Science - January 12, 2006

Dijkhuizen’s seven good resolutions

The start to 2006 is better for Wageningen UR than it was for 2005, said Professor Aalt Dijkhuizen, president of the Executive Board, in his New Year’s speech. He outlined the seven priorities of the board and the Concern Council for the coming year.

‘In 2005 we managed to turn around our loss-making position thanks to Focus 2006. But we are not there yet, and that’s why seeing Focus through to its completion is priority number one.’ This priority is at the top of the list of the seven outlined in the memorandum Budget 2006, which was approved by the Supervisory Board just before Christmas.

The research institutes suffered losses of 25 million euros in 2004, and during 2005 this figure was substantially reduced. Alterra is now out of the red; the Plant Sciences Group is also in the clear. Progress is being made by the Animal Sciences Group, and the reorganisation of the former Agrotechnology and Food Sciences Group (AFSG) is due to start soon. Focus 2006 mentions a figure of 750 employees who will be leaving. About 530 already left during 2005, and the other 250 support staff are due to leave in the course of 2006, as part of the operations to reduce overhead costs by a quarter. By the end of 2006 all parts of Wageningen UR must be out of the red.

The second priority of Budget 2006 is determining the areas of focus for education and research within Wageningen UR. These are described in the IP/OP, the Institutional/Business Plan for 2007-2010. ‘A new area of attention that we want to concentrate on in addition to the traditional Wageningen areas of the environment, food and food production is Lifestyle. This is an extension of what Wageningen has always done: not only looking at technology, but also the way in which society uses it.’

Third on the list is closer cooperation between the university and Van Hall Larenstein, closely followed by streamlining the administrative system to make things more efficient. This will include introducing standard systems for timekeeping, orders and project management.

Priority number five is acquiring bit research projects, and the indications are already that 2006 will be a good year for Wageningen scientists. The Dutch government’s focus on the knowledge economy includes areas on Flowers & Food and the green economy, both of which overlap with Wageningen expertise. Later this year a new round of initiatives concerning the Biobased Economy will start, as will a new institute focusing on the effects of global warming. In January this year a new research institute, with the working name Wageningen Marien, will start, combining the marine research expertise of Alterra and Rivo.

The sixth priority is the annually recurring issue of student recruitment. ‘Interest among high-school students in on the increase, but now that of the polytechnic students is waning,’ said Dijkhuizen. ‘There will be a new campaign.’ The final focus of extra attention will be real estate. Dijkhuizen indicated that Wageningen UR would do its best to ensure that the new building project de Born will not end up costing twice as much as has been budgeted. / WK