© Adrie Mouthaan
Congratulations on being reappointed. What have you achieved in the past four years?
Louise Fresco: ‘There are large portfolios at the heart of our work field. I therefore focused on the dialogue with society from day one. Value creation has also been an important point. We are now active in more countries and have ties with a greater number of parties. Furthermore, in the frame of One Wageningen, I have been committed to strengthening the relationship between the various units as well as between fundamental and applied science. To me, working here really feels as teamwork; not just with the people directly around me. I have truly found my place. I can manage with the content in mind, because I overlook it and can offer added value with my strategic angles of approach and international experience.’
What are your plans for the next period?
‘This year, we will need to make important choices within the strategic plan. It is a crucial time in which many things are changing in and around WUR. The way society perceives the food and agricultural sector has changed significantly in the past few years. We must relate to that and not simply take the stance that science is always right, for example. We should indicate what the consequences are of certain societal choices. Provide politics and society with options regarding which people could debate. And the geopolitical context is also changing; think of Brexit and the rise of China, for example. How will this influence the regulation of genetic modification, for example? Furthermore, we do not know how education will change either. Will we remain focused on the group ages 18 to 22, or will there be a shift toward everyone who wants to keep learning throughout their life?’
Where will WUR be in four years?
‘Internally speaking, One Wageningen should stand even stronger. This is a matter of culture. We should ask ourselves how we can strengthen each other, because it is through synergy that impact is increased. From an external point of view, WUR’s relevance should be increased further. Society is faced with vital transition issues concerning agriculture, food and energy. Money is not the limiting factor here, but rather the question of how to shape this transition and innovation. WUR has the ability to play a major role here by offering viable options. And we should remain among the world top regarding research and education as well, but that is a matter of course.’
Louise Fresco was appointed President of the Executive Board of Wageningen University & Research on 1 July 2014, as the successor to Aalt Dijkhuizen. At the time, she was Professor at the University of Amsterdam and held various societal functions. Before that, she was active at the FAO, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization located in Rome, where she was Assistant Director-General for the last six years.