Column Vincent Oostvogels: Corporate campus

Let’s look ahead: which multinationals are still missing on our campus?

Text: Vincent Oostvogels

The new year has begun. A good moment to look ahead. Which multinationals are still missing on our campus? FrieslandCampina and Unilever are a prominent presence with their own research centres. Upfield, formerly the margarine branch of Unilever, is building fast. But surely there’s room for a few more.

After all, the sustainability issues of our time can’t be solved without close collaboration with the big boys, as we in Wageningen know all too well. In which case, the best thing is of course to offer them a high-visibility spot on the campus, so that new students can see where to go for answers right from day one.

Time for an inventory, then. As I said, you can’t miss FrieslandCampina, Unilever or Upfield. Then we also have the Chinese dairy giant Yili, the German seed concern KWS and the Japanese tractor multinational Kubota, but they are all somewhat tucked away in Plus Ultra and Plus Ultra II. Their visibility leaves room for improvement. And Bayer-Monsanto is not on the campus at all, but on the other side of Wageningen, so it doesn’t count. The multinationals that are only linked with WUR through WUR professors’ or directors’ ancillary posts don’t count at all. Physical, visible presence: that’s what counts.

In that sense, there are loads of untapped opportunities. There aren’t that many players dominating the global food system, so it must be possible to get more of them to Wageningen. Where are all the big input producers (Cargill, ADM, …), livestock breeding companies (Genus PLC, Hendrix Genetics, …) and retailers (Walmart, Carrefour, …)? And let’s look beyond agri-food too. On the timber market, IKEA is a significant player. I read recently that IKEA has now become the biggest private forest-owner in Lithuania and Romania. Imagine the scope it would offer our ecologists and foresters if we got an IKEA Innovation Centre!

Hopefully the new president will have close links with industry

There are a lot more possibilities besides. A new section of campus is to be developed on the other side of the Mansholtlaan: Born Oost. It’s waiting to be covered in buildings. Hopefully the new president of WUR will have close links with industry, so work can start.

Vincent Oostvogels (25) is in the first year of his PhD research on the restoration of biodiversity in dairy farming. He dreams of having a few cows of his own one day.

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