VIB’s Grand Challenges Program has been set up, supported by a crucial investment from the Flemish Government, to increase the societal impact of VIB by addressing scientific challenges with a substantial significance. Through the Program’s funding, the selected projects will be able to initiate collaborative efforts with transdisciplinary external experts.

Together, the project teams will build the foundations that will enable them to quickly implement their discoveries for the benefit of patients, customers, and society at large. In the initial phase the researchers will also develop plans to ensure that the projects will translate into long-term implementation strategies with continued involvement of various stakeholders from the start.

Professor Peter Piot (Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Professor of Global Health), one of the most recent members of VIB’s Institutional Board lauds the program: “The Grand Challenges Program is an excellent initiative to increase the direct social impact of world-class science, inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development goals.” 

So far, there have been two calls for project applications. In each of these calls, three projects have been selected. The applications were evaluated in a 2-step-procedure with involvement of both external scientific experts in the respective thematic domains and experts assessing societal impact potential, and a panel review. Here, we introduce these projects, their goals, and the partners that work together to achieve their objectives, as well as a brief description of how the reach of the research extends beyond the laboratory and into broader society.

“VIB wants to further elaborate on the essence of a strategic research institute: ‘enhancing impact on society’. Supported by a crucial investment from the Flemish Government, our Grand Challenges Program aims to find solutions for the huge challenges society faces. We do so by teaming up with relevant partners, thus combining complementary expertise within a very focused strategy. This will enable all stakeholders to increase their beneficial impact on society.” Jo Bury and Johan Cardoen, managing directors of VIB​

Based on three of the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Goals (Health & wellbeing, Zero hunger, and

Climate action), the Grand Challenges Program seeks projects that align with the following five thematic domains:

  • Innovative diagnostic

  • Innovative treatment

  • Personalized treatment strategies

  • Epidemic control

  • Sustainable agriculture​