Nieuws - 21 april 2011

Alterra has to make cuts of 3 million

Astrid Smit

Alterra has to make cuts of 3 million euros this year because of disappointing revenues. The cutbacks could be as much as 6 million if the research institute does not manage to win new research projects for provinces, water boards and companies.

This was the message the Environmental Sciences Group directors had for the Alterra staff on 18 April. The directors still need to discuss with the Alterra team leaders what form the cuts should take. The Ecosystems and Landscape Centres in particular will have to make savings, but the directors also want to make cuts in Communications, IT and accommodation. There will not be a reorganization.
The financial results for the first quarter of 2011 were announced recently. They showed that Alterra had made losses totalling six hundred thousand euros whereas the year before it had made a profit of four hundred thousand euros. The institute has been particularly hard hit by the spending cuts the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I) is making in ecological and area-specific research. Most of these central government cuts came into effect this year on 1 January. Last year, turnover at Alterra was nearly fifty million euros.
The directors intend to make savings of eight hundred thousand euros in its permanent staff, explains director Kees Slingerland. Alterra will also be hiring fewer external employees and the institute aims to save six hundred thousand euros on lab work. Temporary contracts will not be renewed except in exceptional cases, although he says Alterra does not intend to close its doors to new employees.
The financial situation at Alterra varies per research team. Some of the teams within the Ecosystems and Landscape Centres have suffered heavy losses but there are also teams in these Centres making a profit. The research groups working on water and the climate have a large number of projects and can barely cope with the workload. Slingerland expects his institute will play a role in the Ministry of EL&I's Water priority sector.
Alterra has set up market teams to find three million euros in additional research projects. 'We have already won a lot of new projects for provinces and water boards but we now need to accelerate that process', says Slingerland. The additional research projects have to have been obtained by the end of the summer if Alterra is to carry them out this year.
Slingerland does not know yet if the government will be making new cuts in Alterra research next year. That will become clear next month when the Ministry of EL&I publishes its strategic framework document. Alterra's spending cuts plan does not allow for new government cutbacks.