SRON space research institute to relocate to Leiden and Delft

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The SRON space research institute currently located in Utrecht will be relocating to South Holland. The institute, which constructs highly advanced technological instruments for astronomy research and for research on exoplanets, will relocate to new premises adjacent to Leiden University's Science Campus. The Universities of Leiden and Delft are working closely together to facilitate this move.

Good opportunities for collaboration

SRON has some 200 staff working in Utrecht and Groningen and is part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). SRON Utrecht needs to relocate because the current building at the Uithof is approaching the end of its lifespan.  The NWO executive board and the board of the Netherlands Space Research Institute SRON have expressed their preference for the joint bid of Leiden University and Delft University of Technology. In this bid, SRON Utrecht will relocate in several years time to a new building on the campus of Leiden University. NWO and SRON are pleased about this new location and the many possibilities it offers for collaborating in science, technology development and instrument construction. South Holland has a unique ecosystem in the area of space travel and earth observation. The bid by the two universities is supported by the municipalities of Delft and Leiden, the province of South Holland, TNO, ESA ESTEC and the regional space sector. Once the advice from the works councils has been received, the NWO executive board will take a final decision in 2018. 

Reactions

Vice-Rector Hester Bijl from Leiden University is delighted with the proposed relocation of SRON to Leiden's Science Campus: 'This is fantastic news. It has been made possible thanks to intensive cooperation with TU Delft, the province of South Holland and the two municipalities of Leiden and Delft. The presence of SRON in Leiden will mean an enormous boost for research and teaching in both Leiden and Delft.'

Tim van der Hagen, President of TU Delft is also very happy with the arrival of SRON in South Holland: 'There is a very strong colaboration between Science and Engineering in this region, and the arrival of SRON will give an even greater impetus to this.' In Delft SRON will be using existing clean rooms and may well work on the construction of new clean rooms together with TU Delft.

Mayor Henri Lenferink from the municipality of Leiden: 'We are very happy that SRON is coming to Leiden. The institute is an excellent match for the existing infrastructure of the city and will further strengthen the cooperation with the space cluster, including with ESA/ESTEC, in the region. This is another success story arising from the strong collaboration with Delft.' 

Marja van Bijsterveldt, mayor of the municipality of Delft, commented, 'This is a wonderful outcome for South Holland and for the regional space cluster. We have to congratulate Leiden in particular!'

Member of the Provincial Council for South Holland Adri Bom-Lemstra was equally enthusiastic: 'The arrival of SRON in South Holland will give the development of our space cluster around ESA-ESTEC an enormous impetus.  I am both proud and happy with this news.' 

Three bids

This spring it transpired that the previously planned relocation of SRON Utrecht to Amsterdam could not go ahead. NWO subsequently explored the interests of Dutch universities to accommodate SRON on their campus. Three bid books for the new accommodation of the SRON location in Utrecht were assessed by a selection committee over the past few months. The three bids were of a high quality and closely matched each other. After an extensive procedure, the selection committee advised NWO and SRON to proceed with the South Holland consortium.

Excellent connection with research

The overarching argument from the selection committee to choose the bid from Leiden University/Delft University of Technology was the opportunity to optimally realise a future-proof location for SRON. Furthermore, the research connections between SRON and Leiden/Delft, the continuity of the research, the commitment of the bidding party and the financial aspects were important criteria for reaching the final assessment. The enthusiasm and broad support at both universities in combination with a solid and generous offer meant that the selection committee saw many excellent prospects for SRON in the area of space research in South Holland. In addition, the selection committee judged that there is an excellent connection with the technology and instrument construction of SRON. There is also a very good connection with two scientific programme lines of SRON: astrophysics and exoplanet research. The connection with the third programme line, Earth research is still limited in South Holland at present. However, in the bid from Leiden University/Delft University of Technology the selection committee does see sufficient possibilities for realising this connection in the future.

About the selection procedure

The selection committee received a total of three bids. Besides Leiden University/ Delft University of Technology, the consortia University of Amsterdam/University of Twente and Radboud University/ Eindhoven University of Technology also submitted a bid. The three bids were assessed by a selection committee that was appointed in consultation with SRON and the NWO Science domain. The selection procedure consisted of two written rounds of questions followed by interviews with delegations from the submitting consortia. On the basis of this, NWO and SRON jointly chose which two consortia could continue in the procedure. At the start of December, site visits were paid to the two remaining locations. After the visits, the committee reached a choice and it advised the NWO executive board and SRON board to opt for the bid from Leiden University/Delft University of Technology with new accommodation in Leiden.

About SRON

SRON enables breakthroughs in scientific research from space. The institute carries out astrophysical, earth-oriented and exoplanet research. For this, SRON develops groundbreaking technology and advanced space instruments. As a national expertise institute, SRON advises the government and coordinates the national science contributions to international space missions. SRON facilitates societal applications of space technology. SRON has two locations: one in Utrecht and one in Groningen. SRON Utrecht needs to relocate because the current building at the Uithof is approaching the end of its lifespan. The institute is part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.

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