Science as a driver for economic growth

Johan Cardoen and Jo Bury (Managing Directors), Ajit Shetty (Chairman of the Board of Directors)

Scientific knowledge and technological innovations are the motor of economic progress. A recent study of our economic impact clearly demonstrates that VIB is a prime example of this statement. The survey clearly states that the wider economic impacts of VIB in medical and agricultural innovation are globally significant. VIB’s efforts in science communication and policy development have an important influence on underpinning the work of the institute. The study also specifies that for every 1 € that VIB receives in core funding from the Flemish government, it generates an economic contribution of more than 11 €. From a government point of view, this represents a substantial return on investment.

Science meets science
VIB’s scientific endeavors and its academic excellence form the solid base for everything we do at VIB. In 2019, we have taken major strides in single-cell analysis and have gained insight in the mechanisms of cellular functionality. Researchers have mapped several cell types, ranging from mouse brain macrophages to endothelial cells, in so-called single-cell atlases. In the field of cancer, scientists have devised new treatment strategies to counter therapy resistance. And in plant science, our researchers have found a way to significantly enhance the processability of plant biomass. In the chapter ‘Science meets science’, you can discover more VIB breakthroughs realized in 2019.

To further increase its international footprint in 2019, VIB extended its translational research initiative, the Grand Challenges program. This program finances research projects that will lead to novel applications with substantial societal impact, based on three sustainable development goals of the United Nations: zero hunger, good health and well-being, and climate action. In 2019, three extra projects were selected for funding: Spartacus – a better treatment for spondyloarthritis, BBB - targeting drugs to the brain, and Mimosa – microbes to tackle inflammatory bowel disease.

Science meets technology
The five-year evaluation of the VIB core facilities revealed that the VIB cores are a leading example in Europe. An international and interdisciplinary panel of technology experts reviewed the quality of the services of VIB’s core facility program and gave the program high praise and some future-focused recommendations. The evaluation confirmed the importance of the cores as enablers for breakthrough research by supporting scientists with the best state-of-the-art technologies and highly skilled staff.

VIB’s Tech Watch team promoted the development of its Technology Innovation Lab to evaluate high-end technology platforms together with researchers in the VIB centers and the cores. Due to its success, the Single Cell Accelerator received a financial boost through collaborations with life sciences companies, enabling its further expansion. With this program VIB scientists gain access to funding to evaluate, develop and integrate emerging breakthrough single-cell technologies.

Science meets business
VIB’s Innovation & Business team has shaped our technology transfer activities into a project-driven approach in which research results are assessed to determine, create and realize business opportunities. These opportunities come in many forms: industry partnerships, licensing agreements, R&D cooperations, new ventures, etc. This approach again proved very successful in 2019. Testimony of this success are two new start-ups, Augustine Therapeutics and Montis Biosciences, a record number of R&D collaborations with an all-time high of 21 M€ in industrial income, and three inward investments. Furthermore, several therapeutic licenses were concluded with biotech and pharma companies to develop new therapies for patients.

Over the past years, VIB has been the driving force to forge Flanders’ world-class position in life sciences. The Flemish biotech cluster has become a booming ecosystem which attracts a wide variety of businesses and which greatly enhances Flanders’ reputation on a global scale.

Science meets people
VIB goes to great length to create a stimulating working environment where everyone is treated with respect and understanding, where people can flourish. Leadership is also of paramount importance to VIB, with a clear focus on genuine people-oriented leadership, with attention to
communication, feedback, career guidance and coaching.

Our outreach activities are set to inform the public at large of VIB’s groundbreaking research and proves that science is not just for scientists, but touches the lives of everyone. VIB’s Conferences & Outreach team organizes events during which visitors are immersed in the wonderful world of life sciences. Newsletters, brochures and facts series inform our stakeholders on the ins and outs of biotech, and its societal and economic impact. At VIB we are committed to making a difference, we all work towards one common goal: making the world a better place!