Eleven public-private research projects launched through KIEM

9 January 2020

NWO has awarded eleven projects in the KIEM (Knowledge Innovation Mapping) programme within the ENW-PPS fund. The topics vary from research on the use of small proteins in cancer vaccines to substances for preventing water pollution from pesticides. The KIEM grant of between €20,000 and €50,000 allows researchers to set up partnerships between knowledge institutes and private parties.

The projects contribute to the 2018–2019 Knowledge and Innovation Agenda of the Agriculture & Food, Chemistry, Energy, HTSM or ICT top sectors. The following consortia have been awarded a grant (in alphabetical order of the main applicant):

Objective observation of team dynamics and communication using sensor-based social analytics
Dr Martin Atzmueller, Dr Travis Wiltshire, both of Tilburg University
Team performance is only partly determined by the qualities of the individuals comprising those teams. A more important component in team success is how these individuals cooperate and communicate with each other. However, until now, team dynamics and communications have been intangible and not objectively observable factors. Using sensor-based social analytics we make these elements measurable, transparent, and factual. We identify the factors that underlie optimum team dynamics and optimum communications – usably and accessibly, so that it is clear to everyone how these dynamics and communications can be improved within a team to allow it to achieve its best possible results.

Consortium partner: Bricklayers

Producing more natural sweeteners with fewer calories
Dr Luisa Bortesi, Maastricht University
Stevia plants produce a combination of molecules up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but which have no calorific value. This means that they could help to reduce the incidence of obesity and diabetes. Current agricultural production of Stevia is insufficient to meet global demand, and conventional breeding programmes are rather slow. Luisa Bortesi of Maastricht University and Lommerse Breeding B.V. will work together to achieve the first ever CRISPR/Cas9-related gene editing in Stevia. Carrying this out with Stevia has the potential to accelerate the breeding process, and lead to the most efficient development of improved strains.

Consortium partner: Lommerse Breeding B.V.

Additives that prevent water pollution by pesticides
Professor Daniel Bonn, University of Amsterdam
Pesticides are sprayed onto crops in the form of droplets; how can we best ensure that they do not pollute surrounding areas? One promising method is the addition of an environmentally friendly additive that influences spray droplet size and therefore the likelihood that the droplet will remain attached to the crop. This study is being carried out jointly between the University of Amsterdam (Daniel Bonn, Institute of Physics) and the industrial partner GreenA (Maarten Klein, CEO), and its aim is to remove an important technical barrier to introducing the additive all over the world.

Consortium partner: GreenA B.V.

Value from waste: from old plastics to new building blocks
Professor Pieter Bruijnincx, Utrecht University
In order to create circular value chains it is necessary that the plastics used in packaging and consumer goods can ultimately be recycled chemically. One challenge in chemical recycling, turning a polymer back into its original building blocks, is that cost constraints make it difficult to add much value in this process. The aim of this project is to manufacture monomers with a higher added value, building blocks that could be reused as a polymer performance improver. This will provide an attractive, circular alternative to a building block that is currently only available through fossil sources.

Consortium partner: CiorC

De Laval micronozzle
Professor Han Gardeniers, University of Twente
In this project we will make specially formed micronozzles for use in the Amsterdam Piezo Valve and a Mass Spectrometer for chiral molecules. Using lithography and ion-etching techniques, available at MESA+/Nanolab, we will make rectangular de Laval micronozzles. With these special micronozzles we can make supersonic molecular expansions in which the form of the gas jet is ideally matched to the radiation beam of a laser or a synchrotron. In this way, molecular samples can be formed with minimal sample quantities and optimal density for extremely sensitive (including chiral) molecular analyses in physics, chemistry and analytical chemistry, optics, medical and pharmaceutical applications.

Consortium partner: MassSpecpecD B.V.

