Yesterday was the deadline for submission of research proposals from companies and researchers to the top sectors Agri&Food and Horticulture. With more proposals than available funds, the selection process will soon begin. How is this done?
What are the criteria?
'The top sectors focus on three themes: more with less, higher added value, and international leadership. Each theme has an evaluation committee comprising knowledgeable people.'
On what basis will these people evaluate?
'Firstly, the proposal has to be innovative. Secondly, it has to raise Dutch competitiveness. Thirdly, it has to be socially relevant, which brings into mind issues such as increasing health, sustainability, food security and safety. Fourthly, it has to excel scientifically. Finally, the quality of the proposal and the consortium will be evaluated. Each of these five criteria will account for 20 percent of the score.'
Didn't a selection take place at the end of July?
'The TKI office carried out a preliminary evaluation of the proposals at the end of July. At that time, 220 proposals were evaluated, to see if there was, for example, sufficient financial contribution from the private sector, or if they were innovative. We then declared that 87 of these proposals can be developed further. That evaluation was carried out mainly for the sake of those who submit the proposals. There are more plans than funds; the budget has been exceeded by nine times, and so we advised the 'dropouts' not to develop their proposals further since their chances of getting funded would be very small. But they are free to adjust their proposals and re-submit them. We are going to make the real choice now.'
Companies are taking the lead and are matched with DLO and TNO. Does this mean that the contribution from these research institutes has been fixed?
'The capacity contribution from DLO and TNO is fixed. DLO is to contribute 37 million euros to the Agri&Food top sector and 14 million euros to the Horticulture top sector. It is the intention of the top sectors that the agrifood top sector determines the research content. Theoretically, this can result in a heavy shift of research assignments in DLO, which can cause problems for DLO, something which we don't want. Therefore, TKI Agri&Food has said that we will pick 10 million euros worth of new projects for 2013, and the remaining 27 million euros will be awarded in the following years. This means that 10 million euros will be available for new research every year.'
Companies have submitted plans for about 100 million euros, but will only 10 million euros be granted?
'That's right. The original 220 proposals would have cost 100 million euros for the top sector. During the July evaluation, about a third of the proposals were shortlisted. These have now been further developed and will be subjected to the selection.'
When will the researchers know which projects are approved?
'I will send the proposals to the evaluation committees next week. I think that the top sectors will submit their advice to the ministry in November, at the latest, as to which research to finance next year.'