News - May 18, 2018

How many close partners do you need?

Stijn van Gils

Not all WUR’s alliances with external partners are equally important, says Bram de Vos of the Strategic Partnerships strategy group. Vos and nine other members have considered what could be improved.

© Guy Ackermans

No, De Vos won’t be mentioning any less useful partners by name. He is, however, prepared to explain what the strategy group has been doing. ‘First we looked at what a strategic partnership actually means. We eventually concluded that you need to have two or more science groups involved, but really all of WUR ought to benefit from the partnership.’

The committee then considered how to assess the effectiveness of the collaboration. ‘We initially took a broad view, looking at educational partners, knowledge valorisation partners such as companies and research partners. But the Executive Board wanted us to focus on the last category. That is more of a partnership between equals. You can set up joint EU research projects with these partners, for example.’

The project group reviewed the existing ‘strategic partnerships’. ‘Is this an active partnership? If not, can we reactivate it? Are there synergy benefits for us? It must be a collaboration that benefits both partners.’ The partnership should also contribute towards the strategic objectives. Although it was difficult for the group to assess that as the strategic objectives themselves are being determined by another strategy group. So the partnership group probably won’t come up with a specific list of future partners that WUR should focus on.

The group is still struggling with the question of how many strategic partners WUR needs. ‘We currently have 10 to 15. You might be able to achieve more with fewer partners but then other important partners might feel left out. We’d love to hear from anyone with good ideas on this.’

Incidentally, De Vos thinks smaller-scale partnerships will definitely remain as important as they are now, but they don’t count as ‘strategic for WUR as a whole’.

Theme: Strategic partners

WUR intends to present a new strategic plan next autumn. One of the 10 themes in that plan is Strategic Partners. If you would like to join in the debate, you can. Post your ideas on the theme group’s web page at or drop in on the coordinators, Bram de Vos and Tiny van Boekel.