VIB-UGent announces partnership with Umeå Plant Science Centre and SweTree Technologies to help advance forestry plantation

19 January 2017

​VIB-UGent today announced it has entered into a partnership with the Swedish SweTree Technologies and Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) to accelerate research on tree value and productivity. The study results will be published in leading scientific journals.

Wood is part of our everyday life, whether as construction materials, furniture, paper and other biomaterials and as energy source. Demand for wood products is likely to continue to increase globally. Sustainably and efficiently grown forest tree plantations can help to match this global demand without harming our natural woods and the biodiversity associated with them.

Together Belgian and Swedish scientists now started a joint project building on their accumulated experience on functional genomics of genes controlling growth in annual plants as well as trees. This partnership combines four important assets:

  1. world-leading expertise in plant growth and productivity of the VIB-UGent research group of Dirk Inzé;
  2. eminent role in tree biology of UPSC headed by Ove Nilsson;
  3. excellent industrial tree biotechnology capabilities of SweTree Technologies, a spin-off company emanating from renown Swedish universities;
  4. outstanding expertise in bio-informatics and comparative genomics of the VIB-UGent lab of Klaas Vandepoele.

“My team is passionated about understanding plant growth and how this is controlled by both intrinsic development programs and environmental cues”, says Dirk Inzé. “By using the experimental advantages of both Arabidopsis and maize as model systems remarkable progress has been made in understanding plant growth and crop yield. And we’re just getting started.”

VIB-UGent and UPSC will share all data and develop new bioinformatics tools to identify key conserved regulators of growth and wood formation. In a first joint-research project, the researches will test these genes for their growth and yield-promoting abilities in Arabidopsis, maize and poplar trees. In the collaboration, SweTree Technologies will contribute with knowledge from tree plantations and test the best lead genes in Eucalyptus.

This agreement will help bring VIB-UGent and UPSC research environments closer together, by exchanging researchers more frequently and arranging joint scientific meetings. Ove Nilsson (Director of UPSC) says: “We are very excited about this opportunity to deepen our scientific collaborations and exchange with the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology, one of the strongest research environments in Europe for experimental plant research and an excellent complement to our research interests.”

The agreement provides SweTree Technologies access to leading gene technologies for plant growth and yield increase from VIB-UGent. Alongside manifesting and strengthening SweTree Technologies as the leading supplier of gene technologies for forest biotechnology, the collaboration will also add further value to its candidate genes in the agricultural field via research carried out at VIB. “We are delighted by the collaboration between VIB-UGent, UPSC and SweTree Technologies”, says Carl-Gustav Löf, CEO of SweTree Technologies. “With our joint efforts, we anticipate to take important steps towards significantly increasing the values of forestry plantations and agricultural crops.”

The joint research between VIB-UGent, UPSC and SweTree Technologies to identify new genes for growth increase in trees is envisioned to strengthen all involved parties.

Klaas Vandepoele and Dirk Inzé (VIB-UGent)
©Karel Spruyt


Ove Nilsson and Carl-Gustav Lof (UPSC)
©Anne Honsel