Good ideas and a lot of power to implement

Interview with Guus Schreiber, chair of VU-UT Steering Committee and former coalition leader and Joost Kok, coalition leader

Coalition leader Joost Kok (UT) and former Smart Societies coalition leader Guus Schreiber (VU Amsterdam) on success against all odds, a shared spirit and the full scientific spectrum.

'For us, the name Smart Societies stands for a good connection between technology and people. How can you use technology to make society smarter and to assure progression? For Twente, this has been familiar territory for some time: High Tech - Human Touch.

Can do mentality

But Amsterdam has also always taken a broad and people-oriented mindset when it comes to the development and application of new technologies. For example, in the cross-pollination between data science, nursing and health sciences. In addition, our name also has a positive and cheerful tone and therefore represents a real can do mentality.

Doubts and prejudices

The collaboration between us is going very well so far. And when we look back, that's a bit against all odds. Because who could have thought that in the very beginning? There were still some doubts and prejudices about the ‘marriage’ between the modest ‘Tukkers’ and those arrogant ‘Amsterdammers’ for whom the world ends outside the A10 ringroad.

Of course, this is a bit harsh, but for some people the physical and psychological distance between our universities was still considerable. And on top of that, our education systems were very different, also in terms of philosophy.

Similar spirit

And yet we have found each other. And that has a lot to do with our shared and similar spirit. We are both similar and complementary. We complement each other and we strengthen each other. What also played a major role is that the current collaboration has been developed and built up on the basis of previous experience. In the past, our people have regularly worked together successfully and with pleasure.

Curious and proud

And the education system did not prove to be an obstacle either. Amsterdam was curious about Twente's system and Twente gladly and proudly brought this system to Amsterdam. This has certainly contributed to the success of our first joint bachelor course in Mechanical Engineering, the first batch of students of which will graduate in July at VU Amsterdam. 

Complete scientific spectrum

In our focus areas Smart Health, Smart Industries and Smart Areas, we continue with existing projects and partnerships and add new subjects, projects and people. We cover and interweave the entire scientific spectrum: alpha, beta, gamma, life sciences & health and technology.

Health and technology

This is what makes the coalition so versatile and powerful. It deals with subjects that are relatively close to us, such as the increasingly strong link between health and technology. This is happening, for example, in the collaboration between the TechMed Centre in Twente and the VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam. We are also working on subjects such as social inclusion, the sustainability of industrial production processes, AI, cultural heritage and preventive health.

Interest and support

The Netherlands is a small country, which means, among other things, that collaboration is extremely important. For researchers and students, but also for all other parties involved in our coalition. Our challenge now is to create more and more interest and support for our coalition.

Ideas and realisation power

There is still a lot of work to be done, but that is not a bad thing. Our researchers are building with a great deal of entrepreneurial spirit and that gives a lot of energy. Certainly when you see that all the efforts are beginning to bear fruit. And that in turn has everything to do with the various people and their qualities within the coalition. Because if you want to be successful, you don't just need people with good ideas, but also people with a lot of power to implement them. And fortunately we have both.’