Research themes and prioritisationTop
The energy intensity of the Belgian economy has been declining in recent years, along with the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and primary energy demand. At the same time the share of renewable energy has been growing and measures have been implemented to support energy efficiency. Public funding to support energy research has increased mainly at the regional level, particularly in renewables and energy efficiency. Related research focuses on the effects of climate change, including socio-economic as well as technological aspects.
A conditional agreement has been reached by the political parties in Belgium to phase out nuclear energy between 2015 and 2025, under the condition that alternative energy supplies can be found by that time. However, the Belgian government will continue investing in nuclear research for several reasons, such as to guarantee the security of the production of the Belgian (until 2025) and European nuclear park, to find a solution to the nuclear waste problem, etc. Belgium also plays an important role in the production of silicon doped by neutrons, which is used in electric power circuits for wind, solar photovoltaics, hybrid cars, etc.
Organisation of researchTop
Belgium is a federal state with a complex institutional structure. It has three levels of government – federal, regional and linguistic – with a complex division of responsibilities. The regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels-Capital) and the linguistic communities each have their own parliaments and governments (the region of Flanders and the Flemish linguistic community have the same government and parliament). Responsibilities for economic, energy policy and research and innovation policy are distributed between the state and the regions. The communities are responsible for basic research at universities.
With regard to energy policy, federal responsibilities include security of supply, the nuclear fuel cycle, offshore energy and tariff regulation. The regions are principally responsible for energy efficiency, renewables, and distribution and supply of electricity and gas.
With regard to energy research policy and innovation, the federal government is responsible for nuclear R&D (fusion and fission), policy support research programmes, financing of research activities of the federal scientific institutes and science and technology activities of national and international interest in agreement with the communities and the regions. The regions are responsible for all non-nuclear research and innovation.
At the federal level the Secretary of State of Environment, Energy and Mobility is responsible for energy issues, linked to the federal competences. The Federal Public Service (FPS) for Economy, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), Self-employed and Energy deals with energy policy matters. The Directorate-General for Energy, which is part of that FPS, is the key administrative body developing and implementing energy policy. It created an Energy Observatory, which became operational in April 2009. The main objectives of the Energy Observatory are to monitor energy markets and enhance energy security.
At the regional level energy policy making is the responsibility of the sectoral ministers and relevant administrations: the Minister of Energy, Housing, Cities and Social Economy in Flanders, the Minister of Sustainable Development, Civil Service, Energy, Housing and Research and the Operational Directorate-General for Land Planning, Housing, Heritage and Energy in Wallonia, and the Ministry of the Environment, Energy, Water, Urban Renewal, Housing, Fire Fighting and Emergency Medical Aid in Brussels-Capital. In the Flemish region, the department of Environment, Nature and Energy (LNE) of the Flemish Government is responsible for environmental policy, together with the Flemish Energy Agency (VEA), which is mainly responsible for Flemish energy policy.
In terms of energy research policy specifically, at the federal level the FPS for Economy, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), Self-employed and Energy develops general guidelines for energy R&D policy as well as managing and funding nuclear R&D. The FPS is one of the biggest actors in energy research in Belgium, supporting the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN) and its MYRRHA reactor project, as well as other research programmes in fusion (e.g. ITER) and offshore wind energy.
Most other federal energy R&D programmes (except nuclear) are managed by the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO), which manages the policy support programme “Science for Sustainable Development”.
In the Flemish Region, the Flemish minister for Innovation, Public Investment, Media and Poverty Reduction is responsible for Research and Innovation. The Flemish Department for Economy, Science and Innovation (EWI) is the responsible administration. Energy research is mainly financed via two funding agencies, the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) and the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and the Strategic Research Centres VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research), IMEC (Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre) and iMinds (ICT Research Centre).
In Wallonia, the Operational Directorate-General for Economy, Employment and Research and Operational Directorate-General for Land Planning, Housing, Heritage and Energy are in charge of energy-related R&D policy. Walloon energy-related R&D focuses on: efficient fossil fuel combustion, including combined heat and electricity production; research into biomass, wind energy, solar energy and fuel cells; hybrid energy systems to integrate new and renewable energy sources into traditional energy systems; technologies to improve the efficiency of final energy use; and new energy storage technologies.
In the Brussels-Capital region, Innoviris and Research in Brussels (RinB) are the public institutions in charge of science policy and innovation.
Figure 1: Organisational structure of energy research in Belgium.
Programmes and budgetsTop
Table 1 gives the governmental energy R&D budgets for 2010 by technology. At the federal level, research is funded by the programme Science for Sustainable Development, with a budget of approximately €7 million.
Table 1: Energy research budgets (IEA classification*) by technology, 2010 (€m).
