotterdam, HKV, Rijnland District Water Control Board, Schieland en de Krimpenerwaard Regional Water Authority, Hydrologic, Royal NIOZ, Nortek-NL, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Rijkswaterstaat, Royal HaskoningDHV, STOWA, Svasek Hydraulics, TU Delft, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Twente, Utrecht University, Van Oord, VEMW, VEWIN, Wageningen University, Waterschap Hollandse Delta, WNF

Plant flats with LEDs
SKY HIGH: Vertical farming, a revolution in plant production

We need to provide a growing world population with food, even though more and more people live in towns and cities, there are often water shortages, and the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables has been falling for decades. By growing plants in layers above each other and illuminating them with special LED lamps, fresh vegetables can be produced throughout the world under all weather and climate conditions over the entire year.

Within the SKY HIGH programme, researchers, together with lighting specialists, breeding companies, growers, horticulture technology companies, architects and food suppliers, will make this type of vertical agriculture cheaper and more energy-efficient. In addition, the aim is to use this type of vertical farming to produce vegetables and herbs with a better taste, shelf life and nutritional value, while using extremely little water and nutrients, and no pesticides.

Programme leader: Prof. L.F.M. Marcelis (Wageningen University)
Participants: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS), Bayer, Bosman Van Zaal, Certhon, Fresh Forward, Grodan, GROWx, HAS University of Applied Sciences, Own Greens, Priva, Signify (Philips Lighting), Solynta, TU Delft, Eindhoven University of Technology, Unilever, Leiden University, University of Amsterdam, Van Bergen Kolpa Architects, Wageningen Plant Research, Wageningen University

Source: NWO