News - August 27, 2009

DLO research faces ten percent cuts

There’s going to be a funding shortfall of 14 million for policy support research. Which research projects will bear the brunt?

Mid-July the Ministry of LNV broke the bad news: in 2010 DLO budgets for policy support research will be cut by ten percent. In 2011 the budget will be cut by another 5 million.
Selective cuts
Which research groups will suffer the cuts is still under discussion. The budget for policy support research is divided over themes, including the Minister’s spearhead themes of sustainability, animal welfare and the fertilizer issue. These themes probably won’t be cut back. But themes with less political support in The Hague will have a harder time.
The executive board of Wageningen UR has consulted the Ministry and established a cutback percentage per research theme. The board has sent the knowledge centres a proposal on where the knife should fall, says Ab Groen, director of Education and Research. He doesn’t want to say which research themes will bear the brunt. First the management of the knowledge units will respond to the proposal, and then the board will announce the cuts. The board hopes to manage the cuts without reorganizations and redundancies. It is urging DLO researchers to acquire extra research assignments to compensate for the cuts.
In July LNV pre-empted the selective cuts by releasing eight million euros of policy support money for research on plastic substitutes. The aim of this project is to improve the quality of bioplastics and other biomass products. At least half of the money goes to AFSG at Wageningen UR. Another two to three million euros will be invested in the research by dozens of participating companies, from raw materials producers to end users.
University out of the line of fire
No budget cuts are expected at the university. All the signs are that education minister Plasterk isn’t going to cut back university spending, and that his LNV colleague Verburg will follow his policy. So in the coming years the university will get a steadily bigger state subsidy, reflecting rising student numbers.
Cabinet invests in research
Wageningen UR will be getting less research funding from LNV, but more money from the cabinet from the Fund for strengthening the economic structure (FES). The government will be forking out 25 million euros for research on photosynthesis and using plants and algae for energy. From Wageningen UR, Professors Herbert van Amerongen (artificial leaves) and René Wijffels (algae) are involved. The cabinet has also reserved 10 million euros for the top institutes Pharma and Green Genetics (the top institute for breeding research with a big Wageningen input). How much Green Genetics will receive is still not clear. It will get its first inspection visit this autumn. The Wageningen equipment centre CAT Agrofood has asked for 18.8 million for a building for micro- and nanotechnology. But the cabinet wants to see more details. Also facing more homework is the research programme on climate, water and space, with a big involvement from Alterra. Whether they will get FES funding will be made known this autumn.