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Gravitation grants for three major research programmes

Three major research projects involving Leiden scientists have been awarded a grant from NWO’s Gravitation Programme. The projects are on innovation processes, organs-on-chips and quantum software.

The Gravitation  grants are part of the Gravitation programme funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). The grants are worth 18.8 million euros and the funding runs for ten years. The research groups to be awarded funding are selected by NWO, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, on behalf of OCW. These grants are intended for large-scale research projects in which multiple research institutes collaborate. They bring together leading researchers in one or more research areas to work together to produce top-level research.

Leiden University is involved in three research projects that have received funding, in two of them as the main applicant. In these three projects the university brings together its specialist knowledge on classical antiquity, human organs, and quantum computers with the knowledge of other universities and research institutes.

Anchoring innovation

The ancient Greeks and Romans were innovative in many different fields, ranging from science and technology to art, politics and economics. How did this come about? And how did inventions and new ideas become real, accepted innovations? This is what the classicists at the national research school OIKOS are interested in. Their hypothesis is that tradition and renewal do not just exist in parallel or in opposition to one another. With successful innovation, people see a meaningful connection between the new and the known.

OIKOS uses the term ‘anchoring’ for this multifaceted concept. The research school develops and researches this paradigm in Greek-Roman antiquity, and their findings are expected to lead to a better understanding of innovation processes in the past and present. Leiden University professors involved are Ineke Sluiter (Professor of Greek Language and Culture), Luuk de Ligt (Professor of Ancient History), Miguel John Versluys (Professor of Classical and Mediterranean Archaeology) and Antje Wessels (Professor of Latin Language and Culture).

Read more about this research.

Organs-on-chips

Making miniature organs to study disease mechanisms and treatments may sound like something from the future, but it is in fact not that far-fetched. Researchers from LUMC, the University of Twente, UMCG, TU Delft and the Hubrecht Institute are working on developing these ‘organs-on-chips’. These are grown from living human cells and tissues outside the body in small compartments on a silicon chip that mimics the environment of the human body.

In the project, the scientists focus on cells from the heart, brain, intestines and blood vessels, which will be grown from human stem cells, derived from patients with particular diseases. These cells form the basis of the organ-on-a-chip, which will function in the exact same way as the organ in the human body. This makes it possible to imitate what goes wrong in the organ when a disease develops, or how a certain treatment works. Christine Mummery (Professor of Developmental Biology) and Michel Ferrari (Professor of Neurology) from LUMC are involved in this research project.

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Quantum software consortium

It won’t be long until the first larger quantum computers are available. These computers can do calculations we could not even imagine doing with our conventional computers. The potential of such a quantum computer is enormous, however the building and programming of these machines is very different from the current generation of computers.

The Gravitation Grant will allow researchers to start developing and implementing software on smaller quantum computers. The Quantum software consortium develops protocols for quantum communication and will establish a new type of cryptography which is safe to use in the quantum world. The consortium will test the algorithms and protocols on hardware that will become available in Delft and Leiden, and on a quantum network that will be set up between Amsterdam, Delft, Leiden and The Hague. Leiden University professors Dirk Bouwmeester (Professor of Physics), Ronald Cramer (Professor of Cryptology), Carlo Beenakker (Professor of Theory of Condensed Matter), Aske Plaat (Professor of Data Science) and Bas Edixhoven (Professor of Geometry) are involved in the consortium.

Read more about this research.