WUR is getting a new research institute on the campus. A large majority of the Provincial Council of Gelderland voted to approve the support of millions for the OnePlanet initiative. There will be a branch office in Nijmegen.
Provincial Council members stand to vote ‘in favour’. © Screenshot webcast
After months of discussions, 44 of the 55 members of the Provincial Council voted today to support the new research centre of WUR, Radboud and IMEC. The PVV and the SP were the only parties to vote against the motion. Council member Scheffer (D66) called it a ‘unique decision that has no precedent’. Most of the political parties are enthusiastic about the perspectives that OnePlanet says it offers on the cutting edge of digitalization and agro, food and health research. ‘OnePlanet is going to have a large impact on the competitive position and the innovative capacity of the food and health sectors,’ said VVD spokesperson Rene Westra. Gelderland will invest 65 million euros in a period of 8 years. In that same period and according to the business plan, another 81.5 million euros must be contributed by other organizations, government agencies and companies.
Rens Buchwaldt, a member of the Executive Board, is delighted by the wide support for the plan: ‘Not only do the coalition parties support it, but also a large share of the opposition. When the chance arose to work together with IMEC and Radboud, we were immediately very positive about the possibilities. It’s in keeping with WUR’s strategy to look for substantive partners at the edge of our knowledge domain so that we can strengthen one another.’
Many parties, particularly PvdA, Groenlinks and Partij voor de Dieren, said that they had had hesitations about the amount involved. And there was a lot of uncertainty about the precise social impact that the initiative would have. ‘Even if only half of this dream comes true, then we’ve still achieved a lot,’ said PvdA spokesperson Fokko Spoelstra. 'But on the other hand, it’s an enormous sum. Are there no better projects for this amount?’
The coalition party PvdA was finally convinced by the ‘maturity’ of the plan, partly thanks to the many suggestions for improvement that diverse parties submitted in the past half year. For example, working together with secondary vocational education (mbo), higher vocational education (hbo) and medium-sized enterprises (mkb) was essential for many parties. Most of the parties think that this link has been satisfactorily arranged by the initiators.
The OnePlanet innovation centre will be located on the campus in Wageningen and will have a branch office in Nijmegen. The plan is to grow from 35 employees in 2019 to about 120 in 2028. The first employees will be temporarily housed in Impulse.
OnePlanet wants to develop innovative solutions in the following areas of research: Data-Driven Nutrition & Health, Citizen Empowerment, Precision Production & Processing and Tailored Supply Chain. Central to this is the application of nanoelectronics and digitalization. The initiators are WUR, Radboud, Radboud University Medical Center and the Flemish non-profit research institute IMEC.
IMEC (3500 employees) is the biggest independent European research centre in microelectronics, nanotechnology, design methods and technologies for ICT systems. The initiative to bring together the universities in Gelderland and the Flemish researchers was taken by the province of Gelderland. The discussion about the plan has been ongoing in the province since September 2018.