LNV is cutting funding for applied research and nature and landscape. But Aalt Dijkhuizen is optimistic about the WUR's DLO portfolio.
'LNV is mainly cutting technical production-oriented research', says Dijkhuizen. 'There is less money for plant and animal breeding, and for fertilizer research. Companies will just have to start funding more research: that is what the ministry thinks. LNV will continue funding research on the conditions for sustainable production though.' The research budget on nature and landscape will be drastically cut too, says Dijkhuizen. 'That was a bigger budget. More is lost in euros, but the percentage is smaller than in applied research.'
The policy support budget cuts are part of a trend towards less government financing. 'In 2002, DLO still got 180 million euros for research from LNV. In 2008, the figure was 168 million. But by then prices and wages had gone up, so corrected for inflation it was 145 million in effect. A twenty percent cut in six years. And that trend is continuing now.
Yet Dijkhuizen is not gloomy about the future. 'DLO's order portfolio is better filled than a year ago, in spite of the recession. There is more work rather than less. There's a good market for our research themes, and that is expected to go on for another five to ten years. So for the time being we are not going in for a reorganization. Our research matters. The challenge is: finding new clients, and approaching organizations and companies. It is not an easy time, and acquisition is difficult. But if we deliver quality, we can even grow in difficult times.'
DLO's market potential
Can we pull in fifty million euros' worth of research assignments on the market over the next seven years? This is the challenging question facing five working groups at DLO. The groups look at Wageningen's long term research themes, seeing them as market fields: agricultural production in the 21 st century, nutrition and health, water, a bio-based economy, and landscape.
'In the future we need to produce twice as much food, while halving our ecological footprint', says Dijkhuizen. 'People expect great things from Wageningen.' The working groups will address questions such as: what competencies does Wageningen UR have in this field, where do we stand out, which potential clients and partners are there, which other institutions operate in this research market? 'We are trying to get a clear picture of our strong points', says Dijkhuizen, 'as well as whether to join forces with other parties, national and international.' The aim is to bring in fifty million euros' worth of extra assignments per market field by 2015.