Erasmus MC, Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) intend to structurally strengthen and scale up their scientific collaboration – specifically in the health field. Over the next few months, the three institutions will be exploring which opportunities they have to systematically expand their existing partnership – as agreed upon in a covenant signed by their respective boards. Through this next step, Erasmus MC, EUR and TU Delft wish to emphasise the social and scientific urgency of closer collaboration between medicine, technology and the social sciences.
Medicine and technology
The future of medicine depends on the strengthening of its ties with technology. Complex and capital-intensive issues in the field of health, healthcare and welfare call for new solutions that are ground-breaking in scientific terms. Consequently, it is crucial that medical care, medical research and clinical practice all connect seamlessly with the numerous developments at the forefront of modern-day engineering. Scaling up a collaboration of this kind will bear fruit for scientists working in both engineering and medicine.
Perspective offered by social sciences
This dominant development will be enriched further by the specific perspective offered by the social sciences. Social scientific education and research, including insight into ethical aspects, can contribute to the social acceptance and funding of innovations in the field of health and health care.
TU Delft and EUR will also be exploring the added value of closer scientific collaboration in a range of other fields. Examples include data science and AI (Artificial Intelligence), entrepreneurship, the energy transition in the Rotterdam region (and specifically the port area), urban cities development and human-robot interaction.
At present, the Netherlands is failing to keep abreast of international trends in the so-called convergence of scientific disciplines: the deep substantive connection of disciplines that up till now were seen as independent, to form new fields of scientific inquiry. In consideration of their social responsibility and their status as leading international institutions in their respective fields, the three partners have decided to identify the best pathways to shape this convergence in substantive and organisational terms.
This development presents a fantastic opportunity to raise the international profile of the Netherlands’ higher education sector.
To increase the partners’ operational flexibility and impact even further, at both the national and international levels, they will need to formulate, finance and implement a joint research and education strategy. Given the geographic proximity of TU Delft, Erasmus MC and EUR, it seems logical to further intensify their collaboration.
Building on previous initiatives
Through this initiative, the institutions will also be giving further shape to the existing alliance between Leiden University, TU Delft and EUR (LDE), as well as building on previous partnership initiatives. The aforementioned alliance has resulted in five joint research centres, various joint degree programmes – including a Clinical Technology programme – the proton therapy centre Holland PTC and the Medical Delta programme, which focuses on connecting technology and health care. Erasmus MC and Leiden University Medical Center have also set up a partnership, and TU Delft and Leiden University have joined forces in a number of initiatives, including the research school Casimir and various joint degree programmes and joint innovative research programmes.
Focus on substance
The further exploration of opportunities to intensify the institutions’ partnership will be primarily based on considerations of scientific substance. The guiding principle in this context is that initiatives need to further strengthen the quality of the partners’ education and research activities. That is why the three boards will be inviting the members of their respective academic teams in a variety of ways to contribute to the further substantive elaboration of this partnership. The academic staff members play a vital role in this process.
Kristel Baele, President of the Executive Board of Erasmus University Rotterdam: “The point of departure in this exploration is to intensify the existing collaboration between Health, Tech, Social Sciences and Human Disciplines even further, in the interest of a healthy and energetic society. It aligns with the strategic course we have plotted as a university: to realise maximum social impact via multidisciplinary collaborations. Consequently, we will be working hard over the next few years to further build this ‘triangle’ together with Erasmus MC and TU Delft.”
Prof. Ernst Kuipers, Chairman of the Executive Board of Erasmus MC: “The convergence of technology and medicine forms the foundation for major innovations in the health care field. This influences our perspective on health and disease – both at the level of individuals and society in general. I firmly believe that close collaboration between different disciplines, in which knowledge, expertise and methodology from a variety of domains are brought together, forms a necessary step on our path towards a healthy future.”
Prof. Tim van der Hagen, Rector Magnificus and President of the Executive Board of Delft University of Technology: “The substantive and organisational elaboration of convergence in a variety of fields is not a luxury but a necessity. Deep substantive connections with other fields of scientific enquiry will lead to innovative, creative solutions and applications. Our motto in this undertaking is ‘Impact for a better society’.”