Innovation Minister Jo Bruns: “Science festivals get young people excited about STEM”

Innovation Minister Jo Bruns: “Science festivals get young people excited about STEM”

Due to the lack of natural resources, a small region like Flanders has to make do with its brains, as the cliché goes. Can we fulfill this role sufficiently as a knowledge area, and is the flow of scientific discoveries to socially relevant applications smooth enough?

“It is not easy to define what a scientific achievement is,” says Jo Bruns, the Flemish Minister of Science and Innovation. “Some discoveries only become revolutionary years later – sometimes even in a completely different field. Additionally, many inventions or discoveries have proven impossible without years of prior basic research. This is the basis for the economic and social innovations we need.” The Internet was invented At CERN, the European research infrastructure in Geneva. That's why I'm a big supporter of the Einstein Telescope project in our region (Under the Three Countries Point, Netherlands-Germany-Belgium, ed.). There is no doubt that this basic research infrastructure for measuring gravitational waves will lead to scientific and technological breakthroughs.

“The flow of innovations and knowledge to applications in services and products that deliver added social and economic value is a complex process. It is not a linear process that automatically follows excellent basic research. This is clearly demonstrated by the European innovation paradox, the term we use to indicate that Europe and Flanders are outperforming The international community continues to build new knowledge – measured by the number of scientific publications per 10,000 population and citations – but receives lower scores compared to other global players. Transforming this knowledge and innovations into value-added applications.

Europe strongly encourages the valorization of knowledge. What did Flanders achieve here?

“There are many success stories. KU Leuven was a pioneer in 1972 by establishing the Leuven Research and Development Office (LRD), one of the first Knowledge and Technology Transfer Offices (KTTO) worldwide. The LRD was created from the vision that Researchers and knowledge institutions by various intermediary experts to successfully complete the knowledge valorization process.

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'To fund research at a higher level than TRL (Technology readiness level, or the extent to which technology is ready for further development, ed.) In institutions of higher education and for business developer positions, the Flemish government established the Industrial Research Funds (IOF) in 2004. The annual budget of the International Organization of La Francophonie has increased significantly over the years and now amounts to €62 million distributed among the five Flemish associations. The Flemish government is also investing in several incubators, testing sites and proving grounds. A good example is the Thor Park in Genk, which focuses on energy transition, smart manufacturing and smart city applications.

Support is still needed from experts in the field of intellectual property to apply for patents or trademark protection, from lawyers to draw up contracts and licensing agreements, from economists to shape business models of separate companies, and from specialists in communications and networking events, among others. Other. Stuff, marketing and fundraising.

'This is paying off. An average of 25 subsidiary companies are created each year, many of which grow into large companies. Examples include Materialise, founded in 1990 as a spin-off of KU Leuven and a world leader in 3D printing, and Ablynx, founded in 2001 as a spin-off of VIB and VUB and acquired by Sanofi in 2018 for €3.9 billion.

Flanders Technology and Innovation (FTI) should put Flanders on the map as a top technology region. What results would you, as Minister for Science Policy, then be satisfied with?

Flanders is an absolute leader in innovation. We invest more than 3.6% of GDP in research and innovation. This makes us one of the best students in our class in the world, and we can be proud of that. For me, innovation is not an end in itself, but rather a means to confront social challenges. To achieve the transition to a sustainable society, or – which is also very important – to ensure the production of healthy and affordable food. In short, we are building tomorrow's society with greater prosperity and a bright future for all.

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“That is why I am very happy that we are working with the Flemish government Flanders Technology and Innovation You brought them back into existence. With the encouragement of Gaston Janes, the first FTI festivals were organized in the 1980s and 1990s. In March, Flanders organizes a new edition, with different festivals in the Flemish provinces, so that we can attract a wide audience. On the one hand, to introduce the Flemish people to the excellent innovations being developed here. On the other hand, to inspire young people to research, innovate and in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Concerned citizens and youth can contribute to a better world.

“I therefore hope that the FTI Week will be a great success. Above all, an inspiration for what science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and research can offer us, with the Einstein Telescope as an important benchmark. I am convinced that we in Flanders have the knowledge necessary to address many problems.” Social: Tomorrow's solutions come from today's youth.

The Flanders Technology and Innovation Conference will be held this weekend in Antwerp, Brussels, Hasselt, Ghent, Leuven and Kortrijk. More information at

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