Speaking with one voice to politicians
The University of the North is formed by a collaboration between the NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences, the University of Groningen (RUG), the University Medical Center Groningen, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences and the Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences . The five education and knowledge institutions have joined forces to be able to speak with one voice to policy makers and to be able to respond more efficiently to funding opportunities in the Northern Netherlands. Furthermore, they want to stimulate innovation in collaboration with the business community.
In the new “Drivers of transition” knowledge agenda, UVHN sets out the issues on which the partnership intends to jointly focus in the coming years. These themes correspond to the research and innovation strategy for smart specialization (RIS3) previously developed for the Northern Netherlands. It describes in which sectors the Northern Netherlands can lead the way in the period from 2021 to 2027.
Four objectives have been formulated in RIS3; from linear to circular economy, from fossil energy to sustainable energy, from assistance to positive health, from analog to digital. UVHN will focus on these four objectives, as well as the creative sector, tourism and leisure, and the vitality of the living environment.
The labor market in the northern Netherlands has to be fed from the outside
“As a partner, we all have our strengths; how wonderful it is when you can connect those strengths to make a contribution to major transitions taking place, for example around energy and digitalization, ”says Erica Schaper, chair of the board of directors of NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences at ScienceGuide. Demographic developments in the northern Netherlands are also a reason to work out this knowledge agenda, he explains.
“Fewer children are born in the Northern Netherlands than elsewhere. To fuel our labor market and have an impact, we will therefore need to attract talent from outside the region. As a University of the North, we can use this knowledge agenda around our core themes such as green chemistry, water technology and circular plastic, in part by linking practice-oriented research and fundamental research, they ensure high-quality knowledge and innovation. This creates a very pleasant learning environment for students who want to work on these problems.
Like all partners in the partnership, NHL Stenden also brings its own strengths, Schaper explains. “For example, NHL Stenden is strong in water technology, circular plastics and in the industry hospitality and tourism; We are also leaders in research in vital regions. In Groningen, for example, a lot is being done about the energy transition and the greening of water technology again has a direct link with the energy transition. In this way we try to bring all themes into mutual coherence and to reinforce them, by subject in different combinations of partners. If we do this well, we believe we can make further contributions to the Northern Netherlands.
Joint education programs in 2024
An important part of the collaboration concerns the joint development and adaptation of the educational offer around the agreed central themes. For example, it is already looking at what courses institutions already offer and how they can connect them, such as on energy transition and water technology, says Schaper.
“We collaborate with the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, for example, in the Innovation Cluster Drachten, a cluster around Philips. There we developed advertising robotics and there Hanze developed advertising mechatronics. So together we can be an interesting party for the whole field. “The MBO will also be involved in the education plans of the University of the North, says the president of the council of the North.” In the field, for example, of the energy transition, we want to create a continuous learning path that starts from MBO.
By 2024, collaborating knowledge institutions want to make ten relevant undergraduate and masters programs from UvhN partners more easily accessible to students from other partner institutions. Furthermore, the UvhN partners want to have developed ten new minors by 2024 on the topics that UVhN focuses on. The knowledge agenda must also ensure a more intense link between the research of the HBO and WO institutions involved.
Own grant fund and the departure of Shell
To promote the achievement of the above objectives, UVHN is establishing its own UVHN Boosting Fund. This should offer teachers, researchers and teachers the opportunity to free up time to set up new educational programs or conduct experiments. Each year a project will be financed in the field of valorisation, research and education. Due to the total budget of two hundred and fifty thousand euros, the budget per project will be between fifty and one hundred thousand euros. The first call will be published in the autumn of 2021, expiring in the first quarter of 2022.
Where the University of the North wants to collaborate with the business community of the Northern Netherlands, a significant flow of funds appears to be in jeopardy. It was recently announced that Shell, one of the companies involved in the hydrogen transition, is planning to move overseas. However, that doesn’t immediately worry Schaper, he says. “However, I think hydrogen is such a strong theme in the northern Netherlands that it will develop further anyway. Of course, it also helps that Shell invests in this; we do it together with them. However, I don’t think Shell can afford to stop its operations in the Northern Netherlands. If they do, I believe the whole consortium is still strong enough to continue. ”
Circular economy and hydrogen
UVHN wants to contribute to the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy in various fields, according to the knowledge agenda. For example, circularity within the UVhN must become an integral part of education, its own research and available testing facilities. After all, a circular economy requires different ways of working and producing, as well as the use of other materials, issues that Professor Egbert Dommerholt of Hanze University of Applied Sciences is already studying intensively.
Regarding the transition to sustainable energy, which is particularly relevant in the Northern Netherlands due to the decision to stop gas extraction in Groningen, it is mainly hydrogen that is at the forefront of UVHN. For example, the institutions involved will work on joint educational programs in the field of energy transition, with a focus on hydrogen and green chemistry. Design-oriented education and research, one of NHL Stenden’s strengths, appears to play an important role in this.
Digitization and technical applications for better assistance
There has long been cooperation in the northern Netherlands to increase the health and sanitation capacity of the inhabitants of the northern Netherlands. UVHN wants to contribute further to this, according to the knowledge agenda. To this end, the collaborating partners will develop and integrate new technical applications, including in the field of diagnostics and care, in their training and research.
Furthermore, UVHN wants to play a coordinating role in the supply of training and vacancies by health professionals, on the one hand, and the need for these by knowledge institutions, on the other. The goal of the partnership, for example, is to adapt critical nursing courses in terms of content and recruitment to the demand for staff of health care institutions in the Northern Netherlands by 2023.
Growing digitalization is also one of the themes on which the collaboration of the UvhN partners is focused. Examples already exist in the form of Smart Industry Hub and Artificial Intelligence Hub in the Northern Netherlands. “In this transition, UVHN can take on a coordinating role to link initiatives in the northern region,” reads the knowledge agenda. Furthermore, the knowledge institutions of the North, always in a coordinating role, want to make a joint effort to promote the influx into the ICT labor market.