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Over 50 million euros for research on microbes and climate

Two Dutch research teams, comprising many Darwin Center affiliates, have been awarded the prestigious Gravitation grant, to set up long-term and large-scale research programmes. The two teams are the Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (which was awarded a grant of €28 million) and the Soehngen Institute for Anaerobic Microbiology (which was awarded a grant of €22.9 million). These awards fall under the Gravitation programme of the Minister for Education, Culture and Science. The Ministry funded six research programmes in total.

Microbes for health and environment
The Soehngen Institute for anaerobic microbiology

  • Main applicant: Prof. M.S.M. Jetten (Radboud University Nijmegen)
  • Co-applicants: Prof. M.C.M. van Loosdrecht (Delft University of Technology), Prof. A.J.M. Stams (Wageningen University and Research Centre), Prof. J.S. Sinninghe Damsté (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, NIOZ), Prof. W.M. de Vos (Wageningen University and Research Centre)
  • Lead institution: Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Award: 22.9 million euros

Top Dutch microbiologists jointly want to tackle one of the grand challenges: the creation of a sustainable biobased economy. Microbes that can live without oxygen (complex anaerobic microbial communities) can play an important role in that. The aim of this project is to discover new anaerobic microbial conversions and even to design synthetic microbial communities that can subsequently be applied in novel sustainable technologies. This will include the efficient production of biogas, the conversion of organic waste into degradable bioplastics, and improved health by optimising the intestinal flora.


Perturbations of system earth: reading the past to project the future
Netherlands Earth System Science Centre

The Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (ESSC) will bring together research into the climate of the past, present and future to improve the predictions about future climate conditions on our planet. Palaeoclimatologists, biogeoscientists and climate modellers will jointly work on research into the mutual interactions between geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere on different timescales. The consortium will mainly focus on the influence of the carbon cycle to determine how warm the earth will become due to current disruptions to the carbon cycle and how sudden changes in the climate can take place.

Gravition funding programme

As Jet Bussemaker, Minister of Education, Culture and Science, explains, ‘These scientists are world-class and the Netherlands can be proud of them. The best researchers in the country are working closely together in these teams to conduct excellent, long-term research in one or more specialised areas. The Gravitation programme provides financial support for up to ten years.’