Loss of natural gas funds disastrous for Wageningen genetics research. Eighty research posts at risk.
The two sectors have a combined budget of around eight million euros a year, says Robert Hall, CBSG director. Now that money, enough for around 80 research posts, is gone. Hall: 'This is a dramatic loss of work for the Wageningen plant scientists.'
The absence of follow-up funding comes as a surprise. In both centres, companies and researchers collaborate in research programmes, just as the top sector policy intends. 'The business community supports our joint plans and is prepared to invest ten million euros a year over the next few years,' says Hall. CBSG focuses on generating basic knowledge about plants while Green Genetics concentrates more on the application. 'Last year, an international commission reviewed us,' says Hall, 'and praised both the quality of our research and the way we turned knowledge into commercial applications. Each euro spent in CBSG leads to 4 euros in spin-offs, for example in EU projects. That will be much more difficult now.'
A big obstacle to getting follow-up funds is the fact that the Horticulture top sector hardly has any cash. The institutes used to get money from the FES fund (natural gas revenues) but that was abolished by the previous cabinet. This means a cut of 800 million euros in funding for research and innovation, including eight million less for CBSG and Green Genetics. Now these institutes have to try and get money from the regular DLO budget that is allocated via the Horticulture and Agri&Food top sectors. Next year, the Horticulture top sector will have 4.5 million to spend on new projects and Agri&Food only 10 million, to be divided among dozens of projects. 'Our problems can be traced back to the loss of the FES fund,' says Hall. 'The government asks businesses to contribute 50 percent of the funding, but it has insufficient resources available to match the investments companies are making in the knowledge economy.'