december, 2020

09dec12:0013:30European Synthetic Cell research and industrial innovation“What if we could make things like nature does? Synthetic cells for green technology in Europe”12:00 - 13:30 Event Type:Conference Session in cooperation with TUDelft


(Wednesday) 12:00 - 13:30


Zoom Virtual Debate

Event Details


Building a functioning cell is one of the grand scientific challenges of the 21st century. Imagine if we could find the answer to the question: “How does life work?” And imagine that from that knowledge, we could build a material that is 100% reusable, or that can heal itself when damaged. Or that we can mimic plants to harness CO2 and convert it in energy and zero-impact products for industry.

During this online lunch event leading European politicians, European Commission policymakers, industry experts and researchers will exchange viewpoints – and come to recommendations – on synthetic cell research in Europe and its potential for European technology and society. The objective of this event is to reach out and engage in a dialogue with prominent Members of the European Parliament as well as policymakers of the European Commission.


Kickstarting collaboration between European industry and researchers to generate technological impact of synthetic cell research and to do it in a responsible way.

Bridging the valley of death between ERC synthetic cell research and proofs-of-concept towards thriving synthetic cell innovation eco-systems and hubs in Europe

Generating world-leading European technology from world-leading European research on synthetic cells – before other countries do.


  • Is Horizon Europe adequately equipped to enable European industries and start ups to lead in synthetic cell innovation following upon its research excellence?
  • “The science of today is the technology of tomorrow.” (Edward Teller):  is Europe investing in tomorrow? Or is it only looking for short term solutions today based on the science of yesterday?


Maria da Graça Carvalho, MEP, Chair of the K4I Forum, Group of the European People’s Party, Portugal


Speakers for this event

  • Barend Verachtert

    Barend Verachtert

    Head of Unit “Materials for Tomorrow”, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission

    Barend Verachtert is the Head of the Materials for Tomorrow Unit in the Research and Innovation Directorate-General (DG RTD) of the European Commission. The unit is in charge of the development and implementation of research and innovation policies for advanced materials. He has held various positions within DG RTD in the field of SMEs, the bioeconomy and agri-food. During its start-up phase, he was the interim Executive Director of the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking, a public-private partnership. Before joining the European Commission in 1998, he was a technology acquisition manager for Plant Genetic Systems NV, a Belgian plant biotechnology company. He obtained a PhD in biology from the University of Leuven (1988).

    Head of Unit “Materials for Tomorrow”, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission

  • Esther Thole

    Esther Thole

    Science journalist and writer

    Author of Creators of Life (original NL: Makers van Leven), Maven Publishing (2018). In her book, editor Esther Thole describes how scientists build structures on the nano-scale towards hierarchically ordered materials or building blocks for life.

    Science journalist and writer

  • Jean-Christophe Baret

    Jean-Christophe Baret

    Professor and Research Group Leader, Univ. Bordeaux, CNRS & IUF

    Jean-Christophe Baret obtained his PhD from the University of Twente (NL) in 2005. After a post-doc at ISIS, Strasbourg (F), the institute of J.M. Lehn, he joined the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Goettingen (D) as an independent group leader. In 2013 he obtained an ERC Starting Grant to develop new microfluidic tools for micro-compartmentalization. He joined the University of Bordeaux (F) as a full professor in 2014 and was appointed Junior Member of the Institut Universitaire de France in 2016. He is the laureate of an ERC Proof of Concept grant which led to the creation of the company Emulseo launched in 2018. Emulseo develops formulations for industrial applications of the droplet-based microfluidics technology. He is a recognized expert in microfluidics, serving as Editor of Microfluidics and Nanofluidics (Springer-Nature) and as Advisory Board Member of Lab on a Chip (RSC). His research activities now focus on microfluidics for bottom-up synthetic biology and he currently coordinates the build-up of the new Research Program Frontiers of Life at the Univ. Bordeaux which regroups local activities in the fields related to synthetic biology from molecules to regenerative medicine.

    Professor and Research Group Leader, Univ. Bordeaux, CNRS & IUF

  • Maria da Graça Carvalho

    Maria da Graça Carvalho

    Member of the European Parliament, EPP, Portugal

    Maria da Graça Carvalho is currently member of the European Parliament (2019-2024). In the European Parliament she is a full Member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and a substitute Member on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) and substitute member on Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM). She follows as well the parliamentary Delegations for relations with the United States, for relations with the countries of Central America and Delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly. As a MEP, she was appointed rapporteur of the Specific Programme Implementing HORIZON 2020 and of the report on Simplification of the Rules of Participation in the European Programs for Research and Innovation. In 2011, she was awarded the Prize for the best MEP in the area of Research and Innovation.

    Member of the European Parliament, EPP, Portugal

  • Marileen Dogterom

    Marileen Dogterom

    Chair, Department of Bionanoscience, Delft University of Technology

    Marileen Dogterom was trained as a theoretical physicist at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. She was a PhD student in Paris and Princeton until 1994 and then a postdoc at Bell Labs. In 1997 she started her own independent research group in experimental biophysics at the FOM Institute AMOLF in Amsterdam, where she was a group leader and later department head until 2014. Since then she has been professor and chair of the department of Bionanoscience at the TU Delft. She is a board member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and recipient of an ERC Synergy Grant (2013). In 2018 she received the prestigious Dutch Spinoza price for her scientific work. Her main interest is in the reconstitution of cellular machineries in artificial confinement, with the ultimate goal to build a synthetic cell. Since 2017, she is leading a Dutch research consortium this topic.

