Eric van Schagen Fund

Technology against global warming

Eric van Schagen, one of our alumni who is strongly connected to our university has set up a fund as part of the university fund Eindhoven. His fund is dedicated to the field of Energy. He believes that innovations in the field of energy can make a strong impact on the world. But also that it is important that decisions in the field of energy should be based on scientific results.

You were the chair and now you’re a board member of the University Fund. You’re also a donor and make a substantial contribution every year. Why the wonderful double role?

In my role on the board I was expected to ask others to contribute towards the University fund. In order to be credible, I also of course had to contribute myself! Innovations often stem from annoyances and I was annoyed (and worse) by the discussion about the climate problem. Not only about ignoring the problem, but also about the false solutions: right-wing populists may be happy to deny the problem or trivialize it, but left-wing populists often come up with solutions that are not solutions. Wind and solar energy are still far away from being deployed on a large scale. And a lot of our electricity comes from non-green sources, which in turn makes the electric car a polluter.

Making an impact on the climate crisis requires a lot of big changes, as well as a long-term vision and technological improvements. Solutions must be exportable across the globe as this is an international problem. However nobody really creates policy on this longer term level and international level because after three years of government, supporters have to be mobilized again and politicians take the campaign stand. I choose to donate to the University to take the politics out of a solution and support scientists who are dedicated to finding global solutions. My money has a clear goal: research into the ways in which technology can combat globalwarming. In this way, I’m making a small contribution to solving this big problem and my own annoyance.

So, money leads to happines?

For me – if I can use it in this way! Money is really just a means of exchange, unfortunately it lost most of this essential function long ago. Just look at the corona crisis which we’re now in the middle of. Money should be put to work to address challenges such as Corona. There are companies that have funneled money out of business and into the pockets of the already very wealthy. Sitting in the pockets of the wealthy the money is doing nothing. Now that difficult times are upon us that money should be put to good.

Do something with that money. Give it back its value instead of looking at the world through antiquated economic glasses. Growth, rates up? All right! Shrinkage, rates down? Panic!
We will have to develop a different, shared economic vision in the future, thinking less from a perspective of traditional money and more about value. Because there’s actually no liquidity problem at all: no money has fallen off the planet; it’s just stuck in the wrong places.

Why does the money go to the university and not to any other purpose? Or a political movement?

In politics, left and right compete with each other or even obstruct one another. It’s all about emotions and voters even though both camps could have good ideas. But if we don’t listen to each other, we don’t hear anything useful. I hope that science can make a contribution to stopping the emotional polarization, continuing the pursuit of research and bringing the discussion back to content.

We have grown as a small trading country thanks to many external stimuli – by embracing other cultures and seeing the opportunities. Currently, many countries are retreating
behind their borders and want to become self-sufficient. In a number of ways, this is fine: the smaller the distance between producer and consumer, the fewer kilometers traveled. But the climate does not stop at the border. And while we may be a small country, we are also a smart one that can get other countries on board with a little goodwill.

Hopefully, this pandemic will also be a wakeup call to look at certain things differently. If we go on like this, it’s a matter of waiting for the next one. Due to population growth and global warming, other problems are coming our way, such as drought, famine and consequently migration – an explosive mixture that could cause a new war. It is time for a targeted search for solutions. That should be possible here in the Netherlands.

Where do we start?

The big question is, “what are we going to do with the time we have left before the problem becomes so big that it’s simply too late?” The answer will not come from politicians or
economists but from science. I trust scientists to not be carried along with politics but to stay on their own course. Fortunately, I alsosee this in the new generation: the energy and the mentality find their own path. They hardly read newspapers and are less focused on elections. They get their world view from their own sources in their own way.

What is the role and usefulness of the University Fund?

To give people who are socially involved and have money the opportunity to invest in that better future in a smart, effective way. As a wealthy person, you are now morally obliged
to do so. If you can’t use up your money, do something with it. Give hope to the new generation. That way, you also help your own children more effectively than with a financial inheritance.