Richard Harrison new Managing Director Plant Sciences Group

The Executive Board of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has appointed Richard Harrison as the Managing Director of the Plant Sciences Group (PSG) as of 1 September 2022. He succeeds Ernst van den Ende who is now Managing Director of the Animal Sciences Group. Harrison is currently Director of NIAB Cambridge Crop Research.

The Executive Board is delighted that Richard Harrison will take on the position of Managing Director. Announcing Harrison’s appointment president of the executive board WUR Louise O. Fresco said: “Richard Harrison’s international profile will be a great asset to WUR. We expect him to give a strong impetus to and the further development of our plant sciences, value creation and education strategies. Plant production is central to the momentous challenges to feed the growing world population, mitigating climate change, ensuring the careful management, use, and protection of soils, nature and the environment.”

“WUR has a leading role in combining fundamental knowledge and practical expertise in plant sciences. Our work in genetics, plant protection, physiology and photosynthesis is groundbreaking. This offers new perspectives for sustainable, climate smart agriculture to our partners from industry, governments, NGOs, research institutes and universities both in The Netherlands and internationally. With Richard Harrison, as our new Managing Director of the Plant Sciences Group, WUR will further extend this work with new energy.”

Richard Harrison currently leads NIAB’s research work in arable crops, and NIAB’s contribution to the Crop Science Centre, an alliance between the University of Cambridge and NIAB. Richard Harrison said: “This is a great opportunity, and a privilege, to join a world-renowned centre for discovery and innovation and to lead the Plant Sciences Group. Current global challenges call for new ways working in order to develop an environmentally and economically sustainable food system. I am looking forward to contributing to the delivery of this challenge, building on the outstanding research and delivery capabilities in Wageningen and across the Dutch research and commercial landscape.”

Dr Richard Harrison completed his PhD in systems biology at the University of Manchester, followed by a Medical Research Council Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh in bioinformatics and population genetics. He joined East Malling in 2011 as a research leader, taking the role as the head of the genetics, genomics and breeding department in 2016 which carries out both discovery research and commercialisation of new varieties of soft fruit and tree fruit. In 2019 he moved to Cambridge, as Director of Crop Research overseeing genetics, breeding pathology, biotechnology and data science research departments at NIAB’s Cambridge headquarters as well as some of the statutory services in seed certification and variety testing. His own research focuses on understanding the evolution and the genetic basis of complex traits, such as the interactions between plants and microbes and his research group is a combination of molecular biologists and mathematical and computer scientists working at the interface of discovery and application.

In the UK Richard contributes to a variety of strategic advisory panels both for industry (for example the net-zero advisory board of the National Farmers Union) and for UK funding bodies, such as the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) and Innovate UK. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and in 2019 completed a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, studying the green energy transition required in protected horticultural crops.