News - January 16, 2014

Millions in grants for Wageningen projects

Albert Sikkema

Two research projects with con­siderable input from Wageningen have attracted an NWO grant worth millions, the research organization announced recently.

One of the projects is ‘Microbes for health and environment’, with Wageningen microbiologists Fons Stams and Willem de Vos among the scientists on board. The project will receive 22.9 million euros over a period of four years, with 4.5 million going to the Wageningen research group. Together with three other Dutch research groups, they want to learn more about bacteria and archaea which can live without oxygen. These communities of anaerobic micro-organisms are complex.
‘And we don’t know nearly enough about them,’ says Stams. ‘Most of them are still unknown. What we want to know, above all, is how the various micro-organisms collaborate. That is the shared challenge. So this grant is really worth having.’ De Vos will focus on anaerobic bacteria in the human alimentary canal, and thus on human health. Stams’ main aim is to discover new microbiological conversions for the production of biogas, organic acids and bioplastics using anaerobic organisms.

Along with the Wageningen microbiologists, ecologist Marten Scheffer was allocated about 4.5 million euros in funding for the NWO’s Gravity programme. Scheffer is involved in the Netherlands Earth System Science Centre, a group of climate scientists who want to improve forecasting about the climate in future. Between them the six research groups will receive 28 million euros. Scheffer will focus on tipping points, the moments when an ecosystem is suddenly catapulted into a new phase. Scheffer looks for patterns and warning signs of these tipping points.