Accelerate the pace of innovation and application in bio-imaging and microscopy

Health & Technology flagship

The Flagship CIFIC aims to create a convergent Imaging Facility and Innovation Center (CIFIC) that accelerates the pace of innovation and application in bio-imaging and microscopy.

Advanced microscopy is essential for scientific research on a variety of complex diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders. The more closely biomedical scientists are able zoom in on the minute details of cells and molecules, the better they can understand the underlying mechanisms, and ultimately develop treatments. In other words, advanced microscopy is essential to biomedical research. At present, however, there is a significant gap between the worlds of biomedical research and the technological development of microscopes, hampering and slowing down innovation.


‘R&D engineers often spend years developing a prototype of a new microscope’, Prof. Ir. Jacob Hoogenboom begins. ‘It is not until that lengthy process has been completed that they will start using their prototype to answer relevant medical questions, at which point a whole range of necessary adjustments usually come to light, resulting in delays.’

‘That’s what we want to change. On the one hand, we aim to look more closely at current medical needs and wishes and take them into consideration in developing new technologies. On the other hand, we want to take stock of our technological capabilities and explore which biomedical questions can best be answered with the technologies we already have.’

Combining technologies

According to Hoogenboom, developing new microscopy technology goes beyond simply engineering a new device. It may also require a new way to prepare samples or new processes for collecting and analysing data. ‘The goal is to take all those elements into consideration at an early stage of the development process. Moreover, many biomedical issues require combining multiple different types of microscopy technology, because of the different length scales involved. We want to make sure that the various technologies and the corresponding processes are easier to link to each other.’


‘Google Patient’

“Ideally, we create what we call ‘Google Patient’. A system of microscopy in which various techniques seamlessly merge, allowing us to zoom in from the relatively large scale of an entire organism or organ very efficiently to the nanometer scale of molecular processes. That way you can understand the whole system of how diseases arise and their symptoms much better.”, Hoogenboom explains.

We have to start talking to each other at a much deeper level to work at innovation.

“At the Universities of Rotterdam and Delft there are lots of leading experts working in both the technological and biomedical fields. These people have been working very successfully together for a long time. They have to start talking to each other at a much deeper level to work at innovation. We want to train people who understand both what is technically possible and what the is demanded by biomedical researchers, people that can see both perspectives. In the near future – say within five years – we hope to have a thriving eco system in which innovation happens much more quickly and naturally. And I hope that by then we will have developed improved techniques that, together with industry, can also become commercially available.”