International research centre: research and innovation as key priorities
For many years now, French-speaking Belgium has decided to make research and innovation a priority. To do so, it has developed what we now call “competitiveness hubs”. These are key elements of the economic development and innovation policy of Wallonia-Brussels, aiming to strengthen the ties between the various public and private research bodies. Thus, 2015-2019 saw a budget of close to 3 billion euros assured.
The competitiveness hubs of French-speaking Belgium, at the heart of international research centres
In practical terms, the competitiveness hubs group together higher education institutions, businesses, research units and other stakeholders involved in common innovative projects, over a limited territory. In this “triangle of innovation” (or “triangle of knowledge”), higher education institutions play an important part. On the one hand, they provide high quality teaching with a focus on research, and on the other, they produce research and innovation. To make the most of the results obtained, each university has then established a knowledge transfer office. Each of these is represented in the LIEU (the Businesses and University Link) network, which facilitates the pooling of resources. And university colleges can also optimise their applied research via the specific SynHERA network.
The six competitiveness hubs in French-speaking Belgium
According to the four priority study areas in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, six competitiveness hubs have been created:
Skywin Wallonie – Aeronautics and space sector
This “competitiveness hub” has six themes:
- Composite materials and industrial processes;
- Metal alloys and industrial processes;
- Embedded systems;
- Airport services;
- Space and drone applications and systems;
- Model-making and simulation.
Full information is available at: https://www.skywin.be/en#no-back
Logistics in Wallonia – Transport and logistics sector
Logistics in Wallonia aims to promote the transport and logistics sector in Wallonia, beyond its borders, coordinating action and defining a shared strategy whilst optimising human and technological resources.
Full information is available at: https://www.logisticsinwallonia.be/
GreenWin – Green chemistry, sustainable construction and environmental technologies sector
GreenWin is the “competitiveness hub” of chemical engineering and sustainable materials. In all, it numbers three strategic areas of activity:
- new product design, based on renewable (biobased) or recyclable raw materials;
- new product design and systems applied to energy management: energy storage, sustainable constructions, etc.
- the design of new techniques for the reuse/recycling of products and systems that have reached the end of their useful lives, as well as the use of waste as a new source for raw materials.
Full information is available at: https://www.greenwin.be/en/
BioWin – Nutrition and health sector
This “competitiveness hub” groups together all the Wallonia players involved in innovative projects and/or the teaching of biotechnologies and health subjects. The research and development supported by BioWin covers all six strategic areas of activity:
- cell therapy;
- medical devices and in vitro diagnostics;
- radiations used in health;
- data science.
Full information is available at: https://www.biowin.org/en
WagrALIM – Agricultural-industry sector
For this “competitiveness hub”, the sector industries have determined four priority areas, which serve as a common thread to all collaborations pursued by the enterprises and partners of WagrALIM.
- “Health” food/nutritional quality;
- Industrial efficiency;
- Development of sustainable food industry chains.
Full information is available at : https://www.wagralim.be/en/
MecaTech – Transversal technologies sector
The “competitiveness hub” of mechanical engineering, MecaTech covers all projects structured around the following four strategic areas:
- Materials and surfaces of the future;
- Global styling technologies;
- Micro technologies and mechatronics;
- Smart maintenance.
Full information is available at: https://www.polemecatech.be/fr/
In addition to these six “competitiveness hubs”, the Wallonia research centres also develop state-of-the-art expertise. Grouped under Wal-Tech, they offer products and services to businesses.
The international reach of French-speaking Belgian research
In order to develop research and innovation internationally, all stakeholders (universities, competitiveness hubs, research centres, etc.) are grouped together under the R&I platform. This place of exchange, where the major shared geographic and sector priorities are defined, can count on the international network of WBI and that of AWEX (Wallonia agency for exports and foreign investments), in order to facilitate contact and encourage collaborations and partnerships with foreign operators.