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Seed Money programme

Every year, ASI selects new and innovative research projects at the VU for its seed money with the aim to foster innovative and interdisciplinary research across VU faculties. The projects are intended to strengthen the VU profile theme of “Science for Sustainability”.

The Amsterdam Sustainability Institute wants to facilitate research that revolves around sustainability issues, ranging from improving our understanding of the natural causes of climate change to learning how to change people’s behavior. Topics from recent winning projects focus on promoting climate education at VU, supporting sustainable diet policies through the use of AI, implementing transformative learning tools to empower future leaders in sustainability, assessing the impact of moral frames and rhetoric on adoption of pro-environmental behaviours, and engaging climate scientists for citizen dialogues and visions of VU’s green campus.

Keen on strengthening the connectedness between VU faculties, other universities and beyond, previous winners have published academic papers on peer-reviewed journals, produced technical reports and conference papers and extended their projects through external collaborations. Under VU Amsterdam's profile theme "Science for Sustainability", the programme has enabled 33 projects that benefitted more than 100 researchers.

For 2024, we again received a great number of proposals which cover a wide variety of topics and disciplines and show how diverse sustainability research is at the VU. In the end, 4 projects received a full grant of EUR 10.000.

Find more information about the winning projects near the bottom of the page in 'Edition 2024'. 

Apart from the annual seed money grants, ASI has introduced the ASI Research Innovation Programme, which focuses on grant acquisition and bridges the gap between bottom-up projects financed by seed money and research projects with external funding. By creating open spaces for connection, researchers can meet colleagues and exchange ideas for new research initiatives. With the support of ASI, the Grant Office and IXA as well as funding, these ideas are taken to the next stage and geared towards acquisition.

The first edition of the programme has led to five new projects. Click through the images above to learn more about the projects, which include:

  • Digitally Enabled Sustainable Energy Communities
  • Living Farms: sustainable housing and farming business options
  • Sun4Cooling
  • Sustainable Cloud 4 All Lab
  • Cities to Nature

These projects were presented during the ASI Research Innovation Meetup in March 2024. 

The stories behind ASI seed money projects

Through the seed money programme, the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute enables VU researchers to explore research questions in an interdisciplinary way. Meet some of the people behind the projects.

Seed money projects over the years

  • Edition 2024

    Empowering Climate Education: Motivating Curriculum Change at the VU Amsterdam

    This project aims to identify the reasons behind VU program directors’ (lack of) motivation to implement climate education in their study programs. Based on this knowledge, interventions will be proposed to motivate program directors to implement climate education in their program. By using a systematic, evidence-based approach, this project will lead to a more widespread adoption of climate education in study programs, ensuring that a greater number of students will be educated on this topic and be well-prepared for their future.

    Read more.

    Supporting Sustainable Diet Policies by Knowledge-based AI

    This project aims to support policymakers in making decisions about sustainable diet policies by an interdisciplinary research that combines state-of-the-art sustainability theories and resources with knowledge-based artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. A successful project will result in a compelling proof-of-concept application to pave the way for a new paradigm that combines knowledge technologies with deep domain insight from life cycle assessment and sustainability.

    Read more.

    Environmental Leadership: How Do Moral Frames and Rhetoric Interact to Foster Pro-Environmental Behavior

    This project aims to make climate change communication more effective by considering both what is being said (i.e., moral foundations) and how it is being said (i.e., charismatic rhetoric). The research study will focus on liberals and conservatives in The Netherlands to explore (1) whether moral framing that matches people’s ideologies / moral foundations can effectively foster pro-environmental behaviors, (2) whether mismatches lead to further polarization, and (3) whether charismatic rhetoric can strengthen the relationships between message framing and behavioral outcome. 

    Read more.

    The Evolving Canvas: Art, Nature, and Visual Thinking in Higher Education for Transformative Learning, Empowering Sustainability Leaders of Tomorrow

    This project puts forward implementation of Art/Nature-Based Learning (A/NBL) and Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) to start a transformative learning pathway that empowers these inner dimensions and fosters critical thinking, creativity, diverse perspectives for students. This project not only seeks to validate and enhance the scientific standing of A/NBL and VTS methodologies, but also endeavours to help students develop pioneering transformative actions by integrating these methodologies in sustainability science and education.

    Read more.

  • Edition 2023

    The VU living lab: a research-led and practice-oriented approach to promote healthy, vegan eating in VU, using a series of behavioural trials

    VU Amsterdam holds a special position in addressing climate change as an organisation and has recently recognised the need to adopt future-proof, planet-friendly diets as one of its four main operational priorities in its Roadmap to Sustainability by 2025. Despite these organised efforts, there is much more that needs to be done especially in developing a systematic and robust understanding of upscaling behaviour change strategies, amongst university students and staff members to achieve these targets within their desired schedule, that is by 2025.

