16 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM With respect to molecular mutagenesis we are active in both targeted and random mutagenesis technologies. We apply proprietary technologies for our clients which in combination with highly accurate phenotypingmeasuring visible plant characteristicsallows for rapid identification of plants with improved traits. ES The aforementioned innovations are occurring within the breeding sector. Are there any innovations outside our sector that have had a major impact MvE Many developments relevant to the crop breeding industry take place in the field of human research. NGS technology is one of them. Activities such as highly automated sample preparation to process bio- logical samples on a large scale in a cost-effective way are innovations mostly initiated in the medical field. Subsequently these developments will be picked up in the plant field and also by KeyGene to develop technologies for crop applications. Another field which is important in this context is bioinformatics analysis. All innovations discussed so far rely to a large extent on the ability to process analyse and interpret large sets of complex data. Over the past 10 years the area of bioinformatics has grown significantly in importance. Nowadays bioinformatics is an intrinsic part of innovation. Complex and large amounts of data i.e. big data are hot at the moment. With respect to bioinformatics in our field we wouldnt be able to innovate without the ability to interpret big data. Looking forward innovations in many industry sectors and expertise areasfor example in the pharmaceutical e.g. stem cell biology engineering e.g. digital phenotyping and information e.g. data interpretation industrieswill impact innovation in the breeding sector. ES What are crucial aspects to stay at the forefront of innovation MvE I strongly believe that partnerships are increasingly important in order to solve complex problems. A multi-disciplinary approach is key to todays and tomorrows breeding challenges. Through partner- ing we can leverage external knowledge from industry academia and consortia and we can team up to find solutions for the big challenges the world is facing. You cannot expect yourself to be a leading expert in every field so choosing appropriate partners to co-develop products and jointly strive to innovate is of growing importance. It might not be unique to our sector but it is of the utmost importance. In order to realise this you must be an attractive partner yourself. This requires a culture that stimulates creativity teamwork and the desire to really make a difference. Partnerships are crucial to innovation. You cannot be a leading expert in every field. A good example of cross-border collaboration is city farming. It is a relatively new concept in which crops are grown in cities in closed environments under artificial light. We are preparing a pilot scheme to combine our expertise on plants and plant characteristics with greenhouse growth chamber and LED technology provided by other companies in order to develop new crops ideally suited to city farming. This concept has great potential and offers added value for consumers in large cities all over the world where production and availability of fresh food can be a major challenge. ES We talked about what companies can do to boost innovation. But what aspects should be changed in the regulatory field to stimulate innovation MvE Innovation cycles are rapidly becoming shorter. However I have noticed there is a discrepancy between technological capabilities on one hand and support from the regulatory environment on the other. It is of the utmost importance this gap is somehow reduced. Technological capabilities demand legal certainty so they can be deployed in the market. At the same time I fully understand policy- makers the people who make the regulatory decisions struggle to get an in-depth understanding of complex subjects such as new breeding technologies NBT. Ultimately we need to work together otherwise there will be no innovation. ES In other parts of the world the gap you describe seems to be much smaller. Technologies under discussion in Europe are allowed to be used in other parts of the world. What do you think about that MvE Apparently in some parts of the world the regulatory climate is more favourable to innovation. The application of NBT in particular has been hampered by the absence of legal certainty in Europe. This is a real burden for the breeding industry. If the legal framework remains unclear on whether or not commercialisation of new technologies is supported sooner or later it will affect a companys motivation to invest in research. Ultimately it should be a sensible business model that drives the innovation. If the regulatory climate is unclear it will obviously hinder innovation. Regulation can be a burden but also a boost for innovation. ES Lets have a look at the future. Which exciting crop innovations can be expected MvE I imagine one of the forthcoming innovations might be that genetic analysis will be conducted in the field by the breeders themselves. There are still a large number of routine analysis methods and research activities that have to be performed in expensive laboratories. I expect our future certainly includes the possibility of crops being analysed remotely in the field or in a greenhouse. As a consequence the process of plant selection will be so much faster and the whole breeding process will be accelerated. It will require miniaturisation of equipment and very fast read-out methods but there are already developments in that direction as we have seen with miniaturised DNA analysis equipment. The same holds for digital phenotyping capabilities yet another innovation that started about five years ago. Digital phenotyping makes crop phenotyping much more objective. It no longer relies on the experienced but nevertheless subjective interpretation by breeders. With digital phenotyping high throughput automated equipment with digital cameras is being used to measure crop performance. Bioinformatics subsequently takes care of the extraction of objective information. As with remote crop research work the first steps have been taken to perform bioinformatics analytics in the field. Its early days yet but Im sure in future these types of research will be performed in the field. ES These are technical developments. What about the future of traits MvE I expect more output-related traits will be unravelled and will be used for crop improvement. I think smart allocation of the increased technological repertoire to drive crop innovation will translate into even faster development of new varieties with better resistance better flavour higher yields and a better ability to grow in harsh environments such as dry climates or highly saline soils. ES Do you think that crop breeding will fundamentally change in the near future MvE To fundamentally change crop breeding is a long-term challenge. First of all it requires a lot of in-depth knowledge of the mechanisms of plant reproduction. Secondly changes have to be compatible with a viable business model. Thus I dont think those changes will come very rapidly. In the short term thanks to the latest advanced technologies breeding will be further accelerated and will become more cost-effective. Its beyond any doubt in the next decade we will see more ground-breaking innovations in crop breeding and the seed industry. KeyGene finds itself in a dynamic fast-developing field with great potential to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. Michiel van Eijk is the chief scientific officer at KeyGene.