Organisation - March 14, 2013

DLO still not commercial enough

DLO focuses on supporting government.
Staff still failing to see things from customer's perspective.

In 2012, the DLO institutes got market sales of 100 million euros for research, compared with 85 million euros in 2010. The plan is for this to grow to 135 million euros in four years. The trend is upwards, but the directors think it is not growing fast enough.
That is clear from the interim report on the 2011-2014 strategic plan, which was discussed in January by the board of directors (Executive Board plus the directors of the science groups). The report and associated documents were published on the intranet on 4 March.
The directors concluded that both the structure and staff at DLO are geared to providing support to the government rather than to the commercial exploitation of their knowledge. DLO staff are still failing to see things from the customer's perspective. They should get additional training on commercial working practices, being customer oriented, and entrepreneurship. There is also a lack of basic management information about customers. For example, there was virtually no data available in 2012 on the revenue per country or per customer. There is also no uniform system for measuring customer satisfaction.
Exceeding expectations
The organization is basically on course, to judge from the list of quantifiable targets in the interim report on the 2011 to 2014 strategic plan. The number of new students is growing fast, with 2200 last year. The number of large personal research grants is increasing in line with expectations: the university received four ERC grants and 14 Veni-Vidi-Vici grants in 2011 and 2012. The financial position is even healthier than expected. The solvency (ratio of assets to liabilities) of both the university and DLO has increased whereas a fall had been expected. However, the university's solvency will probably fall this year after all when Orion is completed in May.
Another striking result is the fact that the proportion of employees with a temporary contract has fallen to 11 percent although the target was 20 percent. However that is because of the adverse economic conditions, which have disproportionately affected employees with a temporary contract.  

Should DLO work more on its image?
The board has identified a new priority for 2013: clarifying the position of DLO with respect to the university. After all, the world around DLO is changing fast. Funding from the ministry and the product boards is declining but there are opportunities with the top sectors and the European Horizon 2020 programme (which will have 80 billion euros for science and innovation).
'If you say Wageningen to people, they think of the university. The question is whether DLO can project a sufficiently strong image,' says AFSG director Raoul Bino. He chairs a working group that will be
looking at what position DLO should aim for in the market. This working group will be interviewing staff at DLO and the university, representatives from the private sector, other science institutes and the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Bino: 'The collaboration with the university is not in doubt - everyone we talk to agrees on that. The question is whether we could improve our position through communication or the name we use. For instance, DLO means Agricultural Research Service in Dutch, which some people find outdated.' Bino aims to report to the board of directors before the summer. 

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