    Read more

    Transformative Tools for Social Entrepreneurship in the Dutch Food Sector

    Social enterprises–organizations that apply the principles and processes of business entrepreneurship to the pursuit of a social and/or environmental mission–have mushroomed across the Netherlands and are seen as important vehicles for creating a more sustainable economy and society

    Read more

    Living landscape, living memories: a bio-cultural analysis of shifting baselines using historical photography

    The picturesque (semi)natural agricultural landscapes around Amsterdam, which include lowland peat meadows and marshy nature reserves, create the impression of an unchanged landscape, frozen in time. However, the ecological heritage of the landscape has been seriously undervalued resulting in dramatic biodiversity decline along with soil subsidence and degradation, water pollution and release of greenhouse gases due to intensive ‘industrial’ land use.

    Read more

    Science on the fray? Engaging climate scientists for citizen dialogues

    As the climate crisis is becoming more urgent and more complex every day, including citizens and societal stakeholders in policy-making and in research is crucial to making climate science more socially responsive, while fostering its public legitimacy.

    Read more

    Visions of VU’s Green Campus: Interrogating the Potential of Urban Gardening, Agriculture, and Farming

    Ongoing processes of urbanization in anthropogenic times pose questions about the future of sustainable cities. Growing cities globally face a host of issues, including increased poverty and inequalities, pollution, heat stress, decreased water retention, declining biodiversity, and questions on how to feed rapidly increasing numbers of urban dwellers.

    Read more

  • Edition 2022

    Links between gender, indigeneity, sociopolitical, economic and biophysical factors and food security among the Mapuche in Chile

    Indigenous peoples in Latin America suffer from a long history of exploitation and marginalization and face poverty and food insecurity rates that are on average twice as high as compared to the non-indigenous population.

    Read more

    The environmental sustainability and costs of measures to reduce heat strain

    Climate change leads to an increase in extreme temperatures. Since morbidity and mortality are considerably elevated during thermal extremes, the Dutch government has serious concerns about health in thermal extremes and in particular in the heat. 

    Read more

    A Sustainable Cloud: Tactics for Urban Futures

    The resources required by data centers are witnessing an unsustainable growth. How to evolve digital infrastructures so that the cloud becomes sustainable, is a crucial problem that needs to be addressed, and fast. 

    Read more  

    Locusts and Wild Honey

    It is widely argued that the ecological crisis we are facing today, is for a large part the consequence of destructive (Western) human attitudes, actions and underlying worldviews characterized by anthropocentrism. 

    Read more

    How hazard scales can support and improve risk communication

    For decades, meteorologists and governments have been warning coastal communities for an imminent hurricane using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. 

    Read more

    Decolonising Sustainability Transitions Research in Practice

    One of the most urgent discussions taking place at the crossroads of sustainability transitions research and post- and decolonial studies today is: how can global ecological collapse be countered without erasing the local realities of indigenous peoples worldwide? 

    Read more

  • Edition 2021

    Gold in Crisis – New environmental threats and global crime in South America

    South America is a region of prolonged social and ecological crisis. This project takes gold mining as a productive lens to examine these social dynamics for the cases of Colombia and Venezuela. 

    Read more

    FireScapes – Towards an interdisciplinary understanding of wildfire risk mitigation in the Dutch landscape

    Over the last year, the number of wildfires has increased dramatically in the Netherlands and they are expected to increase further. 

    Festivals as innovative spaces for sustainability transition

    The urgent need for transition towards a sustainable society calls for novel initiatives to engage and mobilize people. 

    Read more

    Firm-survey evidence on environmental policy and barriers to energy efficiency investments

    Hazards of climate change require us to make more efficient use of energy, as fossil energy usage often goes hand in hand with damages to the environment and climate.

    Interrelating in the Anthropocene

    Operating at the interface of the humanities: theology/religious studies, the social sciences, and biology this project investigates the potential of cultural and religious imaginations, practices, and conceptualizations for reimagining human-nature relationships in the context of the Anthropocene. 

    Read more

  • Edition 2020

    Enabling and empowering social entrepreneurship

    This project aims to enable and empower social entrepreneurship, dealing with social and environmental issues. Well-known examples of social entrepreneurship are Tony’s Chocolonely (aimed at fighting slave labor in the cacao value chain, among others) and Dopper (aimed at reducing the use of plastic, among others), but also many other, often small-scaled, firms are practicing social entrepreneurship. Growing interest among citizens, policymakers and scholars regarding the positive impacts of entrepreneurial action beyond economic growth is clear. Thus, the core of this project are two days with a group of 25 entrepreneurs on the practices of opportunity creation, mobilization of supportive communities and organizational survival in competitive markets. The 25 entrepreneurs may represent existing businesses as well as start-ups.

