What is the Da Vinci Project?

The Da Vinci Project is an interdisciplinary honours programme at Utrecht University for 2nd and 3rd year Bachelor students. During the project, students with different educational backgrounds work together to solve a complex problem relating to sustainability and the circular economy. The problems that the students are working on, are real-life problems brought to us by external partners, ranging from the private sector (e.g. Akzo Nobel or The Ocean Cleanup) to local and national governmental bodies (e.g. the Water Authority de Stichtse Rijnlanden). The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint for a better and more sustainable future for all, are a guiding principle for this project. The students make use of Design Thinking to design the solution, or prototype. The aim is to design a “human centered” prototype, a solution that people actually want and use. On top of that the students take part in interactive lectures, or college tours, by sustainability experts from various areas of research and expertise from within and outside of the UU.

Innovative Education 

At the Da Vinci project, we aim to innovate education by employing an interactive, learning-by-doing approach. The course is designed to help students bridge the gap between not only different educational backgrounds, but also the gap between higher education and the business market. 

After a successful pilot in 2023-2024, the Da Vinci Project is also being expanded into a Master program.

Course structure

In the Da Vinci Project, the approach to Design Thinking follows the Stanford model’s five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

Students learn about the five steps during workshops and they apply them to solve the challenge proposed by their stakeholder.

The teams meet several sustainability experts from various fields: during the College Tours, the experts share their journey, and during the Dragon’s Den and the Expert Meeting they give feedbacks on the teams’ progress.

The Da Vinci Project is fun! A Taekwondo workshop is held for students to build resilience, and the end of the course the Prototype Party takes place, where students present their prototypes to the stakeholders.


Please contact Hannie van Berlo-van den Broek with any questions about the Project or collaborating as a partner.

prof. dr. ir. Bert Weckhuysen – Professor at Utrecht University
prof. dr. Appy Sluijs – Professor at Utrecht University
Fieke Sluijs – Design Thinking Expert
ing. Hannie van Berlo-van den Broek – Technical Support Assistant at Utrecht University
Jan den Hollander – PhD candidate at Utrecht University
ir. Mariangela Biggiero – PhD candidate at Utrecht University
Roy Maas –
PhD candidate at Utrecht University

Students’ and speakers testimonials

Working in this team encourages us to look across our disciplinary boundaries and to think outside of our frame. An interdisciplinary team is advantageous for broadening your comfort zone, and we can highly recommend working in a team like this.” – The IO Jamms, Da Vinci Project Team 2021

The path of creating and testing a prototype was quite challenging but very fulfilling.” – The Vitruvians, Da Vinci Project Team 2021

I have been discussing for 3 hours with the Da Vinci Project students about the future of minerals and metals and this world, and I am not sure who learned more. Conversations like this are extremely important to understand the, very real and urgent, questions and concerns of this generation. We need to do more, as a sector, to get out of our own echo chambers and answer these. If these smart, critical, engaged, passionate people are going to be in charge of our future, there may be hope for us yet..” – Kirsten Hund, Head of Carbon Neutrality at de Beers Group, College Tour speaker 2023