Universities of Münster and Twente strengthen cooperation with ’Collaboration Grants’

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The Universities of Münster and Twente fund joint research concepts. © WWU - Jan

The Universities of Münster and Twente fund joint research concepts. © WWU - Jan Lehmann / UT - Eric Brinkhorst

For the fourth time now, the managements of the Universities of Münster and Twente have awarded so-called Collaboration Grants. The universities have been using this internal start-up funding instrument since 2018 as a way of intensifying existing research collaborations between the two universities and initiating new ones which have great potential for the acquisition of third-party funding. The rectors of both universities also signed a memorandum of understanding, in which they affirmed their intention to further strengthen their cross-border cooperation. "We have succeeded in increasing the degree of partnership between our two universities," said Prof. Johannes Wessels, Rector of the University of Münster. "This is shown by the innovative projects undertaken by our researchers together, and I am delighted that we are able to further strengthen this cooperation this year too with the awarding of the Collaboration Grants."

15 applications were submitted for the Collaboration Grants. The six most promising teams presented their projects and answered the questions put to them by the jury, which consisted of three researchers from each of the two universities. Three teams especially impressed the jury with their cross-border research concepts.

The Collaboration Grants are each worth 80,000 euros and they run for twelve months. The Universities of Münster and Twente share the funding equally. Financial support goes for example to workshops for setting up new consortia or networking events with industrial partners and companies. Over and above this, the money can be used for purchasing new equipment and research instruments.

Winning projects

Title: "Building up trust when recruiting new staff: systematic behaviour analyses using social robotics"
Project team: Prof. Guido Hertel, Dr. Dominik Sondern and Dr. Christoph Nohe, Organizational and Business Psychology at the University of Münster; Prof. Tanya Bondarouk and Dr. Jan-Willem van’t Klooster, Industrial Engineering and Business Information Systems at the University of Twente.

The team of researchers is studying the use of technological support in Human Resources (HR) management in order to gain a potential benefit both for applicants and for employers. The focus is especially on the last phase of the recruiting phase, in which HR staff and applicants negotiate salary and working conditions. Often, such negotiations break down due to a lack of trust - which is very costly for both sides. In this research project, behaviours displayed by HR staff are analysed and developed. For this purpose, one of the things which the researchers use is a social robot, which can be used to vary specific behaviours in a controlled way. This makes it possible to achieve a high degree of standardisation in interactive experiments. Social robots can also be used in occupational practice, for example in recruiting new staff or in behavioural training sessions for HR staff and managers. The researchers are also developing guidelines for designing social robotics.

: "The Twente-Münster high-speed quantum key distribution link" Project team: Prof. Carsten Schuck, Institute of Physics at the University of Münster; Prof. Pepijn W.H. Pinkse, Adaptive Quantum Optics at the University of Twente

Individual photons are exchanged between the Universities of Twente and Münster, via a direct optical fibre connection, to generate secure, tap-proof quantum keys. In this process, highly developed nanophotonic circuits (Twente) and extra low-noise supraconducting detectors (Münster) are meant to enable keys to be generated at very high speeds which can meet the encryption requirements of today’s data flows. The project creates the basis for long-term collaboration between Münster and Twente in the field of integrated quantum photonics. At the same time, the project also represents an important preparation for joint Dutch, German and European follow-up projects.

Title: "Study of vibrotactile cueing by means of vibrating socks in a virtual environment to mitigate any gait freezing in Parkinson patients" Project team: Prof. Claudia Voelcker-Rehage, Institute of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Münster, Prof. Ciska Heida, Biomedical Signals and Systems at the University of Twente

Parkinson patients’ gait can be marked by ’freezing’, which severely restricts mobility. So far, medication has not provided adequate treatment. However, so-called ’cueing’ seems to be an effective method. Here, external (rhythmic) temporal or spatial cues are used to initiate or continue a movement. Something that is particularly promising is the use of vibrotactile signals: when freezing occurs, the patient gets a tactile cue, for example through a vibrating element worn on the ankle. A reduction in cognitive and motor performance in everyday life may be a negative side-effect, though. In this current project, the team is studying the effect of vibrotactile signals on cognitive and motor performance in everyday life. This takes place in virtual reality, a virtual real-time gait analysis system (GRAIL). The aim is to demonstrate the effectiveness of "vibrating socks" in realistic scenarios - especially in comparison with other (visual or auditory) cueing systems. The long-term aim is to develop commercial medical applications.

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