Climate change in the Flemish-Dutch Delta focus of new co-operation


Universities in Flanders and the Netherlands have created Smart Solutions for Delta Issue to address the impacts of climate change on the delicate waterway system between Antwerp and Rotterdam

Living lab

Ghent University and Campus Zeeland signed a co-operation agreement yesterday to turn the Flemish-Dutch Delta into a “living lab” for research into the effects of climate change. Smart Solutions for Delta Issues will bring together researchers, teachers and entrepreneurs with an interest in addressing the impacts of climate change in the region.

Phenomena such as sea level change, variations in salinity and drought pose a threat both to nature and to communities in the delta, the area between Antwerp and Rotterdam where the Maas, Scheldt and Rhine rivers all flow into the North Sea. This makes it an ideal place to study both the impacts of climate change and new approaches to managing them.

“Our institution has a great interest in the unique Delta-Scheldt area,” explains Rik Van de Walle, rector of Ghent University. “We already work together with various authorities, companies and knowledge institutions in this region, but what was missing was a clear joint research and education programme. We look forward to joining forces and funding in order to work more closely together on major issues of the future.”

Its partner, Campus Zeeland, brings together the business community, research institutions and government in Zeeland, with the goal of strengthening local competitiveness and finding solutions to major societal problems such as climate change and energy transition. Its main educational partners are University College Roosevelt and the HZ University of Applied Science.

Teacher shortages

The agreement was signed at a summit held in Middelburg on Monday that brought together politicians from Flanders and the Netherlands to discuss a variety of diverse cross-border issues. Among other outcomes, it was agreed to set up a task force to look into teacher shortages in both countries.

Education ministers want to see their respective teacher training organisations explore further options for co-operation and sharing information. It was also decided that a Flemish-Dutch Innovation and Science Day will be organised in 2019, involving both knowledge institutions and the business community on both sides of the border.

Meanwhile, Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois and his Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte discussed a number of topics, including Brexit, implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change and cross border transport and infrastructure projects.

Photo: Ghent University rector Rik Van de Walle signs a co-operation agreement in the presence of several Flemish and Dutch ministers
©Courtesy UGent