Utrecht University has identified four research priority areas: sustainability, life sciences, institutions, and youth and identity.
How do we achieve the transition to a sustainable society in terms of energy, water, climate and urban environment? To bring such a transition about, we need knowledge from different disciplines; knowledge that encompasses the broader relationship between the development of population size, water and food provision, ecosystems, cultural values orientations, consumption and production patterns, technology development and ways of organising collaboration between disciplines. Here, there is a direct link with the priority area of institutions. What are the rules of the game? How do you organise a transition to a sustainable society? What institutions and organisations do we need? The workings of the rules determine the quality of a society.
The University is also creating hubs of knowledge that involve other parties. The Utrecht Sustainability Institute (USI), which seeks to increase cross-fertilization between researchers and market parties, brings together knowledge institutions, the business sector, public bodies and public-service parties for the common goal of achieving a transition to sustainable urban regions. More than 1500 researchers from a range of disciplines are involved in this effort.
More information and examples of collaboration: Sustainable Finance Lab and collaboration with TERI.
Prinses Máxima en Rajendra Pachauri, directeur van TERI wereldwijd, openen samen het Europees hoofdkantoor van TERI in Utrecht. (Foto: Wieke Eefting)
Avian flu, pig flu, the greying of the population and antibiotic-resistant hospital bacteria are among the challenges facing society that call for new drugs and new technologies. Through its research in the field of life sciences, Utrecht University contributes to solving challenges of this kind. A high priority in this research field is ‘public health-one health’: the understanding that human and veterinarian medicine are inextricably linked.
In addition, Utrecht University provides the best possible conditions for cancer research, regenerative medicine and stem cell research. The Faculties of Medicine, Sciences and Veterinary Medicine – the latter being the only one of its kind in the Netherlands - collaborate in these areas, providing key input in the fields of chemistry, biology and pharmacy.
At the Utrecht Science Park campus, a range of other parties are making significant contributions to research efforts in the life sciences, namely UMC Utrecht; the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht; the Hubrecht Laboratory of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW); the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM); and the soon-to be-established research department of food producer Danone.
Website Utrecht Life Sciences
Research in the priority area of institutions focuses on the design and workings of rules governing social and economic activities. It is the workings of these formal and informal rules, and of the concomitant organisations, that determine the quality of a society. How should these rules be shaped in order to move closer to the desired result? Under what circumstances do they have the intended effect? Which organisational forms are successful and ensure enduring prosperity, equality and democracy?
Linked to this priority area is work conducted by the Knowledge Centre for Institutions of an Open Society (IOS). IOS brings together economists, public administration specialists, sociologists, lawyers, and historians who are jointly researching how institutions have come into being, how they operate, how they evolve and in which way they contribute to the quality of a society. The research, often jointly undertaken with public-service partners, is conducted at the national, European and global levels. Research at IOS is grouped around four main themes:
• Institutions and Equality
• Institutions and Sustainable Economic Growth
• Institutions and Collaboration
• Institutions and Democracy
> In 2012, Institutions co-hosts an entrepreneurship honours class: community and cooperation.
Youth and Identity
Utrecht University has a reputation for research and teaching in the area of youth and society. The Utrecht approach is to look at this area from different perspectives, for example from the angle of social sciences, behavioural sciences, neurosciences and humanities. Research in this priority area focuses on the development of young people in a greatly changing, global society. For example, what is the influence of friends (peers) and parents, but also teachers, on the behaviour of children? This area of research also looks at the individual characteristics of development. For example, can developmental learning and behaviour disorders be traced back to what happens in the brain?