Controlling temperature at the (sub)micrometre scale
Dr Robin Geitenbeek, Professor Bert Weckhuysen, both of Utrecht University
Small events can have large consequences, especially in the active research field of nanomaterials. However, the performance of nanomaterials and the influence exerted on them by their direct surroundings are difficult to measure. Temperature is a good example of this, with many consequences including product yield and catalytic reaction selectivity. To get a grip on this, a three-part project has been set up; using microreactors (by DENSsolutions) temperature can be controlled on the (sub)micrometre scale, mapped using luminescence thermometry in combination with confocal microscopy (Robin Geitenbeek), and lastly the resulting knowledge applied research into catalysts and chemical processes (Bert Weckhuysen) in which temperature on this scale is crucial.

Consortium partner: DENSsolutions B.V.

Nanobodies for making cancer vaccines
Dr Joke den Haan, Amsterdam University Medical Centre
The immune system can attack cancer cells if it is activated in the right way. Antigen-presenting cells take up vaccines and stimulate immune cells. We want to make nanobodies, small proteins, that bind very specifically and strongly to antigen-presenting cells of the immune system. We can then build these nanobodies into new nanovaccines for cancer. With the help of the nanobodies, the vaccines are taken up much better by the antigen-presenting cells, ensuring that a strong immune response to cancer is activated.

Consortium partner: QVQ

Insects as fishmeal substitute in aquaculture feed: A safe and sustainable possibility for the future?
Dr. Olga Haenen HAS, dr. Johan Schrama, WUR
Edible Insects, a sustainable alternative to fish meal in aquaculture feed, can contain several pathogenic bacteria. We will study the bacterial infections of fish and shrimps caused by insect-based feed and whether the addition of herbs  positively affects the health of shrimps. We will focus on Vibrio spp., a well-known pathogenic bacteria. The health of the shrimp is tested by measuring the behaviour, survival, growth and the bacterial flora. In order to get a grip on why insect-based is not yet commonly used, we will outline and calculate future scenarios for the aquaculture sector as well. For knowledge dissemination, the results from this project will be shared with the partners, the sector, the government and third parties through a symposium and an article.

Consortiumpartner: NGN – New Generation Nutrition

Multi-component materials for next-generation energy production systems
Dr Matteo Pini, Delft University of Technology
Industrial plants commonly have a great many residual energy streams that remain unused. These energy streams can, in part, be converted into electricity. The equipment used for this conversion currently uses a pure organic material as its working fluid. Mixtures of organic materials could offer certain advantages, however, such as improved and cheaper conversion to electricity, which would make the use of this kind of equipment a more interesting option for industry. This project will study the effect of the use of mixtures instead of pure materials as working fluids on the design of the equipment in general and on the design of turbine and compressor components in particular.

Consortium partner: Asimptote B.V.

Improving the fungus factory
Dr Arthur Ram, Leiden University
Thread-forming fungi such as Aspergillus niger produce a large variety of proteins, and Aspergillus is used in industry as a kind of ‘natural factory’ for protein production. These include proteins with industrial applications, e.g. the addition of fat-degrading or protein-degrading enzymes (lipases or proteases) to detergents, and the enzymes used in the dairy industry (chymosin). This project intends to improve Aspergillus strains in such a way that they mainly produce  the protein of interest, and as little other proteins as possible, in order to develop the ideal ‘fungus factory’ for the production of that specific protein.

Consortium partner: Dutch DNA Biotech B.V.

A new step towards a medicine for Parkinson's disease
Professor Floris Rutjes, Radboud University; Dr Samantha Hughes, HAN University of Applied Sciences
Decades of research have shown that the complexity of neurodegenerative disease is unrivalled. Efficient new molecular approaches are badly needed in order to better understand how these diseases develop and how they could be cured. This project intends to take substances that have been discovered in the course of immunological research and to employ them in research into Parkinson’s disease. The molecules will be tested for attributes in a cell system and in complex worm models that approximate the situation in human patients. This will lead to new insights and possibly to new treatment methods. The research will also contribute towards a reduction in animal testing.

Consortium partner: COILED Therapeutics B.V.

Source: NWO