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

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.

Note to the editor

When reporting on this research, please mention all partners involved. 
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Basic research in life sciences is VIB’s raison d’être. On the one hand, we are pushing the boundaries of what we know about molecular mechanisms and how they rule living organisms such as human beings, animals, plants and microorganisms. On the other, we are creating tangible results for the benefit of society. Based on a close partnership with five Flemish universities – Ghent University, KU Leuven, University of Antwerp, Vrije Universi0eit Brussel and Hasselt University – and supported by a solid funding program, VIB unites the expertise of 75 research groups in a single institute. VIB’s technology transfer activities translate research results into new economic ventures which, in time, lead to new products that can be used in medicine, agriculture and other applications. VIB also engages actively in the public debate on biotechnology by developing and disseminating a wide range of science-based information about all aspects of biotechnology. More information:

Ghent University
After more than twenty years of uninterrupted growth, Ghent University is now one of the most important institutions of higher education and research in the Low Countries. Ghent University yearly attracts over 41,000 students, with a foreign student population of over 2,200 EU and non-EU citizens. Ghent University offers a broad range of study programs in all academic and scientific fields. With a view to cooperation in research and community service, numerous research groups, centers and institutes have been founded over the years. For more information 

SweTree Technologies
SweTree Technologies is a leading tree biotechnology company providing solutions to one of the major challenges of the future: sustainable growth of renewable and high value forest raw material facilitating replacement of non-renewable products. SweTree Technologies collaborates with leading Swedish universities and international partners with the purpose to insert our technologies in customers’ products and operations. SweTree has access to unique scientific results and resources through exclusive collaboration with cutting edge scientists from five Swedish universities within biology, biotechnology and chemistry of

Umeå Plant Science Centre
Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) was formed in 1999 as a collaboration between the Department of Plant Physiology at Umeå University and the Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The goal was to create one common centre of excellence in experimental plant biology coordinating research, education and infrastructure as well as to create an innovation system that efficiently translates basic research innovations into practical applications. The centre has since its start grown to host 40 different research groups and more than 200 researchers, making it one of the strongest centres for experimental plant research in Europe. The research stretches from basic cell biology research to developmental biology, hormone physiology and wood biology to ecophysiology, genetics and tree breeding. UPSC is today one of the world-leading environments for research in tree biology and forest biotechnology and is working in close collaboration with forest industrial partners on taking its innovations into practical use. 


Dirk Inzé (Science director VIB Center for Plant Systems Biology)
Mobile: +32 477 695 746
Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Griet Verhaegen (Business Development Manager VIB)
Mobile: +32 477 61 07  72
Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Elisabeth Stes (Science Communications Expert VIB)
Tel: +32 9 244 66 11
Mobile: +32 486 82 59 02
Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Carl-Gustav Löf (CEO SweTree Technologies) 
+46 70 609 95 10

Ove Nilsson (Director UPSC) 
+46 70 286 90 82