Wetenschap - 4 juli 2012

University awarded 4 Vidi grants by NWO

This week, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) announced that four Wageningen researchers will be getting Vidi grants worth around 800,000 euros. The recipients include a new professor who has only just started at Wageningen.


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Historian Ewout Frankema will be studying the distribution of wealth and the reduction of poverty in Africa between 1880 and 2010. He would like to know what approaches have been successful in African countries in the past so that lessons can be learnt in dealing with the big rise in the demand for African products over the past ten years or so.
Up to a week ago, Frankema was a researcher at Utrecht University, but on 1 July he started work as the new Rural and Environmental History professor in Wageningen. He will be able to get off to a flying start with the NWO's personal grant.
The other three Wageningen Vidi winners are:
- Microbiologist Stan Brouns, who gets a Vidi to develop a 'flu jab' for bacteria. He will be investigating how to protect useful bacteria in the processing industry from pathogenic viruses by activating their immune system using a kind of flu jab. But first Brouns needs to understand how the immune system of bacteria works.
- Soil scientist Gerlinde de Deijn, who will be studying the relationship between plant roots and soil organisms. When plants die, they leave behind certain root remains and soil creatures, which may or may not be a nutritious source for the next generation of plants. De Deijn wants to find out what the legacy is of plant roots.
- Plant breeder Vivianne Vleeshouwers. She is focusing on the stubborn potato disease caused by the mould Phytophthora infestans, which regularly manages to overcome the resistance genes introduced in potatoes. Vleeshouwers will be investigating new kinds of resistance.
The four Wageningen researchers will be getting grants of up to eight hundred thousand euros. They will be able to use this money to set up their own research group and programme, says NWO. The funding body describes them as among the leaders in their field; it received 652 applications from researchers and allocated grants to 94 of them. The Vidi grants are part of NWO's Innovational Research Incentives Scheme, which also include the Veni grants (for talented young postgraduates) and the Vici grants (for experienced senior researchers). NWO spends around 500 million euros a year on research incentives.