    Contact persons:

    • Prof. Enno Masurel, Department of Management and Organization / VU Center for Entrepreneurship, School of Business and Economics
    • Dr Neil Thompson, Department of Management and Organization, School of Business and Economics
    • Dr Michel Verver, Department of Organization Sciences, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Science

    Plastic, science and society symposium: An exploration of the power of transdisciplinarity in sustainability research and education

    This project aims to unite disciplines and help scientists and students working on this topic open their minds to new ways of thinking about these complex issues surrounding the plastics problem. If there was ever a global issue that required creative thinking outside the box, this is it. We will achieve this through bringing scholars of different disciplines together with artists and other societal actors in an interactive one-day symposium aimed to discuss inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to dealing with the plastic pollution issue. A mix of lectures and workshops have been organized.

    Contact persons:

    • Dr Heather Leslie, Department of Environment & Health, Faculty of Science
    • Miranda van Holland, 3D Program Coordinator, EARS, Valorization Officer Faculty of Religion and Theology

    Growing up with hope or despair? Investigating Dutch teenagers’ comportment towards the future in the age of climate change

    In this project, we wish to explore what climate change means for Dutch teenagers’ view of their future. A special role is given to the concept of hope. To do so, we will investigate how teenagers relate themselves to narratives of hope, optimism, pessimism and cynicism. The project’s main research question is how do Dutch teenagers comport themselves towards the future in the age of climate change? A central role is given to the understanding of hope as can be found in the work of Jonathan Sacks and Erik Borgman.

    Contact persons: 

    • Dr Gerdien Bertram-Troost, Faculty of Religion and Theology and Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences 
    • Drs Jan Jorrit Hasselaar, Amsterdam Centre for Religion and Sustainable Development, Faculty of Religion and Theology
    • Dr Barbara Regeer, Athena Institute, Faculty of Science
    • Dr Pim Klaassen, Athena Institute, Faculty of Science
    • Dr Willemine Willems, Athena Institute, Faculty of Science

    Dutch homes gas-free by 2050? Speeding up the rate of energy-efficient renovations with the help of behavioral research

    The energy-efficient renovation of residential homes is one of the big challenges the Netherlands faces. As high up-front cost and lack of trust were identified as perceived major barriers for energy-efficient renovations, behavioral interventions need to enhance trust and address the renovation measures’ relative costs and benefits. This asks for a concerted effort of behavioral researchers as well as businesses and public authorities to jointly research behavioral interventions to speed up the renovation rate. To this end, we will jointly set up a long-term collaborative research initiative, C-Lab Energy, that aims to build up a database on individual renovation decisions from various sources (surveys, online experiments, field experiments, existing statistical and geodata) to enable researchers from ASI and other Dutch universities to jointly research the barriers to energy-efficient renovations as well as instruments to overcome them.

    Contact persons: 

    • Dr Julia Blasch, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Science 
    • Dr Menusch Khadjavi, Department of Spatial Economics, School of Business and Economics 
    • Dr Giuliana Spadaro, Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences

    Human mortality in European cities under climate change

    While the previous ASI project focused on empirical analyses of climate-related mortality in the Netherlands, the current project is an upscaling of these findings (along with other information and studies, see methodology) in a European scale analysis of expected mortality changes and related economic impacts in cities due to climate change. Thus, we will develop a spatially explicit model that projects mortality changes for all major European cities under various climate change and socio-economic scenarios of population change, while accounting for additional warming from the UHI. This impact model can according to the IPCC (2014) risk assessment framework be divided in hazard, exposure, and vulnerability components. The hazard model is based on a newly developed Integrated Assessment Model called CLIMRISK (Estrada and Botzen, 2019) which produces spatially explicit temperature projections under climate change scenarios that are probabilistic by accounting for uncertainty in GCM temperature projections and climate sensitivity.

    Contact persons: 

    • Prof. Wouter Botzen, Department of Environmental Economics, Institute for Environmental Studies, Faculty of Sciences 
    • Prof. Hein Daanen, Department of Human Movement Sciences, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences

    Does climate change cause emotional stress and undermine attention and productivity?

