Text: Anton van Elburg, Albert Sikkema, Lieke de Kwant, Roelof Kleis and Tessa Louwerens
New Dialogue Centre contractor
The first invitation to tender failed but the Dialogue Centre will still go ahead. The Executive Board will probably announce the contractor in the first quarter who will be constructing the new building for ceremonies and conferences. The board will resign itself to the fact that the costs will be higher than the initial budget. There is still one potential snag — 12 trees will need to be felled. That’s always a problem in Wageningen.
New chair for Supervisory Board
It was announced late last year on the WUR intranet that Job Cohen would ‘soon’ be stepping down as the chair of the Supervisory Board. The minister must now be looking for a replacement. Our tip is WUR alumnus and former Labour party minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.
Third teaching building takes shape
The design for the third teaching building will be presented in February so that construction can start at the end of 2019. The site was announced a while ago: opposite Rikilt, where Starthub is at present. Lessons will start there in September 2021. Only the name is still uncertain. Forum, Orion and …? We predict a poll.
Increase in number of female professors
The latest stats show women make up one in five professors in the Netherlands. The proportion in Wageningen is slightly less, but is increasing steadily. The new figures will be published early this year. WUR’s target is 25 per cent by 2020.
Digitization research takes off
Together with Radboud university and medical centre and the Flemish research institute Imec, WUR wants to open a new research centre on campus this year for the use of digitization and nano-electronics in the agroindustry, food and health. The provincial authority is due to decide soon whether to contribute 65 million euros. Even if it does not, digitization will still be a hot topic given the ambitions voiced in the new strategic plan.
Ring road continues to cause controversy
The planned ring road around the campus will enter a new phase in March with the publication of the environmental impact assessment. A (safe) prediction: the report will lead to more controversy. Another one: the province will opt for a road that cuts through Dassenbos wood. Finally: it will take at least four more years (and countless lawsuits) before the road is built. If it is built.
Fresh blood in province
On 20 March the Dutch get to elect new provincial council members. The outcome will determine whether the province of Gelderland continues with its WUR-friendly course of investing in innovation and collaboration between businesses and science institutions. And what happens with the regional infrastructure (see ring road).
Breaking ground for Plus Ultra II
We reckon construction of Plus Ultra II, Plus Ultra’s younger brother, will start in March. Everyone is good to go; they are just waiting for planning permission. The building for new and young companies will be diagonally behind Plus Ultra and there will be a walkway connecting the two buildings. A garage with parking for 385 cars will be built behind the new building.
Brexit headache for research projects
On 29 March, Britain and the EU will finally be parting company. This will affect Wageningen researchers too given that 60 to 70 per cent of all WUR’s EU projects include British partners. A hard Brexit would be particularly problematic.
More money for technical universities
In April, the advisory committee looking at the funding of higher education will publish its recommendations. That will probably say that the technical universities, including WUR, should get more money. Whether those extra euros actually materialize depends on whether Education minister Van Engelshoven and the Dutch Parliament agree.
Rector Arthur Mol reappointed
Arthur Mol’s term as rector magnificus will end in late May. We are willing to bet a crate of Duvel beer that he gets reappointed.
Unilever’s Innovation Centre opens
Following interminable discussions about dividend tax, Unilever’s head office won’t be moving to the Netherlands after all. But the Anglo-Dutch food industry giant will still be opening its new 18,000 m2 Global Foods Innovation Centre on Wageningen campus in June. That building will house 500 staff.
First agreements on circular agriculture
Agriculture minister Carola Schouten will probably make the first agreements about concrete targets with societal organizations before the summer, some six months after the publication of her vision document on circular agriculture. This will mean work for WUR as it is one of our key investment themes.
Big announcement at CRISPR conference
On 20 June, the international conference CRISPRcon will start at WUR. Of course they will be discussing the strict rules in Europe compared with the opportunities in the US for CRISPR-Cas. We would not be surprised to see WUR initiating far-reaching collaboration with a leading American university, with a part-time position there for professor and Spinoza Prize winner John van der Oost.
Further room shortages
Room shortages among first-years will be even worse next August than last summer. WUR will once again set up a campsite to house first-years during the AID introduction week. Some are suggesting a permanent campsite should be set up with climate-friendly yurts.
WUR the best university again
In October, the Guide to Higher Education will declare WUR the best Dutch university for the 15th time in a row. However, the gap between WUR and the second and third placed universities will narrow.
Louder calls for paid parking
Traffic queues in Mansholtlaan will lengthen with the arrival of Unilever and continuing growth in the numbers of students and staff. WUR will be forced to do something about its mobility policy. We will start hearing more about paid parking.