Cloning sheep may be exceptional, but cloning plants is already big business in Europe. The European Union provided funding to the tune of 24 million guilders last year for the European Plant Embryogenesis Network, which consists of 43 research laboratories and ten commercial companies. WAU molecular biologist Sacco de Vries is coordinator of the network and responsible for knowledge exchange on the development of embryos. One of his PhD students, Marcel Toonen, has worked out a system for monitoring the creation of an embryo from a single cell. The plant breeding industry is very interested in his marker for commercial reasons. The network will soon have an Internet homepage: http://epen.tran.wau.nl
The WAU has integrated its seventy departments into nine big ones. The members of the five sector bureaus, who offered departmental management support will be transferred to one of the newly established departments. The personnel is anxious about this reorganisation, because their work may not be needed any more and they fear competition from other administrators. They are reluctant however to speak up - no comment - because criticising their unclear situation may work against them
Dutch universities are facing a difficult problem: scientific developments lead them towards specialisation, while employers demand that they offer broad interdisciplinary courses. Universities have to tackle this problem by offering a variety of programmes, from science-based to broad courses on soft skills like cooperation and communication. The universities should also offer special courses for employees who want to combine work and study, and want to refresh their knowledge, several managers argued at the annual meeting of Dutch universities
Director of the DLO Institute for Plant Protection, Hans van Veen, wants to integrate with the WAU departments in his field, so that students can also use their knowledge in a commercial setting. His institute needs to acquire more research contracts from crop breeding companies and international organisations, but their interest in crop protection remains modest, says Van Veen. Only when consumers consider a clean production method to be a mark of quality, will we be able to increase our number of research projects.
The Crop Science degree course has nearly finalized the first WAU design course, aimed at preparing students more thoroughly for a job after their study. The students have to design a greenhouse which uses no fossil fuels, or come up with an farm design which includes small-scale areas and more biodiversity. Students from different programmes will have to work out the design tasks together and learn to present them and make a tender. It's not clear yet how the student groups will be examined in this course