In SPRONG GROUNDED, THUAS and Saxion University of Applied Sciences are working together intensively in a long-term project to visualise how our environment above and below ground can influence our lives for better or worse. The heart of the project is: developing technologies and methods for smart collection and use of large amounts of data, and research into dialogue between stakeholders such as residents, government and business. The aim is to keep people and the environment healthy.  

A SPRONG group is a collaboration between universities of applied sciences and practice partners, such as companies, public institutions and governments. Over the next eight years the ambition is to grow into a leading international network for research into the role of data on and for the use of soil in a sustainable living environment.  

GROUNDED increases scientific understanding of topsoil and subsoil: the soil on which we exist, live and work as well as the subsoil we use for agriculture, cabling and storage. The SPRONG group combines knowledge of sensing, analysis, visualisation and interpretation of data with knowledge of how this data can help citizens and organisations shape their environment. GROUNDED invests in research capacity and strengthens knowledge at the interfaces. 

Thus, through digitisation, the researchers make the invisible capable of being applied. They offer information that provides answers to pressing issues for cities and towns, our handling of the climate and space for renewable energy, nature and recreation. This should enable citizens, governments and companies to use data to organise the upper and lower ground in the best possible way. Think, for example, of road construction, road use, water storage, pipelines, (wireless) communication structures. In doing so, the group works in both urban and rural contexts, so that the two fields of knowledge complement each other. 

Societal challenges as a starting point 

Research always starts with the various societal challenges for a healthy, safe and sustainable living environment: climate adaptation, environmental exposures such as air quality and substance deposition, soil quality, water quality, biodiversity, traffic intensity, etc. Next, the focus is always on a number of questions: what key information is needed to answer the question? What data of what quality do you need to enable citizen drivers to act, and where do you get this data from? As researchers, how do we translate the data into information for stakeholders? This is how they view acceptance of data-driven governance and policy-making as an integrated system. Practice partners contribute their questions and also actively participate in the activities in GROUNDED, e.g. by making data and techniques available. 

Expected results 

With the chain partners, the research team develops concrete challenges in a research agenda for the short and longer term. The research is broadly oriented and concerns the interaction between soil, subsoil and living environment. For each challenge, the GROUNDED team expects to provide reliable, safe and accepted information to governments, knowledge institutions and companies.  

The work can result in all kinds of applications. One dot on the horizon, for instance, is the use of digital twins to calculate scenarios for area planning. For instance, to estimate how water quality changes if you circulate it differently. Or how different traffic circulation causes changes in harmful emissions and accessibility. In short: tools to make reasoned policy choices. 

Governments and companies can more easily calculate different scenarios based on the research results. They can better communicate the consequences with and provide insight to citizens.  

For knowledge institutions, the GROUNDED results can have a magnet effect, enabling the consortium to grow over the next eight years into a powerful GROUNDED research group that conducts leading international research into the role of soil data in a sustainable living environment.  

Collaborating partners and working areas 

Saxion University of Applied Sciences: 

  • Soil and Subsoil research group, Professor Geert Roovers whose research area is mapping the relationship between soil, subsoil and its functional spatial use; 

  • Smart Cities research group, Professor Mettina Veenstra with as research area data as an information and steering instrument in the urban environment; 

  • Advanced Forensic Technology research group, Professor Jaap Knotter with Research Area Technology to Support Forensic Research; 

  • Nanotechnology research group, Professor Cas Damen in the field of Physical Research and sensing and Professor Martin Bennink in the field of Bionanotechnology. 

The Hague University of Applied Sciences: 

  • Smart Sensor Systems research group, Professor John Bolte with the research area being data acquisition and analysis; 

  • Civic Technology research group, Professor Jos van Leeuwen with the Research field of using interactive technology in the dialogue between citizen and government; 

  • Metropolitan Developments research group, Professor Katja Rusinovic with Research area social, economic, spatial but also digital inclusion and exclusion mechanisms; 

  • Purposeful Marketing research group, Professor Hongli Joosten-Ma with as Research area the successful engagement and communication between stakeholders and stakeholders such as government, business and citizens. 

35 companies with 5 core partners: 

  • Deltares - JTI in water, subsoil and infrastructure; contributes with knowledge on soil policy;  

  • Police academy - basic and specialist Research & Development for the Dutch police; contributes with knowledge on the illegal use of soil, environmental damage and offences.  

  • Antea Group - consultancy and engineering firm in spatial and urban development, water, infrastructure, environment, safety and project management; contributes with knowledge on interventions in the living environment and the use of data and technology;  

  • ESRI - software company for geographic information systems, web-GIS and geodatabase management applications; contributes with knowledge on geoanalysis;  

  • De Kien - city campus and partnership of Topicus, Tauw, Municipality of Deventer, Witteveen & Bos, Aventus, Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Province of Overijssel, MSML and Deventer Schouwburg; contributes with knowledge on interaction technology and living environment. 

Intended duration of the project 

June 2023 to June 2031; initial grant award until 2027, with possibility of four-year extension. 

Study programmes involved 

  • Bachelor: Archaeology (Saxion), Spatial Development (Saxion and THUAS), Electrical Engineering (Saxion and THUAS), Forensic Research (Saxion), Civil Engineering (Saxion and THUAS);  

  • Master: Nanotechnology (Saxion) and modules of the MBA (Saxion and THUAS). 


This project is funded by an SIA SPRONG grant. 


Dr Geert Roovers – Saxion University of Applied Sciences 

Dr John Bolte – The Hague University of Applied Sciences 

THUAS team 

Smart Sensor Systems research group, Professor John Bolte, and associate Professor Sam Aerts  

Civic Technology research group, Professor Jos van Leeuwen,

Metropolitan Developments research group, Professor Katja Rusinovic,

Purposeful Marketing research group, Professor Hongli Joosten-Ma,