Issue 68 - 1st March, 2012

Sustainability Solution
Prof. Dr. Jacqueline Cramer

Teri-Utrecht University Partnership
The TERI European Head Office has been established by TERI in conjunction with Utrecht University, the Province of Utrecht and the City of Utrecht in October 2011. The objective of the Office is to foster the exchange of scientific knowledge in the area of sustained development and energy. This objective is to be achieved through the promotion of scientific research and the development of networks, platforms and intermediary activities between European and Asian companies and institutions for the purpose of innovation and product development.

In an interview with Connect, Prof. Dr. Jacqueline Cramer, Director of the Utrecht Sustainability Institute talks about the partnership, its importance and the areas its will work across.


What have been some of the key efforts of Utrecht University in the field of sustainability?
The Utrecht Sustainability Institute (USI) was founded in order to find positive solutions to the increasing number of problems in the field of sustainability, such as climate change, energy dependence, scarcity of water and resources, explosive urbanisation and the social and economic tensions resulting from these developments. The core of our mission is the transition to sustainable urban regions in the Netherlands and abroad, with a focus on living, working and mobility. The activities of USI are strongly related to a number of the EU societal challenges and to two of the nine economic top areas of the Dutch Government: energy and water.
The Utrecht Sustainability Institute is an initiative by Utrecht University in cooperation with TNO Innovation for Life and Deltares Enabling Delta Life. Seven other knowledge institutions have joined the network, among which the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), KWR Watercycle Research Institute and Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN). Altogether more than 1500 researchers are engaged. The PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the National Institute for Public Health & Environment (RIVM) are also affiliated with the initiative. TERI has already collaborated for many years with some of these partners. USI also includes a core group of major companies who have expressed their commitment, as well as the EU (through an EFRO fund), the province of Utrecht and several municipalities.
What is the nature of the partnership between TERI and Utrecht University?
The seed of the opening of the TERI European Head Office in Utrecht was planted in March 2008 by Minister Sibal and Minister van der Hoeven when they signed the bilateral agreement on Science and Technology cooperation between India and the Netherlands. Priority areas in the agreement are Food & Nutrition, Life Sciences & Health, Water and New & Renewable Energy. The cooperation between TERI and UU is a strategic partnership which is in line with one of the four Utrecht University societal challenges: sustainability. Where Utrecht has a strong body of researchers working on fundamental research, TERI has a fast experience in applied science. In addition the TERI network in India and in Asia matches very well with the European network of Utrecht University.
How will the partnership benefit TERI and Utrecht University?
Of course we will be able to learn from each others experience and best practice. The combination of a fundamental and applied approach to sustainability research will benefit both UU and TERI and its public and private partners. TERI can open doors to top research and the market in India and Asia and Utrecht can do the same for TERI in the Netherlands and Europe. As an example UU and TERI have recently jointly applied for EU research funding within the FP7 Regions of Knowledge programme on upgrading the resource efficiency of ICT products. The application deals with the issue of closing the loop of ICT products through better collection, improved logistics, technological opportunities and new economic (service) concepts. The case of ICT products is representative for many other electronic and electrical products.
What research areas does the partnership aim to focus on?
Of course we will be able to learn from each others experience and best practice. The combination of a fundamental and applied approach to sustainability research will benefit both UU and TERI and its public and private partners. TERI can open doors to top research and the market in India and Asia and Utrecht can do the same for TERI in the Netherlands and Europe. As an example UU and TERI have recently jointly applied for EU research funding within the FP7 Regions of Knowledge programme on upgrading the resource efficiency of ICT products. The application deals with the issue of closing the loop of ICT products through better collection, improved logistics, technological opportunities and new economic (service) concepts. The case of ICT products is representative for many other electronic and electrical products.
What research areas does the partnership aim to focus on?
As a start, the four primary research targets of the UU-TERI cooperation will be water, biomass (conversion), energy efficiency and sustainable cities. Last year TERI professor Atul Kumar visited UU as holder of the Prince Claus Chair for Sustainability and Equity. Together with UU colleagues like Professor Ernst Worrell they are working on sustainable development, climate change and energy.
What shape is this partnership expected to take in India and in the Netherlands? What are some of the market applications that can be expected?
