BASF’s plan to reorient its research into plant biotechnology will lead to job losses at CropDesign

26 February 2016
​BASF’s decision is bad news for the Flemish agro-biotechnology sector, but does not spell the end of the cluster in Flanders. This is the opinion of Johan Cardoen, Managing Director of VIB and previously CEO of CropDesign for eight years. CropDesign is a spinoff of VIB and Ghent University.

The biotechnology sector in Flanders accounts for 15,000 direct jobs, 1,000 of which are in agro-biotechnology. The sector is chiefly clustered around Ghent, where there are some 700 jobs in companies and 300 in the Department of Plant Systems Biology (VIB/UGent). The closure of CropDesign’s Ghent-based Research and Development Department will result in 100 of these jobs being lost.

“This is rather unexpected, considering that we have a flourishing ecosystem of agro-biotechnology in Ghent, and that CropDesign was one of the key players active in the area”, says Johan Cardoen, Managing Director of the Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (the Flemish institute for Biotechnology). We are the largest cluster of agro-biotechnology research and development centres in Europe. It is bad news when a company decides to wind down its activities for strategic reasons. But does this spell the end of the cluster? Of course not. Firstly, we still have big companies such as Syngenta and Bayer, as well as a number of smaller companies. And secondly, there are new companies that are ready to be set up in the next few years. Moreover, these companies have activities that are much broader than GMO alone.”