The research and innovation center based in the Dutch province of Gelderland is optimising the use of chip- and digital technology in their mission to contribute to a healthier world, in which everybody has access to good and sustainable nutrition. Today, founding partners; Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Radboud University (RU), Radboudumc and imec reflect on their first year in OnePlanet and also look to the future.

“The first year was all about exploring and building OnePlanet from the ground up. Today, we are all set, with an ambitious team, dedicated partners and clear program lines, to hit the ground running and actively contribute to healthy living and a sustainable future for everyone.”

Says Chris van Hoof, General Manager of OnePlanet Research Center.

How it all started

In the spring of 2019, the founding partners, with substantial, financial support from the Dutch province of Gelderland, got the opportunity to work on a major ambition; collaborating in Gelderland to establish a ‘Silicon Valley’ of digital technology for agriculture, food and health. A visionary initiative; all about mission-driven innovation for a sustainable & healthy planet. Thea van Kemenade, Director of Health and Liesbeth Luijendijk, Director Agrifood & Environment, at OnePlanet explain how this came to be:

 “The Dutch province of Gelderland already had the ambition to develop something unique and structural at the intersection between the innovation hubs on agriculture and health in the region.  When imec was looking for a similar opportunity, it became clear that all founding partners had the same mission and vision regarding the impact we could make if we would use innovate technologies within our domains of nutrition, health and sustainable agriculture.”


What’s in a year?

More than a year later, it is time to look back and reflect on what has been accomplished. The first progress report indicates that during its first year, OnePlanet focused mainly on setting up the organization, developing program lines and successfully kicking off the SME and Open education programs. Liesbeth Luijendijk, Director Agrifood & Environment at OnePlanet:

‘We started with three people and grew towards a team of more than 50 employees in a years’ time. Ultimately, we aim to grow to a team of 150. With the right people and expertise, we can achieve even more and become the world-player we are aiming to be.”

The first connections with networks, schools, SME’s and industry were established, activities are taking place and the first tangible projects are already being implemented. The progress report confirms that it has been a successful year; OnePlanet is on schedule and reached its targets for year one.

“As the provincial government, we have full confidence that OnePlanet Research Center will live up to its expectations. For Example, we have high expectations of their technology, which can help us in our Gelderland-focused approach on nitrogen. Think also about COVID-19 and the opportunities in technology to help us, for example, in early detection.”

Said Christianne van der Wal, Deputy for economics for the province of Gelderland, in this press release regarding the progress report.

Program lines

The program lines within OnePlanet were defined by building on the background and knowledge of the founding partners. The program lines are: 1) Environment, 2) Precision Agriculture, 3) Food processing, 4) Food Quality, 5) Nutrition, 6) Metabolic Health and 7) Mental Wellbeing. Within these program lines, twelve projects kicked off right away, in order to involve industry at an early stage and to acquire external resources. Based on these projects, OnePlanet Research Center was able to source ten additional public-private projects within this very first year. These projects are actively supported by industry partners and concrete collaborations with regional SME’s were established.

Shoot for the moon

So, what’s next? OnePlanet Research Center wants to see results as fast as possible, but is also not afraid to dream big and set long term goals. To ensure OnePlanet invests in the right innovations, they’re being tested at an early stage, so that useful technologies are developed for which there is real demand. This requires a wide range of target groups to be involved, for example to determine qualification requirements. Gelderland is the ideal environment to do so. Here you’ll find various, unique partnerships that want to test new developments. They provide the setting and OnePlanet the expertise and ideas.

“In the coming year, OnePlanet will be looking for stakeholders in the province to help set up testing grounds. “To measure food quality, we will, for example, test digital applications in greenhouses. We don’t want to wait too long with that, because the faster we’ll have results. Many farmers are already asking for it, “says Liesbeth Luijendijk, Director AgriFood at OnePlanet. “At the same time, we can also experience faster whether something is not working out,” says Chris Van Hoof. “So that we can quickly look for better alternatives.” Chris Van Hoof: We are working on big dreams and we cannot always predict what will be an economic or social success. It starts with striving for groundbreaking innovations and we see them as our key to success. Or as Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, once said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. “”


Bridges between technology and impact

The objective of OnePlanet is for technology and innovations to have a real impact on society and are implemented, in practice, as soon as possible. To ensure this, a SME and an Open Education program were developed and implemented. These programs build the bridges needed between new technology and the entrepreneurs & education institutes in the province of Gelderland.

“Last year we connected with about ten schools. For example, there are students “Care & Welfare” who conduct questionnaires from patients about the use of wearables – mobile gadgets that you wear on your body – or other instruments to monitor yourself. Consumers tell them under what circumstances and conditions they want to use these instruments and whether they actually contribute to their health. Besides the fact that these insights have a lot of added value for us, it is valuable for the students to learn how to work with a client, learn more about the effects of technological interventions and how to conduct these types of interviews.” Explains Thea van Kemenade, Director of Health at OnePlanet. First responses to these programs are positive and many more collaborations and activities will be developed and implemented over the next two years.

All activities undertaken in the context of OnePlanet are aimed at realising social and economic impact. A special committee – consisting of practitioners and administrators – provides independent advice on how to achieve maximum impact. This impact is expected to happen within a few years. Thea van Kemenade: “The problems we are working on are big and will not be resolved within a year. We do want to show our innovations in studies and living labs in a year’s time, so that they are tangible and demonstrate their value.” Thea van Kemenade continues;

“impressive topics that matter and that we are proud of. But we are only really proud when we have realised impact.So that in eight years’ time not we, but other parties will say;
you are the innovation platform for health, agriculture and technology.
With a mature network of SMEs for whom we hunt for innovative projects,
testing grounds in which we are intertwined, schools that actively involve us
in the field of digital technologies and the province that says:

“We are proud that we have embarked on this adventure.”