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Executive summary

Annual report 2020

This one-page summary gives you a glimpse of our institute’s performance. Elaborate stories behind our scientific highlights and key publications can be found elsewhere in the online annual report 2020.

The year 2020 was all about our mid-term evaluation. During a 2-day retreat in February in Bergen aan Zee, 32 staff members discussed strategic research lines for the coming years. In particular, the institute’s research focus was clustered into three overarching research topics: Chemistry of Complex Systems and Materials, Chemistry for Sustainability, and Chemistry of Biomolecular Systems.

Peter Bolhuis
HIMS director Prof. Peter Bolhuis: "This COVID-year has been very demanding for everyone. That is why I am even more proud of the great commitment and achievements of our staff - as confirmed by our external mid-term review." Photo by Jan Willem Steenmeijer.

During the online site-visit in December, our Scientific Advisory Committee concluded that “the research at the van ‘t Hoff Institute continues to be of high scientific quality in all four research areas …. it is evident that high quality and innovative research continues to flourish”. In the coming period we will work further on the implementation of the overarching research topics, and follow-up on other strategic recommendations, such as improvement of the gender balance, internal procedures and communication, and investment in hardware research data management and storage hardware  together with our faculty.

Notwithstanding all the COVID-related problems the Van ‘t Hoff Institute has really performed remarkably in terms of PhD graduations, this year a whopping 27 PhD graduated. Also, a record number of 246 appealing publications arose, including 29 joint publications from collaborating HIMS groups. 11 publications came from interdisciplinary collaborations involving different HIMS themes.

A farewell party will be organized in 2021 for Prof. Piet Iedema, who is the initiator of Science for Arts activities in our institute. He retired in September 2020, concluding an impressive career in industry and academia. On the other hand, HIMS welcomed quite a few new scientific staff members last year. Within the framework of the national Sectorplan Dr Tristan Bereau, Dr Saer Samanipour and Dr Sonja Pullen were appointed. Dr Amanda Garcia entered via a highly competitive tenure-track grant from the NWO program on electrochemical conversion and materials (ECCM). Prof. Tim Noel came from TU/e to Amsterdam to focus on the fundamentals of flow‑chemistry within the research priority Area Sustainable Chemistry.

The staff at the Van ‘t Hoff Institute acquired notable grants for new public-private research initiatives, like a NWO TA in Analytical Chemistry and a TTW Open Technology program in Flow-chemistry, as well as curiosity-driven projects and a record number of contract research projects. The institute received a special valorization grant to run an Open Kitchen Lab pilot. This will be a service available in one of the Matrix buildings at the Amsterdam Science Park, where spin-offs can rent a laboratory facility that already has the basic equipment and consumables. DSM’s CTO Dr Marcus Remmers and Director Royal VNCI Manon Bloemer MBA, gave inspiring presentations at the online Amsterdam Chemistry Innovation Day, which attracted over 160 participants from industry and academia. Special attention was given to careers in chemistry and chemical industry in urban development areas.

Several prizes were granted to HIMS researchers. Dr Chris Slootweg and his spin-off SusPhos BV received the NWO Stairway to Impact Award and Rabo Sustainable Innovation Award. Two PhD students were honored with prizes for their thesis: Dr. Kananat Naksomboon received the KNCV Backer prize, and cum laude PhD candidate Dr Mark Koenis received the HRSMC’s Dick Stufkens prize. Emeritus professor Rajamani Krishna was again included in the Highly Cited Researchers 2020 list from the Web of Science Group, while a publication by professor Bas de Bruin made it to the top-10 most cited papers of the previous decade by the American Chemical Society.