Prestigious Stevin Prize for robot researcher David Abbink

Good news for Delft professor David Abbink. On Friday, science financier NWO announced that he has been awarded a Stevin Prize worth 1.5 million euros. This makes him one of a total of 14 laureates of the prize, which has been awarded annually since 2018. It is meant for researchers who are particularly successful in putting their knowledge to work for society.

Abbink is professor of human-robot interaction at TU Delft and is affiliated with the faculties of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering. His approach is transdisciplinary: how can humans and intelligent machines such as robots work together to address complex societal challenges? He is also director of research and innovation center FRAIM, where he tries to answer that question by bringing different sectors together.


To the NWO, he says he ‘literally got goose bumps’ when he heard he had won the prize. ‘It feels like tremendous recognition’, Abbink said in the press release. ‘This Stevin Prize reinforces my conviction that this learning process must continue, and also provides me, and therefore us, with practical support in developing and extending the scope of our approach.’

In addition to Abbink, three other researchers were awarded. Two Spinoza Prizes, often referred to as ‘the Dutch Nobel Prizes’, went to Bernet Elzinga (professor of stress-related psychopathology, Leiden University) and Detlef van Vuuren (professor of integrated assessment of global environmental change, Utrecht University and researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency).

The second Stevin Prize is for Professor of Public Administration Paul ‘t Hart (Utrecht University) who, according to NWO, is among the most influential public administration scholars in the country. Although already awarded now, the prizes will not be presented until 2 October.

Delft scientists awarded in the past

The Stevin Prize has been won once before by a TU Delft researcher. That took place in 2019, when the prize went to microbiologist Jack Pronk. The Spinoza Prize has gone to a Delft researcher eight times since its introduction in 1995, from 2018 to 2021 even four years in a row. That last year, quantum research Lieven Vandersypen was one of the winners.

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