16 Million to keep the Dutch delta liveable – even as it changes

Project Δ-ENIGMA financed through the NWO-GWI call

Deltas and coastal plains are attractive places to live: fertile, flat, open to the sea. These lowlands are, however, also vulnerable to climate-change and sea-level rise. To better predict how deltas develop in the future we need a thorough understanding of their biogeomorphology – how organisms, currents, waves, water and sand discharge all shape the delta-landscape. Today it was announced that Δ-ENIGMA, a project that focuses on the development of the delta-landscape, is one of the projects to be awarded through the Dutch Research Council (NWO) Large-scale Research Infrastructure call (LSRI). The 10-year project will receive 16 million euros.

∆-ENIGMA will strengthen national and international collaboration

Professor Gerben Ruessink
Gerben Ruessink
Project leader ∆-ENIGMA


The project is a collaboration between Utrecht University, TU Delft, University of Twente, Wageningen University&Research, NIOZ, Deltares and TNO. Biogeomorphology lies at the heart of Δ-ENIGMA. The programme provides infrastructure for intensive observational and experimental research of the Dutch delta. This will improve our ability to predict future development, and help us live on happily in a changing delta.

“We do not yet have the models to accurately predict changes in deltas in the coming years to decades, mainly because our knowledge of the interaction between physical and ecological processes in the formation of deltas is insufficient,” says Gerben Ruessink, Δ-ENIGMA project leader and professor at Utrecht University.

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Open data and labs

A coherent open database of the measurement results will be accumulating over the project’s 10-year period and will be freely available to researchers, policymakers and delta managers. “∆-ENIGMA will strengthen national and international collaboration, as the collected data will be open and FAIR and the laboratory facilities will be accessible to others,” Ruessink says.

Dutch contribution to European research infrastructure

“With this grant, we can acquire specialised equipment that will allow us, for example, to better assess the effects of various interventions on the Dutch delta.” This is equipment such as drones and 3D laser scanners, but also the construction and use of labs and lab facilities. “In doing so, we are making a Dutch contribution to the European research infrastructure for river-sea systems, DANUBIUS-RI.”


Large-scale scientific infrastructure is essential for Dutch science. It may be highly specialised equipment, such as large telescopes, high field magnets or advanced sensors and measurement networks necessary for biological and earth science research. But also ‘virtual’ facilities, such as large databases, scientific computer networks, or data and sample collections. “Investments in large-scale infrastructure contribute to the international position of the Netherlands as a country of knowledge. Science and research cannot do without the right scientific infrastructure,” said Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf.

Two projects from Utrecht University have received NWO-GWI grants: ∆-ENIGMA and EPOS-eNLarge. A total of nine projects were honoured this round.

More about EPOS-eNLarge
NWO: Nine projects to receive 140 million for large-scale scientific infrastructure.