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Wubbo Ockels School for Energy and Climate Research

Thematic focus Wubbo Ockels School 2023-2026

Energy and climate characterise the field in which the Wubbo Ockels School (WOS) operates. This makes the purpose of the school as follows: To collaborate in order to improve ourselves and society through a greener and fairer energy transition and climate policy!

The above goal places researchers and students at the core of the Wubbo Ockels School's actions. This means that this school serves researchers and students. The Wubbo Ockels School is an instrument, among a series of instruments developed by our university, aimed at facilitating researchers and students in their research and educational activities, as well as in the context of valorisation directed towards society, to choose the 'other path,' as suggested by Ockels. This is the mission of the Wubbo Ockels School.

The Wubbo Ockels School fulfils this function in service of a better world. In Ockels' own words:

"It is enough, we have gone too far! The industrial revolution has brought us into an undesirable situation. We have rushed through nature; we are destroying our sources of life. We must choose another path; we must change our lives and the way we do things."

Which research themes does the WOS cover?

As a network organisation, the Wubbo Ockels School encompasses all themes within the scientific community of the UG (University of Groningen) that fall within the domains of 'energy' and 'climate.' The school does not have its own research programme, and it is not the school itself that determines the research themes.

Energy and climate are considered in a very broad sense and encompass the entire spectrum of energy transition, climate mitigation, and climate adaptation, from nature-based solutions to man-made solutions, from production to consumption, from fossil fuels to renewables and even inexhaustible energy sources, from existing to future energy carriers, from molecular to large-scale energy systems, from the subterranean to the cosmic dimension, from familiar to unfamiliar themes, as well as the nexus between these themes. Specific definitions of energy and climate are deliberately not used to prevent them from having an exclusive effect.

How does the WOS prioritise its support for different themes?

The broad and undefined interpretation of energy and climate means that there are numerous themes the WOS would like to support. However, given the limited manpower and activities budget of the school, this also means that structural support is only possible for a few themes, while for other themes, support will be offered on an ad hoc basis. The distribution between systematic and ad hoc themes is approximately 60/40 in terms of the school's budgets and personnel engagement. To enable prioritisation among themes, the WOS will follow the following criteria, primarily linked to the role, purpose, and mission of the school as described above.

Firstly, they consider the themes' ability to bring together a large number of colleagues (preferably 30+) from multiple faculties (preferably 5+). Bringing colleagues and students together is the primary aim of the school, naturally. Considering the desire to make such collaborations stable, the second prioritisation criterion is linked to the potential to secure grants to ensure joint research, educational, and/or impact activities for multiple years. This criterion takes into account funding possibilities at the local, regional, national, European, and international levels, from both public and private sources.

The third prioritisation criterion, of course, concerns the actual availability of (financial) capacity within the school's team, based on the aforementioned 60/40 distribution. The prioritisation classification determines the type of support the school provides. The codes A, B, C, and D refer to the support instruments described under 'How does the WOS support research themes?'.

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What are the current systemic themes of the WOS?

Based on the inventory conducted within the Groningen Energy and Sustainability Programme (GESP) in 2021-2022, the WOS has chosen the following three themes as its first systematic themes for the period 2023-2026. Additionally, the school has initiated a collaboration with the Municipality of Groningen concerning climate neutrality.

Hydrogen Economy

The WOS, in collaboration with the New Energy Coalition, Hanzehogeschool Groningen, and the Greenwise Campus in Drenthe, is working on the Hydrogen Valley Campus Europe (H2VCE). This center aims to become a regional flagship project with locations in Groningen, Emmen, Leeuwarden, Assen, Delfzijl, and Northwest Germany. Numerous energy projects fall under H2VCE, collectively having a significant impact on the development of the hydrogen economy.

Energy Citizen Empowerment

Energy Citizen Empowerment focuses on the active involvement and empowerment of people in the energy transition. The success of the energy transition depends on the public's willingness and ability to participate. The WOS collaborates with the New Energy Coalition to establish a dedicated centre on this theme. This centre aims to become the interdisciplinary knowledge hub on the central role of people and society within the energy transition.

Climate Adaptation

The effects of climate change require adaptive capacities from both people and nature. The WOS is working on connecting and strengthening existing research, education, and outreach initiatives related to climate adaptation in the Northern Netherlands. This involves collaboration with multiple public and private partners, including Hanzehogeschool Groningen, Noorderpoort, Alfa College, Campus Groningen, Bbeng, Provincie Groningen, Gemeente Groningen, Global Center on Adaptation, and the University of the North, to establish the so-called Climate Adaptation Platform.

Gemeente Groningen CO2 Neutral by 2030

Together with the Municipality of Groningen, Hanzehogeschool Groningen, Noorderpoort, and Alfa College, the WOS is working on an action plan for 'Groningen CO2 Neutral by 2030.' This plan will be presented to the European Commission in the context of the 'Mission on 100 Climate Neutral and Smart Cities.' The mission aims to deliver at least 100 climate-neutral and smart cities in Europe by 2030 and ensure that these cities also act as experimentation and innovation hubs to enable all European cities to become climate-neutral by 2050. In the Netherlands, a total of 7 cities have been selected, including Groningen, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht, Eindhoven, and Helmond.

This challenge provides an opportunity to address multiple themes, such as leadership in the energy transition, participation, energy poverty, electrification of mobility, heat transition, modelling, and measuring CO2 emissions. This challenge also brings together two of the other systematic lines of the WOS.

Is there room for new themes from 2024?

The WOS is always open to new themes, ranging from significant mainstream topics to niche themes with the potential to become the new mainstream.

To discover such new themes, the WOS engages in bilateral discussions with numerous colleagues and regularly organises thematic meetings, intended to bring UG (University of Groningen) scientists together and provide an opportunity to share their research interests.

However, it is essential to report additional themes for 2024 in advance so that reservations for the allocation of personnel and resources can be budgeted. Based on the criteria outlined under 'What are the current systemic themes of the WOS?', the school will provide appropriate support through the instruments mentioned below.

How does the WOS support research themes?

The WOS provides support in multiple stages of the development of research and educational programmes/projects, as well as related impact activities, regardless of whether a theme is systematic or ad hoc.

A. Supporting the emergence of interdisciplinary research ideas

This involves bringing together individuals from different fields and facilitating the emergence of new ideas and knowledge. For example, by organising thematic events or workshops, as well as providing a knowledge bank and search programme to find and form research partners and groups. Additionally, the WOS offers the opportunity to create a researcher profile and promote it through the school's communication channels, making these colleagues and their research ideas more visible and increasing their chances of finding research partners. This support is offered to all themes, regardless of whether they have a high or low priority based on the criteria mentioned under 'Is there room for new themes from 2024?'.

B. Facilitating the translation of interdisciplinary research ideas into practical implementation

This includes assisting in positioning research ideas to businesses or the government, for instance through lobbying activities, and sharing knowledge through social media, exhibitions, or other forms of physical and online interactions.

C. Supporting interdisciplinary projects in finding and organising funding

This involves bringing together research ideas and potential funding parties, such as providing support to a project in applying for a research grant.

D. Enhancing the application of results and strengthening the impact of interdisciplinary scientific research

This includes bringing together researchers who have conducted studies and individuals who can apply these results in practice. For example, by organising symposia, creating an impact plan, or providing support in translating scientific language into understandable communication for a broader audience.

Last modified:15 February 2024 11.00 a.m.
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