Healthcare that is more accessible and more affordable. New sources of energy that reduce CO2 emissions in the province. In two new Centers for Research and Innovation, the Province of Overijssel in the Netherlands is collaborating with the University of Twente to find solutions to current social issues. The solutions will generate business and employment.
High-tech solutions on the scale of a farm. This is the common thread running through the plans for bioenergy and healthcare technology. They introduce new technology on a small scale to ensure the best possible integration in society. For instance, the 'high-tech health farm' brings new healthcare technology to the patient without the need for hospital admission. And bioenergy provides new opportunities for the agricultural sector. Is it possible, for example, to build a farm that is self-sufficient in generating its own heat and electricity?
PLANT WASTE AND ALGAE
The link between farms and bioenergy is a fairly obvious one. With pyrolysis technology developed at the University of Twente, it is possible to make oil from plant waste which can then be used for a number of purposes, including additional fuel for power plants. The IMPACT institute decided to investigate ways of organizing this close to the source and drew up a proposal together with the Province of Overijssel. With this purpose in mind, the institute is looking to cooperate with spin-off companies which have brought pyrolysis technology onto the market. One such company is the Biomass Technology Group (BTG), which is currently building a pyrolysis reactor in Hengelo. In this context, biomass is not in competition with food production: all types of plant waste can be used to make oil.
The cultivation of algae is another interesting new agricultural activity: algae could well become an important natural resource for fuels and high-grade chemicals. IMPACT is working on this with a number of parties including Wageningen University and Research Centre. As for the self-sufficient farm, it could harness a combination of technologies and become a kind of demonstration facility. The key is to make the technology as user-friendly as possible so that there is no need for a specially trained operator to keep the company running. But the organizational and administrative context also requires attention. To this end, IMPACT is working closely with the Twente Centre for Studies in Technology and Sustainable Development (CSTM).
HIGH-TECH HEALTH FARM
The aim of the 'high-tech health farm' is to improve access to high quality healthcare. In the future, healthcare provision will take place more frequently outside of the hospital environment, preferably in the patient's own surroundings. This is why the test environment for the 'high-tech health farm' proposed by the MIRA institute is close to the primary healthcare sector. There, new technology will be able to ensure a strongly personalized form of healthcare. Whether the case in hand involves monitoring pain, improving breast-cancer diagnosis or determining cardiovascular problems relating to diabetes, many of these areas involve technology which has already been developed to a highly advanced level within the University of Twente.
One such example is the "lab-on-a-chip" technology developed by the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, which brings the laboratory to the patient instead of the other way round. In order to ensure a successful launch, another market party and a test environment are often needed. The plans for the 'high-tech health farm' therefore represent a boost to employment in the SME sector in the field of biomedical technology. In addition, the University of Twente will cooperate closely with hospitals in the province of Overijssel, including Medisch Spectrum Twente in Enschede and the Isala Klinieken in Zwolle.