    Chair, Department of Bionanoscience, Delft University of Technology

  • Tim van der Hagen

    Tim van der Hagen

    Rector Magnificus / President Executive Board, TU Delft

    Tim van der Hagen (born 1959) has been President of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) since May 2016 and also Rector Magnificus since January 2018. He studied Applied Physics at Eindhoven University of Technology. After taking his doctorate in 1989 at TU Delft, he stayed on at the Reactor Institute Delft, which conducts radiation-related research into energy, materials and health. He was director of the Institute between 2005 and 2012. In 1999 he was appointed professor of Reactor Physics. Between September 2010 and May 2016 he was Dean of the Applied Sciences faculty at TU Delft. During this latter period Tim was one of the instigators of the Delft Plan, published in 2015, which set out TU Delft’s vision on how the Netherlands could play a leading role in the European energy market. In 2015, he was also the co-author of an advisory report ‘A prosperous nation without CO2: Towards a sustainable energy supply by 2050’ produced by the Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli). Van der Hagen has broad managerial experience in the field of energy, including as a former member of the Dutch Energy Council and the Top team of the Top Sector Energy in the Netherlands. Both bodies advise the government on the implementation of energy policy. In addition to this he is a member of the national Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (AWTI) which was established by the Dutch government to advise the government and parliament on policy in the areas of scientific research, technological development and innovation. Furthermore, Tim is a Board member of the Royal Netherlands Society of Engineers (KIvI), a member of the Board of the Netherlands Energy Research Alliance (NERA) and of GROW (Growth through Research, Development and Demonstration in Offshore Wind), member of the Supervisory Board of Central Organisation for Radioactive Waste (COVRA) and Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) Strategic Advisory Board on Energy and the Supervisory Board of Advanced Dutch Energy Materials (ADEM). He also holds a chair in the General board of the 4TU Federation, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and the Steering Committee of Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Alliance (LDE). Between May 2014 and May 2016 he was Chair of the Supervisory Board of HollandPTC (Holland Particle Therapy Centre) jointly built on the Delft campus by the Erasmus and Leiden University Medical Centres and the TU Delft . In May 2016, Tim van der Hagen was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion. In his free time, he plays in a pop cover band and he enjoys going to jazz concerts, the theatre and museums.

    Rector Magnificus / President Executive Board, TU Delft

  • Tobias Erb

    Tobias Erb

    Director and Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Synthetic Metabolism at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology –ERC grant recipient

    Tobias J. Erb is a synthetic biologist and Director at the Max-Planck-Institute for terrestrial Micro­biology in Marburg (D). Tobias Erb’s research centers on developing an artificial photosynthesis for the sustainable conversion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) with natural and synthetic cells. Resaerch activities in the Erb lab focus on the discovery and engineering of novel CO2 converting enzymes and their use in the bottom-up design of artificial chloroplasts and synthetic cells. Tobias Erb studied Chemistry and Biology at the University of Freiburg (D) and the Ohio State University (US). After obtaining his PhD in 2009, Erb was a postdoc at the University of Illinois (US), before heading a junior group at the ETH Zürich (CH) from 2011-2014. In 2014 he became an independent Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, where he was promoted to director in 2017. For his work, Erb received several awards, among them the Otto Bayer Award (2018), Germany’s most prestigious award for innovation in chemistry & biochemistry, the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize of the German Research Foundation, and the Research awards of the German and Swiss Societies for Microbiology. He was named one of twelve outstanding scientific talents by Chemical and Engineering News of the American Chemical Society and elected to the European Academy of Microbiology, as well as the Young Academy at the National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina. Erb serves as expert on the working group “Artificial Photosynthesis” and “Life Sciences” at the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina.

    Director and Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Synthetic Metabolism at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology –ERC grant recipient

  • Viorel Peca

    Viorel Peca

    Head of Unit, European Commission

    Viorel Peca is Head of the Future and Emerging Technologies Unit with the European Commission, DG Connect. His unit’s mission is to lead the exploration of future technologies that matter for our future by identifying and seizing opportunities of long-term benefit for citizens, the economy and society and by ensuring that Europe is best positioned to capitalise on related emerging industrial opportunities. He joined the European Commission in 2008 and DG Connect in 2011 as Head of Unit for Networked Media followed by 4 exciting years leading the Innovation unit between 2012 and 2016; previously he was Project Manager and Chief Business Analyst for the eFP7 team of DG DIGIT. Viorel started his career in R&D at Alcatel Romania in 1996, and then moved to Belgium in 2000 where he worked for several Alcatel products spanning all the layers of the network. Later he worked as feature development team leader, then as IPTV project manager. Viorel holds an MSc in electronics and communications from University ‘Politehnica’ from Timisoara, Romania and has a Master in Industrial Management from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL), a postgraduate diploma in Applied Informatics from Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB) and a Certificate in Leadership and Management, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin

    Head of Unit, European Commission



Barend Verachtert, Head of Unit “Materials for Tomorrow”, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission

Viorel Peca, Head of Unit, European Commission

Tim van der Hagen, President and Rector Magnificus Executive Board of the TU Delft

Marileen Dogterom, TU Delft, Chair Department of BioNano Science ERC Synergy laureate and co-promotor of the European Synthetic cell initiative

Jean-Christophe Baret, Professor and Research Group Leader, Univ. Bordeaux, CNRS & IUF

Tobias Erb, Director and Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Synthetic Metabolism at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology –ERC grant recipient


Confirmed participants a.o.:

Markus Pompejus, Vice President Innovation & Scouting Bioscience Research, BASF

Jeremy Shears, Chief Scientist Biosciences, Royal Dutch Shell

Michelle Habets, Researcher at the Rathenau Institute

David Steuerman, Kavli Foundation



Esther Thole, Science journalist and writer