Sem Vijverberg (VU) and Tijmen Bakker (UvA) selected as participants in Faculty of Impact

June 28, 2022

Sem Vijverberg – PhD Candidate at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – and University of Amsterdam PostDoc researcher Tijmen Bakker have been selected as participants in the Faculty of Impact, and will be taking part in an intensive two year program where ten ambitious scientists work with each other and with a selection of experts to conquer the market with their groundbreaking innovations. This first ever edition of the Faculty of Impact focuses on the theme energy transition and sustainability.

Sem Vijverberg
As part of the program, Vijverberg received €200K funding to further develop his innovation project – together with his partners Jannes van Ingen & Prof. Dim Coumou – entitled ‘Stabilizing electricity grids and maximizing feed-in of renewables with AI-based forecasts several weeks ahead’.

Student journey
Before being a PhD candidate at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Vijverberg studied Applied Physics at The Hague University of Applied Sciences and earned his master’s degree in Meteorology, Physical Oceanography and Climate Physics at Utrecht University. In 2020, he came to Demonstrator Lab with his idea to improve weather forecasts. S2S-AI was kickstarted here, with the goal to significantly improve long-range weather prediction by using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. These improved forecasts enable actors across multiple sectors to make more informed decisions and thereby mitigate risks and decrease losses. Societal preparedness is also an effective way to mitigate the impact increasingly extreme weather due to climate change. Besides joining the Demonstrator Lab, his partner Jannes van Ingen joined the incubator program by the Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship and Vijverberg took the “End of Pipe Knowledge Transfer” course at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Being selected for Faculty of Impact
Vijverberg was more than happy to find out that he was selected: “The main motivation of my work was always to make an impact. How this impact is achieved is secondary. Writing scientific papers is one way to achieve that goal, yet other options may be much more effective. I now arrived at a point where I believe that the science has proven itself and it is time to implement these novel methods. Our aim is to become a start-up that stands very close to the academic world. This way the latest innovations can find its way to solving real-world problems, such as anticipating high-impact droughts in Africa. I am very excited and curious to see how we can be part of this solution, aiming at increasing societal resilience against weather and climate change.

Tijmen Bakker
Tijmen Bakker, PostDoc researcher at the University of Amsterdam, is the initiator of ‘Using the Green in Greenhouses’. The aim of this proposal is to develop a dedicated type of solar cell that generates electricity while still leaving light available for plant growth. “Using solar panels on the glass roofing of greenhouses can completely offset the energy cost of the greenhouse, whilst also creating a green energy surplus. The problem is that solar cells absorb light, which is then not available for the plants. I want to provide solar cells for greenhouse farmers that synergizes with the growing of plants, so the greenhouses can grow plants and generate green energy, resulting in an energy neutral horticulture sector. With our new carbon-based technology, we aim to make solar cell modules that are superior in efficiency, cost and tuneability.”

Tijmen gained his ideas during his PhD research under the supervision of Joost Reek, professor at HIMS (Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences) and subsequently applied to the valorisation program of the research priority area (RPA) sustainable chemistry. This gave him the opportunity to further develop the idea and to apply for this FOI grant.

Faculty of Impact
The Faculty of Impact is a new national program for scientists who want to turn their research into a business with impact, and a unique opportunity to really take the time and work diligently. Researchers get a grant for two years, to focus 100% of their time on turning their research into a business with impact. During that time, fellows meet for one week each month for their training. The remaining time they are connected to their own university or research institution. After nine months there is an evaluation in which the participants decide in which role they will continue, and at the end of the two years, the idea or product is ready for demonstration in practice.

The program works with thematic rounds, hung on social challenges of our time. For example, the current first round welcomed applications from researchers with ideas related to the ‘energy transition and sustainability’ theme. Later rounds will also touch on other themes, such as medical technology and artificial intelligence. The second round on life science & health is planned for this autumn (and will be published soon). We invite especially interested PhD students in the final part of their thesis related to this theme, to take up contact with IXA. The Faculty of Impact is a collaboration between the Universities of the Netherlands (VSNU), Techleap and NWO.