The OnePlanet Gelderland consortium consisting of WUR, Radboud University / Radboudumc and the Belgian Imec has requested 65 million euros from the province of Gelderland to realise a new research centre. The substantiated business plan was presented to the Provincial Executive earlier this week.
The consortium wants to start a research centre in 2019 that will focus on the applications of nanoelectronics and digital technology in the agricultural, food and health sectors. The business plan provides for the establishment of a foundation in which all three initiators will participate. The foundation will draw, manage and distribute the funds among four research programmes: personalised medicine, health and behaviour, precision agriculture and custom food supply chains.
Besides fundamental research, which will require the provincial funding of 65 million, the centre will also carry out applied and commercial research assignments for companies and knowledge institutes. The plan includes a total budget of 160 million euros over a period of eight years. The main building of the research centre is to be located on the WUR campus, with a smaller branch in Nijmegen. The centre would provide about 160 direct jobs for researchers and trainee research assistants.
The Leuven-based non-profit research centre Imec and the Gelderland universities were brought together by the province of Gelderland. Imec employs about 4000 scientists who carry out fundamental research into subjects such as camera and sensor technology, and it provides R&D services to companies around the world.
WUR’s Rector Magnificus Arthur Mol is ‘very enthusiastic’ about the collaboration with Imec: ‘The time has come for our entire field to reap the benefits of the digital revolution. To achieve this, we need microsensors and big data solutions. Imec is a strong player on the global market in this area. Likewise, the agricultural, food and health sectors offer Imec great opportunities for growth, and we, the Gelderland universities, could provide the knowledge they would need to enter those markets. There was an immediate positive connection from the very first meeting last spring. This could be the greatest impulse for the campus since Unilever’s relocation here. A game changer for the region.’
The OnePlanet Gelderland initiative ties in well with WUR’s new strategic plan, according to Mol. ‘Digitisation is one of the primary themes for WUR in the upcoming years. We have already invested significantly in our data competence centre, and we will continue to do so. Imec is an impressive knowledge institute, a global leader in its field. The collaboration will give a huge boost to the economic development of FoodValley and strengthen the global position of the Netherlands in the area of agrifood and health. The collaboration will provide Gelderland with international renown.’
The Provincial Executive will assess the business plan and present it to the Provincial Council in early November. The Council will make a decision on 18 December. An important consideration of the Provincial Councillors will be what this large investment will yield for the province. According to Mol, this includes direct employment opportunities and spin-offs in the shape of SME activities: ‘One could think of ICT companies which apply the results of our research in camera systems, place sensors on drones or launch new e-health products.’ But this could also result in directly applicable innovations for the inhabitants of Gelderland, as well as collaborations with vocational schools and universities of applied sciences.