Guest column

Jan van den Berg

Manager Strategic Alliance and Partnering at BASF Vegetable Seeds

“Proud that BASF has decided to partner with Brightlands”

“I had just started in my current position when I first came in contact with Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo last year. Meetings were being held with companies, most of which are based in the region, to jointly finance the Youth, Health and Nutrition chair. We also took part in these meetings. It piqued my curiosity and I quickly realized that the activities at the campus are a perfect match for BASF Vegetable Seeds’ new strategy.

Until recently, we were mainly at the front end of the chain: developing high-quality seeds and vegetable varieties for professional horticulture that are sold worldwide under the brand name Nunhems®. This is what we’re good at and will naturally continue in this vein, but we want to be able to increase our reach with the end user. When you get into this market, you are working with products in which health, the taste of a product or ease of use are the important values. These just happen to be the very areas they’re focusing on at the campus in Venlo. How perfect is it to be able to join in with these new partners and develop this together with them?

Brightlands Jan van den Berg 4.jpg

None of this was self-evident, by the way. The fact that our new focus fits in seamlessly with the prevalent themes at the campus was what we needed in terms of a decisive argument to convince everyone. Working with other parties in an open community is a relatively new concept. I have brought many colleagues from the entire group to Venlo to persuade them that we should join these efforts. The first time we were there, two colleagues were somewhat hesitant in their response, saying “this isn't Boston or San Francisco”. Although this is true, this is precisely the type of situation where you can probably be more valuable to each other in a partnership in terms of innovation and growth.

Another very important factor is that it feels right at the campus in Venlo and the same goes for the cooperation with the people of Maastricht University and the Province of Limburg. This trust has resulted in us not only working with others at the campus, but also becoming a shareholder. If you are going to join an effort like this and you have the possibilities to do so as a multinational, you can’t be afraid to assume responsibility. In this position, you can help ensure that the focus is maintained. I am happy and proud that BASF has decided to partner with Brightlands.  

One strength of the Venlo region that tends to get forgotten is the perfect location. This is naturally a region with a long-standing agricultural tradition and where horticulture is also very important, with the presence of major players such as the produce auction organization Veiling ZON, and substantial horticultural acreage with connections to the region just over the border. The connections to the German hinterland with its millions of consumers in the Ruhr area cities are also excellent. This is a trump card for BASF Vegetable Seeds. We’re there, we’re in the middle of it all, and the customers live just around the corner. 

The fact that the campus operates on the basis of the triple helix concept is very appealing for an international group like BASF. Partnerships like this and in this form between education, government and business are unknown in Germany, so they’re very curious about them. In this sense, it’s also a first for BASF to actively work with other partners at a campus and to become one of the shareholders. They will undoubtedly be following the progress very closely. I’m going to do my very best in the coming years to get BASF to spend even more time at the campus than we’re currently aiming for. This is going be a good marriage.”

Nederlands versie: gastcolumn



As Strategic Alliance and Partnering Manager for BASF Vegetable Seeds, Jan van den Berg (1963) is responsible for the strategic decisions involved in partnerships and finding relevant forms of cooperation and networks.
In this pioneering role, he explored the possibilities for collaboration with Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo. Last month, BASF announced that it would become a co-shareholder in the campus and as of January 1, the company will be setting up a presence on the campus with a support center.  

For 24 years, Jan van den Berg has worked in the research and development management division of BASF Vegetable Seeds, which focuses on the development of high-quality seed and vegetable crops. Vegetable Seeds became part of BASF last year, taking over all of the vegetable seed activities from Bayer.

Jan van den Berg studied agronomy at Wageningen University & Research. He obtained his PhD in his field of expertise at Cornell University in New York.