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Raffaella Carloni and Jonas Göbel winners Ben Feringa Impact Award 2024

22 May 2024

Researcher Raffaella Carloni and student Jonas Göbel won the Ben Feringa Impact Awards 2024 for the categories of researchers and students on Tuesday 21 May. The awards were presented as part of the lustrum programme in honour of the University's 410th anniversary.

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Jonas Göbel and Raffaella Carloni with in the middle Ben Feringa. Photo: Angelo Roga


Raffaella Carloni (adjunct professor at Faculty of Science & Engineering) won the award for her project called 'MyLeg' - A Smart and Intuitive Transfemoral Bionic Leg towards the development of above-knee prostheses.

Carloni has been the initiator and the scientific coordinator of the Horizon 2020 European project MyLeg (2018-2023). In this collaborative project she led an interdisciplinary team consisting of engineers, rehabilitation physicians, human-movement scientists, and a world leader company in the field of lower-limb prostheses. Within the project, Carloni’s research was dedicated to advancing the development of above-knee prosthetic legs. The fundamental idea was to use a biomimicry approach and replicate the fundamental functionality of a healthy human leg in both the mechanics and in the control architecure of the new generation of bionic legs.

The research has the potential of enhancing the mobility of individuals who have undergone transfemoral amputations, thereby leading to improvements in their independence and overall quality of life. While clinical trials are ongoing, qualitative evidence has already showcased the relevance of the new functionalities of the developed bionic leg, and its added comfort during usage. Key to this advancement are its bio-inspired actuators designed to mimic the natural elasticity of the ligaments, enabling users to walk more naturally and to receive full support, even on challenging terrain like uphill slopes. By closely resembling the biomechanics of a healthy human leg, these innovative prosthetic limbs have the potential to empower amputees, offering them greater mobility and confidence in their daily activities. As research progresses on these bionic legs, their societal impact in fostering inclusivity and improving the well-being of amputees is expected to grow significantly.

These innovative prostheses can empower people with amputations by replicating the biomechanics of a healthy human leg as closely as possible in the prosthesis. This increases the prosthesis wearer's mobility and self-confidence in daily activities. As research on these bionic legs progresses, the societal impact on promoting inclusiveness and improving the well-being of people with amputations is expected to increase.

The jury found the contributions in the category researchers of a very high quality and the selection committee took a long time to choose the final winner. The jury described Raffaela’s EU project as great, remarkable, and positive. The jury is surprised that there are already three companies interested in the project and that the bionic leg has been patented. This also clearly shows the potential and impact of the project. The jury is also impressed by the interdisciplinary aspects of the project: this project transfers technology to medicine, which can be a highly complex process.


Jonas Göbel (student at the Faculty of Arts) was presented with the award for his internship research Geospatial Data in International Development, the Case of Malawi.

This project is centered around the utilization of geospatial data in the field of international development cooperation. It often involves projects in remote and fragile areas, which are particularly exposed to current and future climate risk scenarios. During his placement at the German International Development Bank (KfW), Göbel worked with his supervisor on generating and collecting data that captured the geographical location of project sites in southern Africa. They mapped schools, health clinics, and regions where projects are financed by the KfW. The data we collected ranges from elevation profiles for transmission lines to current and future climate-related risks that could damage infrastructure and pose risks to individuals in the region. With my supervisor, we initiated the collection and use of geospatial data in other departments, presented the idea at company events, and supported other colleagues in the implementation.

In recent years, the impacts of climate change have caused considerable damage to local infrastructure in Malawi, presenting challenges to the well-being of communities. In response, the KfW Development Bank, along with other stakeholders, has undertaken efforts to address these challenges and improve living conditions by supporting the financing of healthcare centers, schools, and energy infrastructure.

Geospatial data, in combination with other tools like satellite imagery and drones, enables us to remotely manage, assess, and address emerging issues within a project. This data facilitates the creation of maps that provide comprehensive information about the region's current risks, the infrastructure's elevation profile, and its extensive distribution. By collecting and analyzing this data together, we can enhance transparency in cooperation efforts and work towards improving infrastructure resilience and sustainability. Geospatial data serves as a valuable tool for understanding the local challenges in Malawi rather than simply intervening and financing. This approach benefits both international development institutions and local stakeholders by considering the specific contexts of the region.

The jury report showed that the jury unanimously chose this project as the winner in the category students. The jury commends Göbels’ initiative and is impressed by the way he has been able to implement knowledge in an environment that is clearly far removed from his studies. The jury admires the impact Göbels has made on the environment, the KfW bank, and the working methods at this location. The project offers perspective and opportunities to further improve social situations. During the presentation of the award, Ben Feringa encouraged students to continue to academically challenge their lecturers.

Ben Feringa Impact Awards

Every year, the University of Groningen presents the Ben Feringa Impact Award to UG researchers and students who have made outstanding achievements in the field of knowledge utilization. This award puts the spotlight on researchers and students who pay special attention to the utilization of knowledge. Knowledge utilization is defined as connecting research to the professional (non-academic) world and/or societal (including economic) practice. The winning project in the category students will receive a prize of € 2,500 to be freely spent. This amount is being funded by the Ubbo Emmius Fund. The winning project in the category researchers will receive a prize of € 5,000 to be spent on further knowledge utilization.

The jury for the assessment of the nominations for the 2024 Ben Feringa Impact Awards consisted of Erik Frijlink (Faculty of Science and Engineering/UMCG), Marijke Leliveld (Young Academy Groningen (YAG)/Faculty of Economics and Business), Mladen Popovic (Faculty of Religion, Culture, and Society), Ton Vries (BioBTX), Ruben Wagenvoort (Student assessor of the Board of the University of Groningen).

Last modified:23 May 2024 6.12 p.m.
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