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UASNL conference 29 October 2020 – looking back

On the 29th of October 2020, we organised the first UASNL seminar on Applied Research and societal challenges. We look back on a successful event, where a diverse range of Applied Research of Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences was put in the limelight. After the warm welcome of our chair Rob Verhofstad, three speakers gave insight into their research, and how it contributes to todays societal challenges. The conference was moderated by Mendeltje van Keulen, who gave an inspirational key note speech on the opportunities and niches for applied research and the challenges to involve regions, research universities and stakeholders in solving societal challenges with impact for young professionals. Mendeltje leads the Research Group Changing Role of Europe at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

Wolter Paans shared his work in Healthy Ageing, and especially in relation to the Corona pandemic. Wolter is coordinator of the Research Group Nursing Diagnostics, and is leading lector of the Centre of Expertise Healthy Ageing at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen. In his work, Applied Research is closely intertwined with fundamental research, which collaboratively covers all research up to practical implementation of solutions.

Willem van Winden is professor at the Urban Economic Innovation department of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. His research focuses on urban/regional innovation policies and strategies. During the conference, Willem focused on his research on the energy transition in urban areas, where he stressed that technical solutions make up for just 20% of the challenge, next to societal and political.

The last speaker of the conference was Dr. Nina Nesterova. As Senior Researcher liveable and smart cities at Breda University of Applied Sciences she shared her knowledge and experience of the importance of SDGs for universities. The SDGs help UAS to prepare current students for a sustainable future, but also provide the institutes with tools to take responsibility in leading this transition.


On collaborating with universities and the difference between fundamental and applied research: the panel wishes that in the future there will be no more strict distinction between fundamental and applied research. Already there is an overlap between the two types of research. But there are also elements that clearly distinguish the work of UASs from traditional research universities. The nature of the research is different: the questions come straight from society, there is an immediate feedback loop. UAS are better connected to several communities of practice. Furthermore, next to gaining insight, UAS are able to make things work and create tangible results. Career paths are not only dependent on published papers. In fact, research universities are moving more and more in the direction of UAS.

On cooperation with municipalities: UASs are well known and suitable partners for municipalities. In many cases there is a real partnership relationship, not only principal-agent.

For the closure of the event UASNL had the honour to share a video message of Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who stressed the importance of UAS through the following message (his video message is available below):

‘Universities of Applied Sciences are important players in the region. They connect theory and practice, ideas and implementation, research and applications. This makes them a linking pin spanning research and education, business and society. Together with the regional partners, they form the backbone for transitions we need to face. I whole heartedly welcome this regional engagement and wish the partners every success.’

If you missed our event, you can watch it again via this link.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte recorded a video message for the online opening of the UASNL network on October 29, 2020. Watch the video below.

Rutte screenshot
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