We invest in science and change the economy

Important changes are coming up in the Polish higher education: first and foremost, the new funding system at many universities forcing universities to reduce didactics for research and development. We talked about the influence of the planned changes on the functioning of the university with the Rector of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Professor Wiesław Bielawski.

Will the planned changes be difficult to implement at WULS-SGGW, will they be important for the way the university operates?

Prof. dr hab. Wiesław Bielawski: Like most Polish universities we will have to reduce the number of students. However, this will not be a revolutionary change. Didactics is an important area of  activity at WULS-SGGW, but not the most important. We are an academic university and our activity is based on three pillars - research, innovation and implementation and didactics. Of course, all of these areas are very closely related. Placing a greater emphasis on research and implementing study results in practice is definitely a step in the right direction that is consistent with the long-term development strategy of the university.

No big changes in the functioning of WULS-SGGW should be expected then?

W. B.: The current direction of change is consistent with the mission and strategy of the WULS-SGGW. I would like to point out, however, that we are working intensively to make our university as good as the best universities of life sciences in the world. There is also a lot to do in the area of ​​cooperation with business entities. In the case of WULS-SGGW, the innovation and implementation activity is of special importance: the scope of research and development here is very broad and at the same time very closely connected with the most important sectors of the economy. It covers issues related to agriculture as well as food management, environment, veterinary medicine, construction, modern technology and economic and social sciences. The intellectual and material potential of WULS-SGGW is well managed by thousands of business entities, for which we are a source of innovations. There is still plenty to do in this area. For several years we have been working intensively to facilitate the cooperation of our researchers with business entities.

What does this work consist in and are there any of effects of it yet?

W. B.: We set up a special unit in 2013: the Information and Technology Transfer Center, whose mission is to facilitate the scientific community of WULS-SGGW to communicate with business, to implement inventions, and to fund research and development. In the years 2014-2016 we registered 69 inventions (both domestic and international) and made 34 implementations. Patented solutions concerned improving the efficiency of plant and animal husbandry, functional additives for animal feed, development of renewable energy, engineering of solid wood and of wood-based materials, as well as innovative production technologies in the woodworking industry or processing and packaging of food products. Since 2013, we have established 436 cooperation agreements, including institutions from the furniture industry, meat industry, with city authorities, hospitals, banks and other educational institutions. A very important work performed by the CIiTT team was to conduct research in the years 2014-2015 on key business needs and opportunities for cooperation with our university. This gives us valuable insights that will help us streamline our innovation and implementation activities and help individual companies grow and increase their competitiveness in the global marketplace.

Is any of the research and development areas particularly important in WULS-SGGW, is success in any particular areas noticeable?  

W. B.: In life sciences and technical studies, that is in the research areas of ​​most faculties of WULS-SGGW, modern science and research facilities are essential. Scientific progress is taking place at a very fast pace. We need well-equipped laboratories to conduct innovative research in collaboration with the best centers around the world. Among other things, thanks to funding from the Structural Funds, we have purchased a lot of state-of-the-art equipment in recent years that enabled us to conduct research at the world's highest level. We equipped departmental laboratories and created our centers: Analytical Center, Water Center and Veterinary Medicine Center that was created together with the Center for Biomedical Research. These investments obviously contribute to the quality of scientific work. I hope that in the nearest future the construction of new research and development centers will commence. We applied to the Marshal Office of the Mazovian Voivodeship for co-financing of the Center for Applied Biology, Food and Nutrition Center and the Center for Regenerative Medicine. I hope that further investments will increase our ability to conduct research and development activities at the level of the best scientific centers in the world.

Is there a staff member, the achievements of whom you are especially proud?

W. B.: I am very pleased with all achievements of our employees, even the one that seem small. As for prestige for the university, such a great success was receiving by Prof. dr. hab. Magdalena Król a grant for immunooncology research funded by the European Research Council (ERC). However, I would like to stress that there are several teams working in cancer research at WULS-SGGW. A study on the use of graphene and platinum nanoparticles in glioma therapy conducted at the Department of Animal Science is very promising. On the other hand, a computer program has been developed at the Faculty of Computer Science and Mathematics to help identify the neoplasm of renal cell carcinoma. This application is used to support diagnostics in the Department of Pathology of Military Medical Institute.

What is the greatest advantage of the WULS-SGGW?

W. B.: There are 3,000 employees at the university, half of which is faculty. Since 1945, over 120 thousand graduates have left the university walls. This is a powerful group of experts in various fields, who contribute to the economic development of the country and the world. However, even the best scientists will not be able to carry out innovative research without proper material facilities. Both well-equipped laboratories and research centers, as well as funds for foreign internships and other forms of trainings are needed. Providing adequate infrastructure is the responsibility of the university authorities. For 20 years, a coherent development strategy has been implemented at WULS-SGGW. Its main goal is to create a world-class academic institution - a place that will attract young, ambitious, well educated academics. The effects of this work can be already seen today. WULS-SGGW has a well-developed, modern infrastructure. We have managed to create one big university campus, where all faculties, dormitories and sports facilities are located. The WULS-SGGW campus is also an area, where many student organizations such as scientific associations, music groups and sports sections are located. It all helps us to create a friendly atmosphere that attracts high school graduates. We care about talented and ambitious young people who want to study at WULS-SGGW so that well-educated high school graduates wishing to pursue their scientific career continue their careers with us. Our goal is also to bring well-educated graduates into the labor market who will contribute to the economic development. Science, didactics, co-operation with business, and adequate infrastructure are elements that can not exist without each other. Such multidirectional development is the greatest asset of WULS-SGGW.