Convergence: Interdisciplinary Collaboration for a Better Future

Healthy Start
Frank de Roo

Erasmus University Rotterdam is taking an active approach to addressing societal challenges through interdisciplinary collaboration. The Convergence alliance, comprised of TU Delft, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Erasmus MC, is one initiative facilitating such partnerships. There are five key themes under the Convergence umbrella: Resilient Delta, Health & Technology, AI, Data & Digitalisation, Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Center, and Healthy Start.

In March, two events showcased three Convergence Themes: Healthy Start | Ambition Day and Convergence Port Celebration, co-hosted by Convergence AI and Resilient Delta. Here's how Erasmus University Rotterdam is contributing to the social, cultural, and economic development of South Holland and beyond.

Healthy Start

Healthy Start is focused on optimizing developmental opportunities for all children and adolescents, irrespective of their backgrounds and starting points. The initiative recognizes that various exposures, from geographical and social to lifestyle and stress-related factors, determine early life development. Therefore, an interdisciplinary approach and convergence of medical, social, and technological sciences is essential.

Healthy Start | Ambition Day Celebrates Collaborations and Empowers Community

During the first edition of the Healthy Start | Ambition Day, the collaborations and ambitions of the scientists, policy officers, youth workers, and social partners involved in the program were celebrated. Additionally, the event served to empower and grow the Healthy Start community. During the event, young scientists from the core teams pitched their six ambitions. The event also included work sessions and workshops led by researchers from the ambition core teams on various topics such as the first 1000 days, youth crime and addiction, mental well-being, and youth participation.

"The inspiring workshops by our ambition fellows aimed to create and design better, more effective and novel knowledge on mental health for youth together with youth workers," said Prof. Eveline Crone, Erasmus Professor Developmental Neuroscience in Society and Healthy Start Academic Lead.

Click here for an impression of the Healthy Start | Ambition Day.

Rotterdam: An Innovative City Addressing Social Issues through Collaborative Initiatives

As Gillis Oudeman, Project Director and Quartermaster Municipality of Rotterdam, noted, Rotterdam has a history of addressing major social issues in an innovative way. "Rotterdam is a city where for many years major social issues have been addressed in an innovative way. Consequently, the world knows where to find us in the search for unorthodox solutions," he said. In cooperation with converging parties, the city of Rotterdam aims to provide truly innovative answers to contemporary issues. "In this, the city of Rotterdam and the three universities are close partners," Oudeman added.

Initiatives like Healthy Start are crucial to addressing social issues and providing opportunities for a good life. "In Rotterdam-South, we are working on the development of Culture & Campus. Culture & Campus will be the place in the South where art, culture, and science come together," said David van Dis, Advisor National Program Rotterdam Zuid. "This development will strengthen the economic structure of Rotterdam-South, with the aim of giving residents more opportunities for a good life."

Convergence Port Celebration overview 1
Cat Stoop

Convergence Port Celebration

The port of Rotterdam, which is the largest port in Europe, is facing a range of challenges due to the uncertainties in future cargo flows, energy carriers, and stricter societal and governmental requirements on emissions and health impacts. Nevertheless, the port remains committed to minimizing its environmental footprint and reducing any potential negative health effects. It recognizes that these challenges are interconnected and require an interdisciplinary perspective to address effectively. That's why the Convergence Themes of Resilient Delta and AI, Data & Digitalisation joined forces to co-host the Convergence Port Celebration event, aimed at finding innovative solutions to these challenges.

Contrasting Research Themes for the Future of Ports: Resilience and Innovation

The Resilient Delta port research theme focuses on developing solutions to adapt to rising sea levels and increase the port's resilience against natural disasters. By developing integral, cross-disciplinary solutions to work towards a future-proof, healthy and just port region. In contrast, the AI, Data & Digitalisation port research theme develops innovative digital solutions to support the port's transition to a smarter and more sustainable port.

Convergence Port Celebration: Collaborative Solutions for the Future of Rotterdam's Port

The event highlighted how the Port brings together our most pressing societal challenges and their corresponding solutions. Moreover, it emphasized the critical need to foster stronger collaboration between diverse disciplines, domains, and areas. The event focused on topics such as circularity, hydrogen transition, transport and logistics challenges, and the ethical use of AI in the maritime industry. Bringing together the Convergence Port community to celebrate completed projects and explore new ones, the event was a testament to the power of collaboration between different ecosystems and convergent domains.

The event was opened by Ed Brinksma, Erasmus University Rotterdam's Executive Chairman, who spoke about the importance of collaboration between different ecosystems to tackle the challenges facing the port of Rotterdam. "For me, this is actually a meeting of ecosystems in some way," he said. "The ecosystem of the port is of tremendous importance to this city, to the country, to Europe, even worldwide. It is connected to many of the ultimate challenges that we're facing."

Brinksma emphasized the importance of the Convergence alliance, which includes Erasmus University Rotterdam, TU Delft, and Erasmus MC, in addressing the challenges facing the port. "Each of them is of top quality worldwide, and the interesting thing is that they are practically completely complementary in terms of their disciplinary orientation," he said. "Bringing them together, we have few points of conflict on who is in charge of what part or what discipline, but we can actually enrich each other."

Convergence Port Celebration overview 2
Cat Stoop

AI Ethics and Collaboration for the Future of Rotterdam's Port

Gerrit Schipper, Executive Director of the Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics, emphasized the importance of using AI in a proper, ethical, and legal way, as well as staying in control and not treating it as artificial intelligence but instead as augmented intelligence. He believes that if used correctly, AI can help solve many of the problems we face. Schipper also mentioned that the port and maritime domain is a vital topic, particularly in Rotterdam.

Fostering Sustainability and Multidisciplinary Solutions

In addition, the event highlighted the importance of the port as an essential part of the city and community of Rotterdam, focusing on topics such as circularity, hydrogen transition, transport and logistics challenges, and the ethical use of AI in the maritime industry. Martijn Neef, Innovation Manager AI and Data Science from TU Delft, believes that technology is not the only answer to the challenges faced by the port. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to developing real solutions and applications for complex societal challenges.

The Convergence Port Celebration event demonstrated the power of collaboration between different ecosystems and convergent domains in tackling the challenges facing the port of Rotterdam. With the Resilient Delta and the AI, Data and Digitalisation Convergence themes working together, the port is on the path towards becoming a smarter and more sustainable hub for years to come.

Click here if you're interested in learning more, have a fantastic idea, or are looking to collaborate with Resilient Delta.

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