Through the TERI European Head office in Utrecht, TERI and Utrecht University will exchange academic knowledge in the field of sustainable development and energy. The office will also further cooperation and activities between European and Asian companies and institutions. The TERI office in Utrecht was set up in October last year with support of both the City and Province of Utrecht and Utrecht University. The TERI office is located at Utrecht Science Park, where as an example, Danone has recently started building their food and health research centre and where RIVM, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment will be located in the near future. The Utrecht Science Park is a good example of the so called triple helix, where government, knowledge institutions and industry work together. One of the aims of the aforementioned S&T agreement between India and the Netherlands is to increase public - private partnership (PPP). This goal is also a clear focus of the TERI office in Utrecht and with the experience of TERI India I am sure they will be successful. Through joint projects between researchers from Europe and India and the market, business opportunities will be increased. Most promising are business spin off in the area of water, energy and resource efficiency/recycling of products.
How will this partnership encourage investments by companies (Indian ones in Utrecht and Dutch companies into India)?
TERI office will act as a broker for public, private and public-private partnership activities in the field of sustainability between India and the Netherlands. The TERI office will contribute to a growing knowledge and interest about Utrecht and the Netherlands in India and vice versa. Via the TERI office the investment opportunities in both Utrecht and India will become clearer for partners. To contribute to the visibility of Utrecht in India and vice versa, Utrecht Province together with the partners in the region will organize a visit to India in November with a focus on sustainability, water management, life sciences, creative industry and gaming.
It is interesting that TERI choose to set up its European HQ in the Utrecht (the Netherlands is of course selected by companies from all over the world as their bridge to Europe). What were some factors that influenced TERI’s decision?
In addition to the known benefits of the Netherlands as a bridge to Europe, several aspects made TERI decide to open up it's European HQ in Utrecht: Utrecht region is the most competitive region of Europe and the region with the strongest economy in the Netherlands; this is based on the strong knowledge network of Utrecht University, the University Medical Centre Utrecht, the University of Applied Sciences (HU) and many companies in the financial and public services sector, but also on the presence of many knowledge-intensive companies in the energy and environmental sector. In addition, the region has many knowledge institutions active in the domain of sustainable development: among them are TNO (organization of applied sciences, divisions atmosphere, soil, built environment), the national Geological Survey, Deltares (the national water institute), KNMI (national Royal Meteorological Office), KWI (water research institute), RIVM (national health agency) and PBL (national environmental assessment agency). Utrecht region has the ambition to link up with the Delft/Rotterdam area (water technology) and Wageningen (food) to form a connected region that is visible worldwide and leading in sustainable development. The Province of Utrecht has highly educated population and aims at being completely climate neutral in 2040. Part of this 2040 strategy is the effort to strive for a sustainable economy and a sustainability economy. The City of Utrecht aims at being Co2 neutral by 2030 and to do so will invest for the coming 4 years €24M in the 'Utrecht Creates New Energy' programme. This shows that not only Utrecht University but also the City of Utrecht and the Province of Utrecht have a strong sustainable agenda. Cooperation with TERI further supports this agenda. Also the Dutch Embassy in Delhi and the Counsellor for Science & Technology, in particular Dr. Theo Groothuizen, played a decisive role in bringing UU and TERI together. And finally we highly appreciate the strong support of Dr. Pachauri, Director of TERI, and his team, in particular Dr. Alok Adholeya and Mrs Annapurna Vancheswaran, which made this TERI European Head Office in Utrecht a reality.
Utrecht University has several collaborations in Asia. How different is the TERI collaboration from the others?
In a number of ways the collaboration with TERI is unique: TERI is the first partner from Asia to set up an office at the Utrecht Science Park and the first partner in Asia where we have joined forces with both the City of Utrecht and the Province of Utrecht. TERI is also the first strategic partner in Asia where we only focus our collaboration on one of the four strategic themes of Utrecht University: sustainability. Also the focus on public-private-partnerships makes this cooperation different. The collaboration between TERI and UU already covers several areas such as student and staff exchange. To broaden the scope a profile paper competition was held for Dutch high school students on sustainability as part of the activities for the Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity. The competition was won by six students who visited TERI and the Youth Unite for Voluntary Action meeting which is part of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit in 2012: http://www.teriin.org/index.php?option=com_events&task=details&sid=451
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