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TiFN Retreat: Collaboration is key

Almost one hundred PhD students, project leaders, board members and staff members gathered at the Burgers Bush Zoo during the first TiFN Retreat. Central theme on the agenda was how to further optimise the way of working of TiFN. Next to that, the attendees had the opportunity to exchange experiences and meet colleagues from other projects.

Managing Director Ronald Visschers kicked off the Retreat with an overview of the performances that TiFN has delivered since its start in 1998: “From the start we have strived to combine scientific excellence with industrial relevance to generate a social impact. This is interwoven throughout our organization. In our board, representatives from knowledge institutions, industry discuss about how to face societal challenges. In the formation of projects all parties have an important influence on the content and approach. In this way we have been able to play a very relevant role in the past twenty years. And we still do, because the challenges we have described in our strategy are all relevant to industry and society.”

Rolf Bos, former theme director and Global Nutrition Development Director at FrieslandCampina, told in his contribution how he assesses the role of TiFN: “Although the industry does not always realize this, TiFN is extremely important for the industry. In addition to the development of new, relevant knowledge, collaboration is a very important asset in TiFN. TiFN knows like no other how you can make science and industry work together efficiently. That seems easier than it is. You have to act as an interpreter between the parties. At the same time you have to manage the expectations in the right way. The industry prefers results tomorrow, but science benefits from a longer horizon. The approach of TiFN keeps the expectations in balance, with the result you get relevant results”. In addition to these outcomes, the approach is also an excellent method for developing talent: “Whether as a PhD student you end up later in the research world or with the industry: you will always have to work with different parties. TiFN is a fantastic breeding ground for that. ”

Johan de Vogel, former PhD student and now Senior Scientist at Danone Nutricia Research, discussed his experiences at TiFN. He also emphasized that cooperation was an important lesson: “In my project I worked together with several institutes, each with a different interest. I also had to learn to collaborate with researchers from different research disciplines, to understand each other’s language. That was not always easy, but in the end it did bring me a lot. ”

Jan Sikkema, Business Development Management Director at University Medical Center Groningen and board member of TiFN: “The societal challenges that we face now are too big to tackle alone. How can one party tackle the issue of feeding the world in a sustainable way? I think that TiFN’s collaboration model offers absolute added value when working on these kinds of issues. So we have wonderful opportunities ahead.”

During the breaks the attendees had the opportunity to exchange experiences and meet colleagues from other projects. The results were lively discussions about the life of a PhD student, research methods, project setups and carrier opportunities.

Looking back at the day, Ronald Visschers is happy with the outcome of the day: “We have a wonderful community of experts and we are all working on very interesting relevant topics. It’s great to see how dedicated we all are to further strengthen TiFN as an institute. I already look forward to next year’s edition of the Retreat.”