The Netherlands will soon no longer have natural gas. Where does our wealth come from? From knowledge, innovation and infrastructure, according to the Nationaal Groeifonds. The government is allocating 20 billion euro over the next five years. A committee of heavyweights, including physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf and UM rector Rianne Letschert, published a list of accepted projects last Friday.
One of them is research institute Regmed XB, which resulted from the UM institute MERLN. Both were founded by the former MERLN director Clemens van Blitterswijk. The institutes carry out research in the field of regenerative medicine, in which the body is stimulated to restore or replace failing tissue and organs. Researchers often use the body’s own stem cells that have been cultivated in the lab an put back into the body afterwards.
Five universities (including Eindhoven, Groningen, Leiden and Utrecht), health funds and businesses have joined forces in Regmed XB. The research focuses on chronic diseases such a kidney failure, arthrosis, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Within this framework, the researchers experiment with artificial knees and mini-kidneys, among other things.
With the 56 million euro that the Nationaal Groeifonds has allocated, Regmed XB is going to build a so-called Pilot Factory, where stem cells, bone and cartilage can be produced on a larger scale. Of the total amount, 23 million euro is awarded immediately; the other 33 million has been reserved and will follow subject to conditions. Or: “in anticipation of further illustration or proven success,” as the advisory committee states.
For the other ‘Maastricht’ project, the collaborative Health RI initiative, the fund set aside 69 million euro, 22 million of which is subject to conditions. The aim of this project – of which the spiritual father is André Dekker, professor of Clinical Data Sciences – is to unlock and streamline all health data in the Netherlands, so that they can be used by hospitals and health care institutes but also by research institutes. At the moment, they are scattered across health funds, patient organisations, businesses, et cetera. The Groeifonds is also making 276 million available for the Dutch Al Coalitie, including the Al-hub Brightlands in Heerlen.
In this first round, a total of 646 million euro has been awarded, 525 million of which is subject to conditions. Almost 3.5 billion euro has been reserved. The universities are happy with the results, says the press release by umbrella association VSNU. “We see the result of the leverage effect, with public investments attracting new private investments,” chairman Pieter Duisenberg states.