Successful C2R Master Class ‘Technology Introduction in Rural Areas’ by the University of Groningen
In Indonesia, as in many other places, technological innovation can be the driver for the improvement of the lives of people in remote regional areas, sure; but how to make good on that promise where so many have failed to deliver before? Researchers at the University of Palangka Raya have the support of the Bandung Institute of Technology, Gadjah Mada University, and the Universities of Groningen, Wageningen, and Twente in the Netherlands, in bringing robust and innovative technology for the biomass conversion of the waste products of rubber cultivation (particularly biji karet, the rubber fruit kernel) to local communities.
The umbrella program for the efforts mentioned, is Agriculture Beyond Food (ABF): an Indonesian/Dutch joint scientific venture, espoused by MenRisTek and LIPI in Indonesia, and NWO and KNAW in the Netherlands. The Groningen-led cluster is but one of three; Utrecht (Social Geography) and Leiden (Law/Anthropology) lead the other two. Each cluster offered a Master Class as a dissemination activity for ABF, which will come to a close by by the end of this year.
January 2014, Prof Erik Heeres, Prof Ton Broekhuis, and Dr Bartjan Pennink of the University of Groningen gave a master class to Indonesian early stage researchers, master students, young post docs and local entrepreneurs in Indonesia to introduce the latest results on the project Technology introduction in Rural Areas. The Master Class was organized by Mrs. Annet den Hartog-Huisman of the Mobility and Scholarships Desk and Mr. Tim Zwaagstra of Research & Valorisation in conjunction with the KNAW Open Science Meeting 2014 in Makassar, Indonesia.
Prof. Heeres and Dr. Robert Manurung (Bandung Institute of Technology, Bio-Engineering) kicked off C2R with brief outlines of the projects and their Indonesian context. The brunt of the dissemination in C2R Makassar, however, fell to the PhD researchers Yusuf Abduh, Miftahul Ilmi, and Widyarani, who informed a mixed audience of researchers, lecturers, entrepreneurs and civil servants of their findings in the technological conversion of rubber waste biomass to fuel, feed, and fertilizer. Prof. Heri Hermansyah of the University of Indonesia (Bioprocess Engineering) gave a guest lecture on the UI perspective on the field; and ‘Lessons Learnt’ presentations were offered by Dr. Yanti Nuri (Lambung Mangkurat University) and Dr. Yusri Zamhuri (Hasanuddin University) on experiences in Groningen/Bandung projects in local Indonesian latex and seaweed industries, respectively.
The business case of Prof. Ton Broekhuis, then, put the participants to the test: could they, based on a lecture of his, and using his instructions and assignment, design a business plan for a commercially viable local rubber nut industry? Well – turns out they could. Out of six very original plans, a winner was chosen; and the prize-winning group, incidentally, included Mr. Henky Widjaja of the Leiden ABF cluster.
What is the scientific challenge for the University of Groningen to set up knowledge projects with Indonesia? Tim Zwaagstra: ‘First of all, the project means that more research can be done at the University of Groningen with money from external sources. Our research facilities in Groningen provide for ample capacity. We can offer a doctoral position to top students from Indonesia who wish to take their doctoral degree in Groningen; we have the laboratories. Research facilities in Indonesia are often limited and often only available for senior researchers.’
What is the second reason? Tim Zwaagstra: “Prof. Erik Heeres is conducting research into bio-refinery on the basis of rubber waste. He is focusing on the development of a technology which will enable oil to be obtained from the rubber fruit kernel, pure plant oil. We are developing a technology in Groningen and Indonesia which has to be suitable for use in remote areas of Indonesia. The locals should be able to use this technology in order to earn a living. Indonesia is an interesting field of research for bio-refining rubber waste, as the main ingredient, the rubber tree, is readily available and the refining process can be fairly easy to use. And don’t forget: according to some estimates, 98% of the biodiversity in Indonesia has not been properly documented yet. Rubber trees are included in the 2%, but there will be other ways of using the bio-refining technology. This is a scientific perspective one only dreams of.”
How do you define remote areas? Tim Zwaagstra: “We define remote areas as the mainly rural areas in Indonesia, situated outside Java, where the level of development and level of knowledge of the local community is low, and the community has little economic added value.”
Publications? Tim Zwaagstra: “The cluster ‘Breakthroughs in Biofuels’ consists of four PhD students and three post doctorate students, all from Groningen, who will be writing 15 to 20 articles.”
A successful master class? Tim Zwaagstra: ‘Absolutely. We had a high attendance. We had people from all over Indonesia in Makassar on Sulawesi attending the master class. But equally as important: by giving master classes on location, we are able to promote the University of Groningen as a top university. This promotion, in turn, leads to new collaborations and research; the master class in Makassar was organised in collaboration with Hasanuddin University, the best university in eastern Indonesia. We also signed a new agreement for further collaboration, which will hopefully lead to a follow-up project into aquatic biomass: Hasanuddin has excellent research facilities for marine aquaculture. I am currently realising an exchange program with the National University of Singapore, which is the best University in South-East Asia. By playing an active role in those fields, for example by giving master classes, we can attract the interest of possible partners which whom we can exchange knowledge, thereby showcasing the expertise Groningen has to offer, and scouting new talent for Groningen with access to an Indonesian research scholarship. We are currently working on another project between Groningen and Indonesia, on the bureaucratic reform of the Indonesian government, which will involve a conference held in Groningen in April this year and a C2R Master Class in Indonesia in the autumn of 2014.”