    There is increasing attention for the link between emotions and climate change. This project examines the emotions linked to climate change: whether explicit reminders of climate change may interfere with both emotions and cognitive performance. In particular, using online experimentation services 2 (Qualtrics), we will examine in two Western countries (i.e., Germany, The Netherlands) whether reminders of climate change will make people (a) experience more negative emotions (especially worry and helplessness, but also regret and social emotions such as shame and guilt), and (b) perform worse on simple, incentivized cognitive attention performance tasks.

    Contact persons: 

    • Prof. Paul A. M. van Lange, Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences 
    • Dr Menusch Khadjavi, Department of Spatial Economics, School of Business and Economics

    Looking where no one is looking – a food system horizon scan to identify emerging food system issues

    In order to manage wicked food system problems and to make progress towards the grand challenge of food system sustainability, we need to develop novel research approaches that include multiple diverse perspectives, that challenge assumptions and that aim to illuminate the unexpected. In this project we aim to use 'horizon scanning techniques' to truly identify food system issues that are at the margins of current attention, that are novel and unexpected – we aim to look where none is looking or identify the ‘unasked questions’. To foster the out-of-the-box thinking that is required for such a goal, we will carry out small-scale workshops with leading thinkers on food system sustainability from within and outside VU. The proposed food system horizon scan would thus help VU food system researchers carry out more transformative and boundarypushing research and help VU take a role of transformational leadership in food system research.

    Contact persons: 

    • Dr Verena Seufert, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Science 
    • Dr Lia van Wesenbeeck, Amsterdam Centre for World Food Studies (ACWFS), School of Business and Economics 
    • Dr Tomris Cesuroglu, Athena Institute, Faculty of Science

    ICT 4 Food Security (I4FoodSec)

    In the concern for food and nutrition security in poor rural regions in countries such as Mali Burkina Faso and the north of Ghana, the seed value chain plays an important role. This research will pilot the application of an interdisciplinary approach called “Decision Maps” (Lago, 2019) so far applied to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions for Urban Futures, on the question of how to improve the seed production in Mali in a sustainable way. It does so based on locally-collected information from the farmers and farmer organizations (in previous projects). 

    Contact persons: 

    • Prof. Patricia Lago, Professor of Software Engineering and Sustainability, Faculty of Science 
    • Anna Bon, Senior Advisor, CIS-VU – Center of International Collaboration 
    • Wendelien Tuyp, Advisor Sustainable Land Management, CIS-VU – Center of International Collaboration
  • Edition 2019

    Workshop transitions in food-water-energy infrastructures

    Contact persons: 

    • Prof. P.J.E.M. van Dam, Environmental Humanities Center, Faculty of Humanities 
    • Dr S.J. Kluiving, Environmental Humanities Center, Faculty of Humanities 
    • Prof. K. Kwastek, Environmental Humanities Center, Faculty of Humanities 
    • Dr K. Steenbergh, Environmental Humanities Center, Faculty of Humanities 
    • Dr F.K. Boersema, Institute for Societal Resilience, Faculty of Social Science 
    • Dr T.I.E. Veldkamp, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Science

    Misconceptions of Millennials: An interdisciplinary pilot study on consumer misconceptions about sustainable food choices and motivations for dietary change

    Contact persons: 

    • Dr Julia Blasch, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Science 
    • Dr Harry Aiking, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Science 
    • Dr Ziga Malek, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Science 
    • Jantsje Mol MSc, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Science 
    • Dr Meike Morren, Department of Marketing, School of Business and Economics 
    • Ivar Maas, Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences

    In hope we trust?

    Contact persons: 

    • Prof. Philipp Pattberg, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Science 
    • Dr Paul Koster, Department of Spatial Economics, School of Business and Economics 
    • Prof. Peter-Ben Smit, Department of Texts and Traditions, Faculty of Theology and Religion 
    • Drs. Jan Jorrit Hasselaar MA, Amsterdam Centre for Religion & Sustainable Development, Faculty of Theology and Religion

    Drivers of climate-related human mortality and economic impacts

    Contact persons: 

    • Prof. Wouter Botzen, Institute for Environmental Studies, Faculty of Science 
    • Prof. Hein Daanen, Department of Human Movement Sciences, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences 
    • Mireille Folkerts, Department Human Movement Sciences, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences 
    • Mike Martinius, Institute for Environmental Studies, Faculty of Science

    Smart blue-green roof at VU Aula

    Contact persons: 

    • Dr Martijn Westhoff, Institute for Earth and Climate, Faculty of Science 
    • Dr Ralph Lasage, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Science 
    • Prof. Jacob de Boer, Department of Environment and Health, Faculty of Science 
    • Prof. Petra van Dam, Environmental Humanities Center, Faculty of Humanities

Do you want to know more?

Get in touch with ASI Scientific Coordinator Meike Morren