THE BELGIAN SCIENCE POLICY OFFICE
The Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo) is a Belgian Federal Public Service under the authority of the Secretary of State for Economic Recovery and Strategic Investments, attached to the Ministry of Economy and Labour. The agency funds project-based research carried out by public operators, in the domains for which the Federal Government is competent:
- Scientific research in order to perform its own general competences, including scientific research aimed at the execution of international or supranational agreements or acts;
- Execution and organisation of networks for information exchanges between national and international scientific institutes;
- Space research within an international framework;
- Federal scientific institutes, including their research activities and public-service activities.
And in accordance with rules established via co-operation agreements with the Belgian Communities and the Belgian Regions:
- Programmes and actions requiring homogeneous execution at national or international level;
- Maintenance of a permanent inventory of the country's scientific potential;
- Belgian collaboration in activities of international research bodies
On the basis of a co-operation proposal to the Belgian Communities and/or the Belgian Regions, and on the prior recommendation of the Federal Council for Science Policy, the Federal Government can take initiatives, set up structures and provide funds for scientific research in maters belonging to the competences of the Communities or the Regions and which, furthermore:
- Are either the subject of international or supranational agreements or instruments in which Belgium is partner to the agreement or considered as such;
- or refer to actions and programmes going beyond the interests of one Community or one Region.
MISSION & VISION
Helping to progress towards the Barcelona objective (devoting 3% of the GDP to research and development), participating in job creation and well-being through innovation, optimising the running of the Belgian research area, fighting against climate change: such are the major stakes Belgium has to face. With its 2,800 employees, the Federal Science Policy department contributes significantly to meeting these objectives.
Through the major research programmes we manage, we also offer the government reliable, validated data, allowing it to take decisions with full knowledge of the facts in areas such as sustainable development, the fight against climate change, biodiversity, energy, health, mobility and the information society.
We also manage the Belgian contribution to the European Space Agency. Since Belgium is the fifth net contributor to the ESA, this participation is strategic for our country and crucial for our companies. At the same time, we offer R&D aid to companies with the desire to participate in various AIRBUS programmes, which is essential to their positioning in the ruthless battle raging in this sector on a global level.
The 10 Federal Scientific Institutes offer scientists an exceptional framework and research materials. They also house artistic and historical collections, which are visited by more than 1.2 million people every year.
BELNET, the Belgian national research network, provides high-speed internet access to Belgian universities, colleges, research centres and public services.
The Federal Science Policy also co-ordinates the research effort lead by all the country’s authorities and is responsible for introducing our researchers into international research networks. In this sense, it lies at the heart of the Belgian research space and represents a major centre in the European Research Area.
The Federal Science Policy alone represents almost 30% of the entire Belgian public budget in terms of research.
The Federal Science Policy is also a network of prestigious institutions such as the Academia Belgica in Rome, the Biermans-Lapôtre Foundation in Paris, the Junfraujoch in the Alps, the Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer, the Royal Belgian Film Archive, the Euro Space Center and the Institut Von Karman. Through these infrastructures, the Federal Science Policy offers our researchers an international reputation.
Six of the 10 Federal Scientific Institutions that Belspo supports, are devoted to Cultural Heritage. They not only house and display important collections, but are also invested in research.
The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) is dedicated to the study and conservation of the artistic and cultural assets of the country. The building that houses the KIK was the first in the world to be designed, in 1962, to simplify the interdisciplinary approach to the preservation of art assets. The three departments of the institute, which are home to art historians, photographers, chemists, physicists and conservators-restorers, operate in close collaboration. The ‘Documentation’ department, which is concerned with inventories, has a library containing 44,000 works and 1,500 journals, and a photographic library of 900,000 photographs, of which 650,000 can now be downloaded free of charge from the KIK-IRPA website. In the laboratories, researchers use hi-tech instruments (such as de X-ray fluorescence spectrometer or scanning electron microscope) to study techniques, materials, damage and the dating of art assets. In another section, methods and materials to reinforce monuments are developed and tested. The ‘Conservation and Restoration’ department, which contains 10 workshops and to which the Preventive Conservation unit was recently added, deals with the conservation and restoration of paintings, sculptures, gold and silver, textiles, glass and other adornments of historical monuments.
