by Jan Willem van der Kamp, F. Schuren & R. Montijn
THE KEY FACTOR FOR SUCCESS
FOOD RESEARCH IN THE NETHERLANDS, A BIRDS-EYE VIEW
The pace of development of new food products and ingredients is increasing at an unprecedented speed and the R&D to efficiently address all needs of the modern consumer regarding taste, health, safety and convenience is becoming increasingly complex. This increasing complexity is creating a need for large multi-disciplinary food research centres. Food multinationals are restructuring their R&D into larger units. Worldwide this is leading to a decrease in the amount of food research; in the Netherlands, however, the reverse is true. Unilever has decided to concentrate European food research in the Vlaardingen laboratory and the Campina dairy company recently clustered R&D on milk and milk products from locations in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands in the new Campina Innovation centre in Wageningen. A unique example of combining forces for strategic non-competitive fundamental research is the Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences, established by Unilever, DSM, the dairy industry, Avebe and Cosun together with Wageningen University and Research Centre, NIZO Food Research and TNO Nutrition and Food Research.
Following the entry of CSM and the medical and health sciences departments of Maastricht University WCFS has been enlarged in recent years to a program of over 125 fte. The program of WCFS focuses on complex issues that cannot be addressed by mono-disciplinary research groups, thereby creating unique expertise contributing to the skill base of all WCFS participants. Dutch initiatives contribute also significantly to the establishment of international food research consortia, such as the SAFE Consortium – the union of 6 leading institutes in food safety research and consultancy, with INRA – France, ISPA – Italy, IFR – UK, VTT – Finland and two participants of the Netherlands – Wageningen University and Research Centre and TNO Nutrition and Food Research. SAFE is aiming at being a leading provider of authoritative, independent scientific information on food safety. Other signs of a growing international impact of Dutch food research are the numbers of foreign M.Sc. and Ph.D. students in Wageningen and the level of 50% of contract research at TNO Nutrition and Food Research funded from abroad, foreign companies being attracted by the multi-disciplinary skill base of its staff of 700.
A key factor for being successful in the demanding world of food research is the integration of the rapidly expanding genomics toolbox into basic and applied nutrition and food research. In this paper this will be illustrated with examples in the field of microbial genomics whereas the impact of genomics in other fields of food and nutrition research will be discussed more briefly.
Source: Holland Biotechnology, Genomics and Science Based Business, 63 editie 2003. http://www.hollandbiotechnology.nl
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