Flemish universities pool €30 million for collaborative research

Summary

Academics from two or more institutions can bid for fundamental research projects

Pooling resources

The five Flemish universities are pooling resources to create a €30 million research fund that will support collaborative projects between them. The aim is to bring together academics with complementary skills and knowledge to work on fundamental research questions.

For some years now, the government of Flanders has given universities a free hand in how they spend some of their research funding. These Bijzondere Onderzoeksfondsen (Bof) can be directed to any projects chosen by the university, so long as the work is of the highest academic quality.

While judged a success, the Bof rules were amended earlier this year to emphasise inter-university and international co-operation, excellence, and interdisciplinarity. As a result, the universities have decided to pool some of this funding to create an inter-university Bof, which opens to bids today.

Research proposals must be of the highest quality and involve a collaboration between at least three research leaders from at least two Flemish universities. The idea is that they provide complementary expertise, without which the research could not be carried out.

Any discipline

Applicants can plan for a research programme of up to four years, in any scientific discipline. The proposals will be assessed by international experts.

“The formation of these interuniversity consortia will allow Flemish university rectors to join forces,” explained Luc Sels, rector of KU Leuven and president of the Flemish Interuniversity Council. “In this way we want to put Flemish scientific research on the map even more than it is at present, and allow it to attain an international level of excellence.”

Sels also acknowledged the previous administration’s vote of confidence in the power of universities and the importance of fundamental research for well-being and prosperity. “We hope that the next government will continue to follow this path and provide the necessary means for fundamental research.”

Photo: Christophe Vander Eecken/UGent