AFSG gets experienced woman director

Sjoukje Heimovaara will become the new managing director of WUR’s Agrotechnology and Food Sciences Group (AFSG) as of 1 March. Raoul Bino’s successor has considerable managerial experience in both the private sector and science institutions.
Sjoukje Heimovaara. Photo: Guy Ackermans

Sjoukje Heimovaara (1965) was born in Friesland but has a Finnish surname as she is married to a Delft professor from Finland. She studied Plant Breeding at Wageningen and obtained a doctorate in Leiden. She then worked at TNO for 14 years and the plant breeding company Royal Van Zanten for 17 years.

WUR’s new director is open, direct and rational. Last year, Heimovaara stepped down as CEO of Royal Van Zanten after a ‘difference of opinion’ with the investment company that had acquired the company. So she clearly knows what she wants and is not much interested in the frills. But she is interested in knowledge and research. That is why she has held positions in Dutch Research Council committees, the employers’ association VNO/NCW and Plantum, the plant breeding sector association.

She became a member of the Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (AWTI) four years ago. Last year, an AWTI committee she headed issued recommendations on higher education. She concluded that there was increasingly little difference between academic and applied universities, in part because of the funding system. ‘Everyone is chasing the same thing.’ She recommended introducing profile-based funding so that academic and applied universities seek to differentiate themselves more and collaborate more.


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