News - June 23, 2020

WUR invests heavily in artificial intelligence

Albert Sikkema

WUR will invest heavily in data sciences and artificial intelligence (AI) over the next five years. Three additional professors, six part-time experts and one research coordinator are to be recruited.


In total, the university will spend an additional 800,000 euros annually on AI research. This sum is added to the investments already earmarked in the strategic plan for Digital Twins. The investment, approved by the executive board, follows the advisory report by the Wageningen Data Center.

Digital technology, new software and algorithms have an increasing influence on the Wageningen research domains of nutrition, nature, agriculture, climate, health and economy, the commission states. Thus, WUR must invest in combining and linking data science and domain expertise. Investments in data management and infrastructure are needed to facilitate this. Through collaboration with Utrecht and Eindhoven, Wageningen retains a connection with the more fundamental data sciences and AI.

The board aims to appoint three full-time professors that will design a joint research programme through a free interaction between the different departments and with external partners. Furthermore, six part-time professors are to add expertise from other universities to Wageningen Research through this same research programme.

WUR will also recruit a Data Science Alliance Manager tasked with organising AI-programmes with national and international partners. Moreover, grants will become available to further shape the extensive research programme that links the AI-groups.

There is already a number of chair groups with expertise in the field of data science. However, this knowledge is not used to its full potential, according to the advisory committee. WUR’s visibility in the field of data science is limited, resulting in a less than optimal participation in initiatives to link domain expertise and AI. In addition, WUR lacks knowledge of what infrastructure is required to create these links.

Digital Twins
The three new professors will take part in the investment theme Digital Twins. This theme focuses on the methodology, societal aspects and application of data science and AI. The professors must have expertise in at least two of these three aspects, in order to make the required connections. They will be appointed to multiple chair groups and partake in the new scientific advisory board of the Wageningen Data Competence Center.