WUR-researchers work on the significant challenges contemporary society faces. But putting science into practise is not always easy. A new prize, the WUR Impact Award, recognises WUR researchers who successfully bridge the gap between science and implementation in society in unusual ways. Toine Timmermans, the initiator of Food Waste Free United, is the first winner of this award.
The award is the result of over two decades of efforts made by Timmermans and his team to reduce food waste. Their perseverance is finally paying off. In Samen Tegen Voedselverspilling (United Against Food Waste), a large number of businesses, administrations and consumers collaborate to slash food waste in half by the year 2030.
‘Awesome, I am delighted’, Timmermans responds. But he immediately warns: ‘Our goal is to reduce food waste by half in the Netherlands and the rest of the world. But we have only just begun and are nowhere near achieving our goal. The award, however, is a great recognition and motivation. Previously, no one was interested in this topic. I knocked on every door but was often sent away almost instantly.’
If you are rowing upstream and really want to make a change, it takes timeToine Timmermans, programme manager Sustainable Food Chain
Timmermans: ‘If you are rowing upstream and really want to make a change, it takes time. And you will only persevere if you are certain you will achieve impact.’ Timmermans also indicates that Food & Biobased Research is organised accordingly. ‘In 2000, the institute was redesigned along the lines of topics with an impact. Choices were made for the future.’
There were eight submissions for the first Impact Award. According to jury chair Marcel Schuttelaar (founder of Schuttelaar & Partners), each one is a shining example of impactful applications of WUR-science. ‘These projects make me proud to be a WUR-alumnus’, Shuttelaar states. Out of the eight applications, four were nominated for the award.
The three projects that did not make the cut were: NL2120, Bio-asphalt and Strip Tilling. NL2120 is a map of a sustainable future in the Netherlands. Bio-asphalt is tarmac in which the fossil-based bitumen has been partially replaced by plant-based lignin. The Strip Tilling project studies the advantages of cultivating different crops alongside each other.
The winning team is awarded a tile in the WUR Walk of Fame near Impulse and is supported in activities to further increase its impact, and wins a dinner in Omnia’s Faculty Club with external guests. Waste-free, according to Timmermans. ‘Caterer Hutten is a pioneer in addressing food waste.’