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University of Groningen strengthens technological profile with new centre

Applied research 'best kept secret of Groningen'
21 October 2016

For decades, the UG has been the only generalist research university in the Netherlands to offer degree programmes that result in a vocational engineering qualification (ir.). These programmes include applied research. This technological profile will now be strengthened by new investment by the Board of the University and the founding of the Groningen Engineering Center. This new phase will be marked by a symposium on 25 October where businesses and researchers will be able to meet each other.

The Groningen Engineering Center (GEC) will operate within the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and concentrate all of the applied research at the UG. Members of the ENTEG research Institute (Engineering and Technology institute Groningen) will be joined by researchers in biochemical and chemical engineering and industrial/mechanical engineering, for example from Biomedical Engineering (UMCG), Computer Engineering, Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics, including the 2016 Spinoza prizewinner Bart van Wees. The GEC will also comprise biologists, pharmaceutical researchers, business scientists, economists and social scientists.

Watch the video of the GEC.

The best kept secret of Groningen

Prof. Jacquelien Scherpen, head of the GEC: ‘It will make it much clearer for other researchers at the UG and for the business world where they need to go with questions about engineering’. That visibility is sorely needed: applied research at the UG is sometimes called ‘the best kept secret in Groningen’.

Motivation from applications

The applied research is motivated by the application possibilities. ‘The actual application is much closer for us, think of a term of 5 to 10 years, than for researchers doing more fundamental work.’ Scherpen is an applied mathematician. ‘When I think up a research question, I always take the practical application possibilities into account.’

Applied research embbed in generalist university

Applied research at the UG is embedded in a generalist university. Scherpen regards this as an advantage. ‘For example, I work on regulatory mechanisms for the electricity network, which have to process the variable amounts of sustainable energy from windmills and solar panels. I concentrate on the mechanisms, my colleague Linda Steg, who is an environmental psychologist, researches how acceptable my solutions will be for society. I then process her results into the regulatory mechanisms.’

UG engineers make all sorts of things

In the meantime, UG engineers are making all sorts of things, from medical implants to new application methods for drugs, from a platform to harvest wave energy to microscopically small switches for electronics that will work on totally new principles. ‘We might not have the breadth of a Technological University, but the way we embed our research is second to none.’ An engineer who helps biologists to explain the behaviour of a flock of starlings can use the resulting mathematical models to guide groups of robots.

6 New research appointments thanks to additional funding

The GEC has been awarded extra funding by the Board of the University to appoint six new researchers, each of whom can appoint a PhD student. Extra support personnel will also be appointed. The GEC is also designing two new Master’s degree programmes: Mechanical Engineering / Advanced Instrumentation in cooperation with SRON (Space Research Organisation Netherlands), Astron, the UMCG’s proton therapy Centre and KVI-CART, and Systems & Control in cooperation with the University of Twente.

Symposium on October 25th in Groningen

An extra spotlight will be placed on the applied research of the GEC during a symposium on 25 October in Groningen, where GEC researchers will present their work to UG colleagues and businesses. During this symposium, Dr Herry Nijhuis, the new director of Technology Foundation STW, will give his first official speech.

Participating institutes

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences


Faculty of Economics and Business

Faculty of Medical Sciences

KVI - Center for Advanced Radiation Technology

More information

For more information about GEC, please contact: Prof. Jacquelien Scherpen, j.m.a.scherpen@rug.nl, +31503638791

For more information about the symposium, see rug.nl/engineering.

Last modified:31 January 2019 3.49 p.m.

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