Museums of Art & History
These museums house the largest and most diverse collections in Belgium, from prehistory to the present day, and from every continent of the world. They also have documentation centres (libraries, photographic library, moulding and casting workshop and archives), as well as an area named the "Museum for the Blind", a new concept which allows visitors to discover and explore art objects by touch.
- Art & History Museum: Covering national archaeology and antiquity, but also non-European civilisations from Asia, America (pre-Columbian civilisations and current traditional societies), Oceania (including magnificent objects from Easter Island) and the Islamic world, as well European industrial art from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century.
- The Musical Instrument Museum: Housing one of the biggest collections of musical instruments in the world (over 7,000 instruments).
- The Museums of the Far East: The Japanese Tower and Chinese Pavilion, which contain Japanese works of art from the 18th and 19th centuries and Chinese ceramics, as well as the Museum of Japanese Art.
- The Halle Gate: All that now remains from Brussel's second wall, holds exhibitions on a regular basis including some on the theme of the city itself.
As the national scientific library of the Belgian state, the KBR is responsible for a sizeable cultural asset covering a broad spectrum of world knowledge: it owns and preserves the complete patrimony of works published in Belgium or published abroad by Belgian authors. It is also home to several specialists research centres, such as the 'Centre for American Studies' and the 'Archives et Musée de la Littérature'. The special collections held at the KBR are found in six departments: Valuable works; Maps and plans; Music, Prints; Manuscripts; Coins and Medals. The KBR Museum displays the Library of the Dukes of Burgundy.
Created from the colonial section of the world exhibition of 1897, the RMCA has become an international scientific research institute, a museum famed for its exhibitions, and an intercultural meeting place. The museum holds an exceptional and world-renowned patrimony which includes ethnographic collections, the full archives of Stanley and the biggest xylarium in Europe, and 10 million zoological specimens. The museum underwent a 5-year renovation, reopening in 2018 presenting a contemporary and decolonised vision of Africa. Aside from classic research, it is involved in the sustainable development of the African continent acting as important partner in Belgian cooperation and development, raising awareness among the Belgian public, cooperation with African institutions and the dissemination of knowledge. Varied exhibitions and a broad range of educational and cultural activities are helping to raise the general public’s interest in Africa and encourage intercultural dialogue.
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (RMFAB) contain collections of around 20,000 paintings, sculptures and drawings, which are preserved and studied.
- Magritte Museum: Presents an outstanding collection of over 200 works by Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte (1989-1967).
- Fin-de-siècle Museum: Dedicated to the 1900s, when Brussels was a unique artistic crossroads and the capital of Art Nouveau, it hosts paintings, drawings, watercolours, prints, sculptures, photographs, films, models and decorative objects d'art.
- Old Masters Museum: Covers a period running from the 15th to the 18th centuries, containing paintings of exceptional value by the Flemish Primitives, along with many artists from Flemish Renaissance and Baroque: Memling, Bosch, Bruegel, Van Dyck, Jordaens...
- Modern Museum: Houses the collection of Modern and Contemporary Art, from David to Panamarenko, Alechinsky, Bacon, Dalí or Fabre.
- Meunier Museum: The home and studio of painter and sculptor Constantin Meunier (1831-1905).
- Wiertz Museum: The studio of painter, sculptor and writer Antoine Wiertz (1806-1865), one of Belgium's most controversial Romantic artists.
The State Archives (ARA-AGR) encompasses the General State Archives in Brussels and 18 repositories across the country. They ensure that government produced and maintained records are properly stored. The ARA-AGR receives and stores the records of courts and tribunals, government administrations and notaries, as well as those of private institutions and individuals who have played an important role in society. It ensures that public records are moved in accordance with archiving standards and that records are made available to the public, on the condition that the privacy of some of the information is respected. Another essential task of the scientific staff is that of opening the enormous quantity of records held in the institution to study. Scientific search instruments are developed (archive lists and guides, listings, institutional studies, databanks), which researchers then use to find the information they require within a reasonable timeframe and with a fair degree of accuracy. The ARA-AGR is a knowledge centre for historical and archive-related data. The scientific personnel at the ARA-AGR carry out scientific research on a permanent basis in the area of archiving, storage and the institutional history of the archive producing institutions. This is done in the framework of responsible purchase, storage, opening to research and transferability.