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Wageningen University & Research active and successful within Europe

Published on
March 3, 2022

Wageningen University & Research scientists are incredibly productive in submitting European research proposals. And successfully so. No less than 53 out of the 128 proposals in which WUR was involved have been accepted by the European Commission, a 40 per cent score. The projects led by WUR score even higher at 58 per cent, which amounts to seven out of twelve projects.

The projects fall within a specific domain in the so-called Horizon Europe programme: cluster 6, Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment. The accepted proposals are currently in the contract negotiating stage, which usually takes approximately three months. Following this, the ‘Grant Agreement’ will be signed, enabling the projects to launch in the second half of this year.

Subsidies programme

Horizon Europe is a seven-year subsidies programme launched by the European Commission, running from 2021 to and including 2027 and follows the successful Horizon 2020 programme. The programme has two goals. On the one hand, it aims to stimulate innovation across domains in order to galvanise Europe’s competitive position. On the other hand, the programme seeks to inspire the business sector, governments, NGOs, civilians and scientists to design solutions for critical societal challenges.

Findings and conclusions from the projects thus contribute to European policies such as the Green Deal, Farm to Fork, the Biodiversity strategy and the Common Agricultural Policy. Moreover, they contribute to global policies such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The sum of the EU contributions awarded WUR is 37.5 million euros, of which 22.5 million for Wageningen Research and 15 million for the university.

Giant Leaps

One of the projects led by WUR is GIANT LEAPS. This is an extensive project in the domain of the so-called protein transition led by Paul Vos of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. His team is to study what protein sources are the healthiest and most sustainable while still guaranteeing safety and maintaining social and economic feasibility. The team will focus primarily on studying new sources that have not yet been extensively described. To this end, they will map knowledge gaps. For example: what are the chances of allergic reactions to protein source X, and how sustainable is it in practice?

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The ultimate goal is to advise European policymakers on what protein sources in which form or application are best suited to successfully shape the protein transition. Using modelling, the researchers will define four European diets that they then optimise for sustainability and health outcomes. A large project team consisting of 34 partners from across Europe and ranging from start-ups to university research institutes has been formed to accommodate the multidisciplinary nature and scope of the project.

New Harmonica

Another project WUR hopes to kick off soon is called New Harmonica. Although it is an entirely different domain, it still fits within the Horizon Europe programme’s cluster 6. Within the ‘Zero Pollution call, to be precise. This call is linked to the Farm to Fork strategy.

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New Harmonica relates to the leaching of nitrogen and phosphate in water and the emission of ammonia and greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide (laughing gas). A Wageningen Environmental Research team led by Gerard Velthof will collaborate with partners from Belgium and the United Kingdom to implement and compare different models to calculate leaching and emissions. The study will take place in sub-basins of three different rivers: Neagh Bann in Northern Ireland, Wye in England and the Maas in the Netherlands and Flanders. In addition to the technical aspects, the project also explicitly includes the governance aspects. Contact with policymakers from the various countries is essential.

Policy-science working group

Gerard Velthof: ‘A so-called “policy-science working group” has been in existence for about a decade now. This collaboration between government officials and researchers in North-Western Europe exchanges knowledge on reducing nitrogen and phosphate leaching. The ministries of LNV (Agriculture, Nature and Food Security) and I&W (Infrastructure and Water Management) are represented in this working group. The research results will be shared with this group to arrive at uniform principles and methods of calculation to be used in policy design. If all countries use a uniform and unambiguous policy, this will automatically result in broader support among the stakeholder parties.’ Collaboration is the key aspect of New Harmonica.

So, great projects within a prestigious programme. What makes us so successful in submitting proposals? Peter Jongebloed of the Wageningen Grant Office has the answer. ‘First of all, we excel at what we do. This makes us a widely respected party with which partners are eager to collaborate. This enables us to increase our network and our visibility continuously. That is how it works. Moreover, we are apparently good at writing proposals and are accustomed to designing large, complex international projects with various stakeholders.’