Marine Biotechnology in Belgium

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UPDATED August 2016

Overarching science strategies, plans and policies

There is no specific Marine Biotechnology strategy, plan or policy in Belgium. Overarching Belgian Science & Technology Policy for the period 2014-2019 is described in different Policy documents, including:

  • Annual Policy note of the Belgian Federal Minister of Science Policy[1].
  • Policy note of the Flemish Minister of Science Policy [2].

Research funding schemes and programmes

There are no specific National Research Funding Programmes dedicated specifically to Marine Biotechnology, but marine biotech research activities may be funded under a wide range of federal and regional instruments. The main research funding organisations are the Department of Economy Science and Innovation (EWI) of the Flemish government, the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO) and the Flemish government agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) in Flanders, the Walloon Research Foundation (FNRS) in Wallonia and the Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo) at the Federal level.

  • At the federal level, Marine Research is supported under the BRAIN - Belgian Research Action through Interdisciplinary Networks [3], managed by the Belgian Science Policy Office [4] with a database of funded projects [5] and a description of the North Sea (sub)programme since 1970[6].
  • At the regional level, funding from organisations such as FWO and IWT in Flanders and FNRS in Wallonia is based on excellence with yearly competitive proposal submissions for personal grants and working funds. In most cases, funding is bottom up and for an innovation oriented agency like IWT valorisation of research is an important criterium.

Research priorities

(FWO in principal supports all topics seen its bottom-up approach.)

  • Metabolomics
  • Bioprospecting
  • Feed production and disease control (vaccines, probiotics, ...) in aquaculture
  • Metagenomics, model organisms
  • Biofuels from algae
  • Omega 3, lipids and chitosan as functional foods
  • Biosensors

Strategic documents

  • A full comprehensive overview of science policy in Belgium at all levels (Federal, Regional and Communities) is provided in Belgian Report on Science, Technology and Innovation 2010[7].

Infrastructures and coordination and support capacities / initiatives

  • In Flanders there are a range of relevant networks and research institutes with relevant activities. The most important ones are:
  • Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VIB) - VIB is a life sciences research institute in Flanders, Belgium. With more than 1200 scientists from over 60 countries, VIB performs basic research into the molecular foundations of life.VIB is an excellence-based entrepreneurial institute that focuses on translating basic scientific results into pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial applications. VIB works in close partnership with four universities − UGent, K.U.Leuven, University of Antwerp and Vrije Universiteit Brussel and is funded by the Flemish government. There are a number of bio-incubators either linked to the universities or the VIB [8].
  • Flemish Marine biotechnology Platform Mariene Biotechnologie Platform Vlaanderen is a multi-disciplinary collaboration between industry and academia in the field of marine biotechnology in the Flanders region, Belgium.
  • The network Vlaams Aquacultuurplatform provides a platform of researchers, industry representatives, ngo’s and other stakeholders involved or interested in aquaculture research and commercialization. It can be considered as an independent advisory body for research and policy in the area of aquaculture in Belgium and Europe [9].
  • Flemish platform for Algae Research (Vlaams Algen Platform)[10]
  • Industrial Biotech Cluster Flanders (CINBIOS)[11]
  • Flanders strategic Initiative for Sustainable Chemistry (FISCH)[12]
  • Bio-based Europe is an open innovation and education centre for the bio-based economy jointly supported by Flanders and The Netherlands. It offers state-of-the-art research and training facilities to speed up the economic growth, innovation capacity, and sustainable development of the economy. The Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant in Ghent (Belgium) offers the capability to use common research and pilot bio-refinery infrastructure, thus shortening development time and minimizing costs[13].
  • There are a number of Technology parks installed in major cities such as Ghent, Leuven, Antwerp and Hasselt. While they are broader in scope they have important biotechnology activities including marine aspects.
  • The Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) is funding and coordinating the Belgian Co-ordinated Collections of Micro-organisms (BCCM™)[14] consisting of seven complementary research-based service culture collections among others diatoms and cyanobacteria collections. The BCCM™ consortium aims to share the biological material of its collections, related information, as well as its experience and know-how in the field of fundamental and applied (micro)biology, to the benefit of its partners and clients in the academic and industrial communities.
  • The Joint Experimental Molecular Unit (JEMU) [15] is an integrated research infrastructure funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) and supported by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS, Brussels) and the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA, Tervuren). JEMU aims at supporting scientific research on natural history collections in the fields of DNA barcoding, phylogeny reconstruction and archiving biological specimens.
  • In 2014, Belgium operates 1 local/coastal vessels of 36 m (Simon Stevin operated by VLIZ [16]) and a regional vessel of 50,90 m (Belgica, operated by MUMM[17]), registered at the European Research Vessels Infobase [18].
  • In 2012, Belgium maintains about 3 large marine research equipments registered in the European large Exchangeable instruments database [18].

Major initiatives

There are currently no overarching national initiatives on Marine Biotechnology. There are some thematic and cross-cutting coordination activities in Flanders (see above). One of the most important recent initiatives at the Flemish level is the establishment, early 2012, of the Flemish Marine biotechnology Platform Mariene Biotechnologie Platform Vlaanderen. This platform was initiated by Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), the Flemish Ministry of Science and Innovation (EWI), the Flemish Government to bring together researchers, industry, biodiversity users, policy makers/advisors and all other actors involved in marine biotech research in Flanders to discuss the opportunities and map the existing capacity and expertise in Flanders as well as the potential for the future. Members include relevant scientists and experts from all research performing organisations in Flanders (Universities, Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, Flemish Institute for Technological Research etc.) and two major research funding agencies (FWO Flanders and IWT) as well as private companies with an interest in marine biotechnology (ixX Pharma, Proviron, OVOLIFE, etc.). The platform aims to increase the visibility of marine biotechnology in Flanders which may contribute to the general recognition of the research, promote Interdisciplinarity and lead to improved cooperation with experts from the industry. A webportal has been developed in 2013 which gives an overview of most of the relevant actors in Flanders and the reports of all gatherings. [19]



This country profile is based on available online information sources and contributions from various country experts and stakeholders. It does not claim to be complete or final, but should be considered as a dynamic and living information resource that will be elaborated, updated and improved as more information becomes available, including further inputs from experts and stakeholders. The information on this page is based on information initially compiled by the CSA MarineBiotech Project (2011-2013) and updated by the Marine Biotechnology ERA-NET (2013-2017).