Sharing is the Future – Campus Connect

Published on
April 18, 2023

Campus Connect encourages contact, connection and knowledge transfer between professionals on Wageningen Campus. On Thursday 6 April, Campus Connect was dedicated to sharing research equipment and innovation facilities. Advanced research equipment is available for shared use, both for researchers at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and for other knowledge institutions and companies. Opportunities and possibilities for sharing and jointly investing in research equipment and innovation facilities were discussed, also user experiences were exchanged.

Anne Mensink, Manager Wageningen Campus & Shared Research Facilities and Mascha Rasenberg, Account Manager Shared Research Facilities (SRF) at WUR, welcomed the audience and introduced the programme. 'Shared Research Facilities' is the central point of contact for the shared use of research equipment, facilities and investments. SRF providesresearchers, universities and companies the opportunity to use advanced research facilities. This involves continuous new investments.

Value in sharing research facilities

"We also want to share that equipment," indicates Mensink. "There is value in sharing because it creates new and shared insights and it stimulates innovation. Our ambition is to maintain a top position with state-of-the-art equipment that is open for use, and to use this equipment to collaborate internally and externally.

"We look at what individual research groups need, and we identify the opportunities for joint research equipment. Then we determine what investments are needed. The equipment is opened up for shared use, and people only pay for the hours they use it. This ensures that even startups or researchers with little budget, can still conduct their research," says Rasenberg.

"Another great benefit of joint use is knowledge exchange. Based on the research facility, interactions and conversations take place and new ideas and opportunities for further cooperation arise.," continues Rasenberg. "There are around four hundred shared research facilities available, most of which can be found on the Wageningen Campus. There are also facilities available elsewhere, for example the MRI scan at Hospital Gelderse Vallei, and the Robolector at Utrecht University. 230 of these devices can also be used by external partners".

Examples of shared facilities

At Campus Connect, four examples of shared research facilities were highlighted. First, the supercomputer Anunna available at WUR.

High Performance Computing Cluster (HPC) - Anunna

An SRF grant was recently used to invest in a High Performance Computing Cluster (HPC/Anunna) that is open for sharing. Alexander van Ittersum, Product Owner Compute & Platform Solutions and Research IT Solutions, addresses the opportunities.

"With Anunna, large amounts of data are processed and important research is done. The HPC is located in one of WUR's two data centres, and is currently being expanded and renewed. An investment of EUR 2.1 million has been made for this purpose. The demand for use of this supercomputer has grown in recent times, due to increasing deployment of data-driven science, Articifical Intelligence and machine learning.

Besides being used for various research purposes, such as weather and climate modelling and mapping genomes, Annuna plays an important role in education. Students can use the high-performance computing cluster to experiment with large amounts of data. To respond to these developments, considerable expansion was needed. Without the central support from Shared Research Facilities, this would not have been possible."

Van Ittersum mentions that various courses for using the HPC are offered. "It is also possible to try out Annuna for a certain period of time. With regular use, a fixed price can be agreed for this with a discount."

Netherlands Plant Eco-phenotyping Centre - NPEC

The second example of a shared research facility is NPEC, a joint initiative of Wageningen University & Research and Utrecht University, co-funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). "Plants can be monitored during growth by 3D cameras.. Climate settings, such as light and humidity, can be set very precisely. Thus, optimal growth conditions can be achieved," says Rick van de Zedde, Project Manager Netherlands Plant Eco-phenotyping Centre.

"By being present at this Campus Connect, we want to reach people who are not necessarily into technology, but who work with plants. Those people we want to attract to work with us," Van de Zedde continued. "There are several regular tours and plenty of opportunities with regard to conducting pilots. NPEC greenhouse is also virtually accessible through a 3D virtual tour.

Besides lab research, equipment is also available for field research. This takes place, for instance, on breeders' trial fields. "NPEC brings researchers and organisations together. Some well-known users are Syngenta, Enza Zaden and Bejo Zaden," says Van de Zedde. He emphasises that the focus is on effective and efficient use of data. "It's not about as much data as possible, but it's about the data being processed and presented in the right way. In this way the researcheris able to see the most important findings, like differences between growth curves of several varieties."

Foodvalley NL - Fermentation lab Smaakpark Ede - Insect Experience Center Barneveld

The concluding presentation is given by Emmanuel Anom of Foodvalley NL. He talks enthusiastically about the sharing economy, and how important this way of thinking is for Foodvalley NL. "The sharing economy is changing the way we collaborate and innovate. It is important for us to make pilot facilities shareable. "A good example is the Fermentation Lab at the Smaakpark in Ede. This lab originated from the cooperation between 'Shared Research Facilities' WUR and Foodvalley NL financed by subsidy from the Regiodeal.

At the Smaakpark, lab spaces are available with fermentation equipment.There is a direct testing opportunity with innovative food in the adjacent restaurant.

Another example is the Insect Experience Centre in Barneveld, experimenting with flies and larvae for animal feed."

"We understand the importance of investing in equipment," Emmanuel continued. " Regiodeal made funding available, including the Pilot Facilities Fund in which startups and SMEs can also participate through investment vouchers." More information on this is available from Foodvalley NL.

Find out more about Shared Research Facilities - WUR