Erasmus University, TU Delft and Erasmus MC intensify collaboration

To address the major social challenges in the fields of health, sustainability, urbanisation and digitalisation, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus MC and TU Delft plan to bridge the divides between arts and humanities, the natural, social and behavioural sciences and medical technology. The universities are to substantively expand their academic co-operation in the field of Health & Technology; the institutions are starting up a joint ecosystem. These partners will be forming a joint initiative to address metropolitan issues. Sustainable Rotterdam Delta, as it will be known, will have co-creation sites all over the region. The universities announced this at the ceremony in honour of TU Delft's 178th Foundation Day on 10 January 2020.

“This far-reaching collaboration gives a better opportunity for realising revolutionary solutions and for systematically advancing the social embedding and acceptance of new technologies and medical developments,” says Hans Smits, interim President of the Erasmus University's Executive Board. “Combined together like this, our two universities and the affiliated medical centre are even more attractive to students, top-level international researchers and valorisation partners from government and the business community.”

Health & Technology ecosystem

Erasmus University and TU Delft wish to create an ecosystem together with Erasmus MC in which top-level scientists from various disciplines integrate their knowledge, expertise and research methods in order to arrive at new discoveries and smart solutions for making healthcare more effective and efficient, improving health and quality of life and enabling people to manage their health away from the hospital. The SmartTech Campus planned in Rotterdam will provide a working space in which scientists in the fields of medicine and the health sciences, technical sciences and social sciences can collaborate with businesses and institutions in start-ups, scale-ups and wet labs.

Co-creation in the Sustainable Rotterdam Delta

For the region, it is essential that we study and contribute toward solutions to metropolitan social problems, including those relating to the climate and energy transition. The Sustainable Rotterdam Delta initiative being forged here, regards Rotterdam and the surrounding region as a ‘living lab’ for addressing challenges relating to mobility, the built environment and water management but also the related social aspects of equal opportunities, a healthy living environment, the economy and job opportunities. The Sustainable Rotterdam Delta initiative hopes to have its base in Rotterdam, with various co-creation cores in the region. This will turn the Zuid-Holland delta into a living lab for interdisciplinary research and allow it to serve as a model for the world's other densely populated deltas, which are often vulnerable to climate change. This collaboration between EUR, TU Delft and Erasmus MC compliments the existing, successful collaboration in the LDE centres for BOLD cities and Sustainability, in which partners seek out each other's complementary expertise even more to address issues in this field.

Artificial Intelligence & Datascience

Erasmus University will also focus on more knowledge development and education about data science and Artificial Intelligence. In this way, the university builds on existing strengths about the application of new technologies such as AI for society and the economy. “Our economic faculty and RSM already have a great knowledge of data science and AI. Additionally, much research is already being done into the consequences of new technologies in practice. From human-machine interactions to deepfakes to data-driven improvement in healthcare to avoid bias in recruitment,” says Rutger Engels, Rector Magnificus Erasmus University. “The EUR can make an important contribution to the legal, ethical and governance issues associated with the arrival of new technologies. This fits in perfectly with the mission of the university: creating a positive social impact.” A campus-wide AI task force started work at the end of 2019 to give shape to this impulse. Combining this knowledge with the strengths of TU Delft and Leiden University creates a strong knowledge cluster on AI in South-Holland. Moreover, the joint ambition of the LDE universities is to provide more than 85,000 students with knowledge of AI and data science in the long term.

Next steps

Business plans will be worked out for these three initiatives in the coming months. Scientists from the three institutions will submit proposals for education and research. In addition, the business plans will also discuss financing, location and legal design. These plans will also become part of the Southern Randstad's proposal for the Government Investment Fund. The fund is intended for investments in projects that strengthen the Dutch economy. Over the past decades, scientists from the institutions have succeeded in finding each other. In 2013 this was further reinforced by the formation of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Alliance (LDE) and the development of the Medical Delta partnership (incl. Erasmus MC and LUMC). This forms the basis from which cooperation can now be intensified and scaled up. The five institutions sometimes work together at the same time but can also collaborate bilaterally or tripartite on various topics, depending on whether content strengthens or promotes speed.