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Institute manager Annemieke Beers reflects on her first few months at SRON

The switch from agrotechnology and food sciences in Wageningen to space research is quite a jump. Annemieke Beers, new institute manager at SRON, is therefore doing her absolute best to get to know the Dutch expertise Institute for space research down to the finest details. One of the biggest challenges she faces together with SRON is the relocation of the Utrecht location to the campus of Leiden University in 2021. The provisional design is ready, the tendering process has just been completed, and from now on all parties are jointly working hard on the final design and the specifications. The actual construction will start in September. 'This is a good prospect. The new building is open and modern, made for meeting each other and will have a very different atmosphere.'

In her former position as director of operations at Wageningen University and Research, Annemieke Beers was somewhat removed from everyday matters', she says. 'At SRON I have the opportunity to assume a fantastic integral role in which I can also be involved in the everyday ins and outs of the institute. To ensure I can manage the entire institute well I also visit our other location in Groningen several times per month, where about fifty SRON colleagues work. I find the dynamics and work of SRON highly attractive. SRON is a very different type of organisation to the large matrix organisation that I've come from. At SRON there is a lot of diversity in terms of nationalities, but I'm still having to get used to the very different male-female ratio. In Wageningen, I worked a lot with women. However, they are all wonderful colleagues to work with here, and they are particularly passionate about their work.' In the coming months, I am looking forward to discovering further what makes SRON unique and what the critical success factors of this institute are.'

Relocation to Leiden
Besides the daily management of the institute, the relocation of SRON is high on the agenda. Annemieke proudly shows the drawings for the new building, designed by Ector Hoogstad Architecten, who were also responsible for the design of the DIFFER building at Eindhoven University of Technology. 'Our current SRON building in Utrecht is quite closed and has long corridors. So you do not easily bump into somebody here', says Annemieke. 'The new building is open and modern, made for meeting each other and will have a very different atmosphere.' SRON is now in the awarding phase during which the construction company will be selected. This will be followed by the final design. During the relocation, we will face many challenges, such as the alignment with large international missions such as the infrared space telescope SPICA and the X-ray satellite Athena. We will need downtime (a short period in which the use of the experiments will be stopped) for our scientific setups as soon as we relocate, but these are difficult to plan in such a large international context.'
However, for the SRON employees, in particular, the relocation is a big step, she explains. 'For many colleagues, the relocation to Leiden means more travel time. Thankfully, a good compensation scheme has been established. We will, in any case, ensure that as many people as possible can relocate with us in 2021. Fortunately, many employees also see the advantages that the relocation offers, especially in the area of collaboration in South Holland with the universities of Leiden and Delft. As many people are involved in this phase with the approval of the technical requirements for all research rooms, the relocation is starting to become more of a reality among our employees. We regularly hold charettes, meetings in which representatives from the departments discuss all details concerning the design and technical requirements and unanimous decisions are taken.

Collaboration within NWO
‘It is fantastic to see that SRON is part of the larger NWO organisation and receives support from the NWO-I Office. Also by collaborating with the other NWO Institutes, we can optimally seek each other's strengths. And you can learn a lot from each other.' Annemieke is also a keen proponent of exchanging people within the institutes, as this increases the learning capacity of the institutes and you can learn from each other's best practices. 'An example is the HRM advisor from ASTRON who came to strengthen the SRON team.’

New director
This month Michael Wise started as the new director of SRON. Annemieke was happy such a good new director could be found so quickly and is really pleased with Michael's arrival. 'I certainly expect that we will be able to work together well and jointly reach a good division of tasks. At SRON there have been many staff changes. However, support from the staff is really needed if the organisation is to grow further. That's a real challenge with both a new institute manager and a new director for the institute. Fortunately, Wise already knows a lot about the organisation as he has come from NWO Institute ASTRON. I'm looking forward to a new dynamic within SRON!” 


About Annemieke Beers
Annemieke Beers (54) lives in Naarden and travels each day to SRON using public transport and her bicycle. Beers is married and has a daughter (24) and a son (22) who are both students at Delft University of Technology.

About SRON
SRON is the Dutch expertise institute for space research. Through groundbreaking research, SRON wants to increase and disseminate knowledge about astrophysics, the Earth and (exo)planets. Besides astrophysics, Earth-oriented and (exo)planetary research, SRON develops new technologies for satellite instruments such as sensitive sensors for X-ray and infrared radiation. SRON technology also has societal applications, for example in healthcare and monitoring food quality.
Further information about the missions stated in this article (X-ray satellite Athena and infrared space telescope SPICA) can be found on the SRON website.

Newsletter Inside NWO-I, January 2019