ASI Seed Money Showcases

Give researchers a small budget and miracles happen.

12/04/2020 | 4:53 PM

On 27 November 2020, ASI virtually hosted its first edition of the ‘ASI Seed Money Showcases’. Every year ASI awards seed money to promising interdisciplinary projects. Projects carried out in the period 2018-2019 were presented during the Seed Money showcases and ongoing seed money projects were pitched, with the aim to inspire potential future seed money applicants. We thank everyone that contributed to making this first edition a success and have provided a summary of the event below.

Introduction
With its Seed Money projects, ASI aims to stimulate novel interdisciplinary research and collaboration by awarding small budgets to teams of researchers from different faculties and disciplines. In 2018/2019, 5 of such projects were executed with 23 researchers involved and a total budget of 47,500 EURO. During the Seed Money Showcases, two of these projects were presented focusing on highlights, lessons learned, and next steps. 

Blue-green roof at VU main building (Dr Ralph Lasage)
At the main building of the VU, a blue-green roof has been installed that enables water retention in case of severe rainfall and that is covered with indigenous plants, enhancing local biodiversity (Blauw-groen dak op Hoofdgebouw VU – de VU Campus als 'living lab' - YouTube). With the seed money, the research team financed instruments that students could use to measure the impacts of the blue-green roof on ecological and hydrological processes, hence contributing to a societal cost-benefit analysis of this new technology. The early involvement of the researchers meant that they could exert influence on how the roof was designed, for example on the choice of plants. Interestingly, the team linked up with the European blue-green roof project in which the VU is a partner (https://resilio.amsterdam). The cooperation between the researchers has not stopped when the project was finished. They are developing new plans and actively lobby for more blue-green measures at the VU campus as well as the Zuidas. 

Changing diets (Dr Meike Morren)
The Changing diets project was a pilot study analysing the impact of knowledge on dietary change. Initially, the target group were millennials but was later broadened up to all age groups. The research methods consisted of two online surveys, qualitative interviews, an analysis of shopping lists, and a calculation of the environmental impact of various meals in terms of CO2, as well as water and land use. The researchers used information nudges as means of intervention. The conclusion was that people are struggling with making sustainable choices because of a lot of conflicting information. Moreover, information on health related issues gives a stronger motivation to change food choice than information on sustainability. Dr Meike Morren, Jantsje Mol, Dr Julia Blasch and Dr Žiga Malek recently finished a working paper on the Changing diets project.

Pitches of new seed money projects
For 2019/2020, 8 seed money projects were selected, with in total 34 researchers involved and a total budget of 68.000 EURO. At the Seed Money Showcases, 3 of these still ongoing projects were pitched:

  • Growing up with hope or despair? Investigating Dutch teenagers’ comportment towards the future in the age of climate change (dr. Pim Klaassen). This project is based on a cooperation between researchers and theatre makers, with the latter holding conversations with dozens of high school students.
  • Enabling and Empowering Social Entrepreneurship (Dr Neil Thompson). The researchers organized 2-day workshops with 11 social entrepreneurs from all over the world on how to develop appropriate business models and how to make social impact. 

Sustainability and Ethics by Design: The development of digital platforms in low resource environments (Sophie Vos and Hella Schaefers). This project aims to design a seed trading platform in Mali, with a major focus on the ethical aspects of adopting ICT solutions. Read more about this project on the web blog: https://w4ra.org/. A paper (https://w4ra.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/A-Digital-Platform-for-Food-Security-in-rural-Africa_review-26oct-copy.pdf) about this ongoing research has been accepted for publication and will be presented at the upcoming IFIPJW conference on 11 December.

Next steps
In reaction to the presentations and pitches, there were many questions from the online audience and also multiple suggestions how to take the projects further. Asked how the VU, and especially ASI, can stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration more strongly, it was mentioned that ASI should make a guide with good and bad practices extracted from the Seed Money projects as well as create a ‘playground’ to exchange ideas and experiences. A new call for ASI Seed Money proposals will be opened in January/February 2021. 

News item by Dr Nicolien van der Grijp