VIB ready for the future

2 January 2017

20 years of VIB: achieving excellence and maintaining it

In 20 years of VIB, we have come a tremendous way. When we kicked off in 1996, nobody would have dared to suspect that our achievements would be internationally acclaimed as they are today. And although the research institutes that served as VIB’s foundations already enjoyed worldwide fame at the time, it is clear that VIB has been – and still is – a strong catalyst to ensuring that the huge potential of biotechnological research in Flanders thrives.

When our founding fathers Jo Bury and Rudy Dekeyser undertook the mammoth task of putting Flanders on the global biotech map, they set up a board of directors consisting of several delegations representing government, universities and industry. I belonged to the latter as the CEO of Janssen Pharmaceutica, which gave me a front seat in witnessing how VIB’s basic research could contribute over the years to a gradual yet massive change in our pharmaceutical and medical landscape. This contribution is, as we all know, one of VIB’s strong points. And the urgency to add societal value will only increase. If we take a look at today’s global challenges, our added value lies in three domains: medical innovations to improve healthcare, plant science for sustainable food production, and industrial applications that can strengthen our economic fabric.

To further accelerate the valorization of scientific insights, VIB has set up close collaborations that fall into two distinct categories. On the one hand, we are joining forces with other Flemish and international research groups to share technological and scientific expertise – after all, collaborations are the key to great scientific breakthroughs. On the other hand, our Tech Transfer team is proactively reaching out to corporate partners to establish industry collaborations. In some cases, VIB is even the cradle of new spinsoffs. Further on in this issue of VIBnews, you will read about a few fine examples of recent research that has been taken to the next level.

But even with the greatest ambitions and waterproof strategic plans, excellent science always starts on a personal level. Ideas are conceived by the brains of creative individuals with relentless determination. But
execution always requires teamwork – preferably when heterogeneous perspectives and expertise are brought to the table. I think that VIB has found a great model in which its complementary departments and teams operate and report. This diversity, of which I’m an ardent advocate, is also reflected in the dozens of nationalities at VIB. On page 26, you will read more about our international recruiting programs – and how they lead to unique insights.

Speaking of VIB’s foreign researchers, they naturally find themselves immersed in our typical Flemish habits and mindsets after a while. And no doubt it must have struck them that we are quite a humble people. We
don’t really like showoffs. But in my own (humble) opinion, we can take great pride in our achievements. We are playing at the top of the league here, which is why we should also set the bar high, publicly express our
ambitions and claim the necessary resources. After all, that is the only way we can maintain excellence in research and valorization.


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