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Move of SRON space research institute to South Holland now official

By adding their signature to the collaboration agreement on 31 May, Leiden University, TU Delft, space research institute SRON and NWO confirmed the move of SRON from Utrecht to South Holland. From 2021, the headquarters of the space research institute will be located on the Campus of Leiden University.

The move of SRON Utrecht to South Holland will strengthen both national space research and the economy and the knowledge climate in South Holland. The SRON Space Research Institute develops pioneering technology and advanced space instruments and uses these to conduct fundamental scientific research in the area of astrophysics, the Earth's atmosphere and exoplanets. The institute, with some 200 staff, is located in Utrecht and Groningen and is part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Strengthening the economy and knowledge climate

The institute's Utrecht location will move to the new location in Leiden in 2021. At this location, the intensive scientific and technological collaboration with Leiden University, TU Delft and other partners will be safeguarded. SRON Director Rens Waters commented, ‘The move of SRON Utrecht to South Holland will allow us to work more closely together with the research groups in Leiden and Delft. By combining our expertise, we will be able to make more rapid discoveries about the origin and evolution of the universe and the future of the climate, and we will be able to improve the advanced technologies that this research needs.' 

By signing the collaboration agreement  the move of SRON from Utrecht to South Holland was confirmed. Left to right: Rens Waters (SRON), Jaap Schouten (NWO), Tim van der Hagen (TU Delft) and Hester Bijl (Universiteit Leiden)
By signing the collaboration agreement the move of SRON from Utrecht to South Holland was confirmed. Left to right: Rens Waters (SRON), Jaap Schouten (NWO), Tim van der Hagen (TU Delft) and Hester Bijl (Universiteit Leiden)

Broad support for collaboration

The universities in Leiden and Delft have worked closely with SRON, NWO, the province of South Holland and the municipality of Leiden to make this move to South Holland possible. The definitive cooperation agreement that makes the move official was signed on 31 May in the Leiden Observatory. The signatories were Hester Bijl (Vice-Rector Magnificus, Leiden University), Tim van der Hagen (Rector Magnificus, TU Delft), Jaap Schouten (Supervisory Board, NWO) and Rens Waters (Director of SRON). Adri Bom-Lemstra, representative of the Province of South Holland, and Henri Lenferink, Mayor of Leiden were also present. The collaboration and relocation are also supported by the municipalities of Delft, Noordwijk and The Hague, TNO, ESA-ESTEC, NSO, InnovationQuarter and the regional space industry. The employee councils of SRON and NWO have issued positive advice on the earlier NWO decision on the relocation.

Space exploration partners and young talent

NWO and SRON are very happy with the new location and the many opportunities for collaboration in science, technology development and instrument building. South Holland offers an inspiring environment for researchers and students, and provides access to world-class research facilities, which are a good match for the new NWO strategy,' Jaap Schouten commented on behalf of NWO.

South Holland has a unique ecosystem in the area of space exploration and research. This is due in part to the proximity of the universities in Leiden and Delft, where there are many students and researchers who are evidently interested in space research, technology and engineering. But the many regional institutes and companies in the field of space exploration also contribute to the local climate. The signatories expect SRON to be able to secure and continue its fundamental and groundbreaking research, which is arguably among the world's best.

Enriching space education

Vice-Rector Hester Bijl from Leiden University is happy with the arrival of SRON in South Holland, 'The location of  SRON on the Leiden Science Campus will bring many benefits for our research and teaching and that of Delft as well. Students and PhD candidates from Leiden and Delft can also strengthen the work of SRON, and will themselves have access to top-class facilities, advanced instruments and major research projects.' 

Tim van der Hagen, Rector Magnificus of TU Delft, shares this opinion: ‘South Holland has a strong space exploration cluster with the universities of Leiden and Delft, ESA’s research centre, ESTEC in Noordwijk, TNO Space and many other high-tech companies. I believe the arrival of SRON represents a valuable additional impetus for space research and technology development in the region.' 

World-class pioneering research

The relocation will go hand in hand with broader collaboration between SRON, Leiden University, TU Delft and diverse other knowledge partners, focused on SRON's primary research programmes:  astrophysics, exoplanet research, physics, earth-oriented research and technology development. The universities in Leiden and  Delft want to make room for extra researchers on these themes.

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