Science - April 6, 2006

Sixty million extra for research

Wageningen UR scored well from the distribution of research money from the Fund for Economic Structural Strengthening (FES). About 40 million of the 120 million euros that the Dutch cabinet apportioned last week is destined for Wageningen. Additional private sector investment means there will be a total of 60 million euros extra for research in the next four years.

The Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences (WCFS) heard that it would get 33 million last Friday. The WCFS will also get money from other funds and plans to double its research capacity in the coming years, and also involve new European institutions in its research.

Five new initiatives can also count on subsidies. Two of these focus on potatoes. One project, in which a new phytophthora-resistant potato is being developed together with new breeding companies, will receive 10 million euros. An additional three million will be made available for mapping the potato genome.
The planned technological institute Groene Genetica (Green genetics), that will breed new horticultural crops using DNA technology, has been allotted twenty million. The programme Separation Technology, in which Wageningen UR collaborates with the three Dutch technical universities and a number of big companies, will see its coffers swell by 15 million euros.

Wageningen UR has been allotted an exceptionally large portion of the newly available budget. The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) selected the most promising proposals on behalf of the government. Of the 180 proposals that were submitted, 10 have now been approved. Wageningen UR is involved in 6 of the 10.
Rector Martin Kropff thinks that the high score is above all the result of the intensive collaboration that Wageningen researchers have worked at with the private sector. The government wants to invest in research that is useful for Dutch business. ‘We had figures that show that we are a top scientific institution in our subject area and that the companies we work with are world market leaders.’

In addition, the rector believes that the size of Wageningen UR since the fusion of the research institutes and the university works to its advantage. ‘We have the critical mass that enables us to carry big projects like this. And we have people here who have worked really hard to make this success a reality. These are people who look beyond the interests of their own club.’
Kropff expects that the Dutch government will make more money available, from the natural gas fund, before the end of its current term in May next year. ‘We are already preparing to go for this, as well initiatives in the longer term. The only way forward for this country is through knowledge, and the government realises this too.’ / KV

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