* Only group VI of IEA classification, does not include green ICT or cross-cutting technologies
In Flanders, energy research is mainly financed via the two funding agencies, Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) and the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), and by the Strategic Research Centres VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research), IMEC (Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre) and iMinds (ICT Research Centre). Since IWT and FWO manage open programmes, open to all scientific fields, energy R&D budgets for year n are measured in year n+1 (see table above for energy R&D budget for 2010).
In Wallonia, the total budget for energy-related research is difficult to ascertain because only very few calls are specifically dedicated to energy research. Most of the calls put out by specific programmes and competitiveness Poles cover sustainable development more broadly, within which energy projects can be funded. Since 2008, only four programmes have been fully dedicated to energy research, namely Energywall, R&D Solwatt, ERABLE and RELIABLE (Smart Grids) in 2012. Both ERABLE and RELIABLE are taken from the budget of the Plan Marshall 2.vert sustainable development programme. The total budget for these four specific programmes was about €27.8 million.
Regarding nuclear energy R&D, the annual budget of SCK-CEN amounts to around €100 million. This is 45 % financed by the FPS for Economy, SMEs, Self-employed and Energy. The rest of the budget comes from contracts and services for the industrial sector. Investment in fusion research amounted to €46.7 million from 2007 until 2011, of which most was also funded by the FPS for Economy, SMEs, Self-employed and Energy.
Budgets for a selection of the main energy-related research programmes are presented in table 2 (for research in Flanders see above).
Table 2: Selection of energy research programmes in Belgium
Programmes and initiatives
La Science pour un Développement Durable/ Wetenschap voor een Duurzame Ontwikkeling
This federal research programme is the continuation of the first and second Scientific Support Plan for a Sustainable Development Policy (SPSD I (1996–2001) and SPSD II (2000–2005)). It covers eight priority themes, including energy. The programme funds 115 research networks with a budget of €70 million. Funding is managed by the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO).
Vlaanderen in Actie 2020 (ViA)
By 2020 Flanders wants to stand out as an economically innovative, sustainable and socially caring society. One of the main objectives of ViA (Flanders in Action) is to achieve a competitive and sustainable economy. ViA will apply the transition method to 13 great societal challenges, some of which are (more or less) energy-related: smart mobility, renewable energy and smart grids, sustainable materials management, sustainable cities, sustainable living and buildings, new industrial policy, and streamlining of targeted innovation policy.
Plan Marshall 2.Vert
The Plan Marshall 2.Vert, with a total budget of €277 million for 2010-2014, is the follow up to Wallonia’s previous Marshall Plan. The share of the budget dedicated to technological projects (in which energy research can be carried out) is approximately €121 million. The Plan encourages green growth and sustainable development. It has six sections: human capital; competitiveness clusters; scientific research; economic framework; employment and environment; and social welfare. Activities related to energy research do not have a dedicated budget, but are included in several sections of the Plan. The Plan is funded by the Walloon region and the French-speaking community.
Programme Mobilisateur ERable
This programme has been financed throughout Plan Marshall 2.Vert. It focuses on energy efficiency and renewable energy in the broad sense, including non-technological as well as technological aspects. Projects are based on one or more of three axes: the efficient use of energy and energy savings; renewable energy production; and processing and storage of energy (electrical, mechanical, thermal etc).
Programme Mobilisateur RELIABLE
This programme has been financed through the Plan Marshall 2.Vert. It focuses on energy management and smart grids. The programme is centred on both technological and social aspects of grid management,
Programme Mobilisateur R&D SOLWATT
This programme focuses on industrial R&D in solar photovoltaics and particularly on peripheral components for making the best use of solar cells, the solar cells themselves and the management of photovoltaic electricity. The programme is implemented under the Priority Action Plan for the Future of Wallonia.
Programme Mobilisateur ENERGYWALL
This programme focuses on industrial R&D in the fields of renewable energies and energy efficiency. This call covered four different topics: Energy production, Energy transport and distribution, Energy transformation and Energy efficiency.
National govermment departmentsTop
Politique Scientifique Fédérale / Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid
The Federal Science Policy Office contributes significantly to objectives such as optimising the research area in Belgium, fighting climate change, well-being through innovation, and job creation. The Office also manages research programmes, contributes to the European Space Agency, and maintains two project databases. One database, FEDRA, catalogues research actions funded by the Federal Office. The other database, INVENT, collects information about projects, research units and personnel.
Service Public Fédéral Economie, PME, Classes Moyennes et Énergie / FOD Economie, K.M.O., Middenstand en Energie
The FPS Economy groups together at national level the technical expertise needed to identify, analyse and anticipate major changes in the energy sector. Developing this sector is fundamental in terms of challenges, both economic (price increases, competition) and environmental (climate change, reduction of CO2 emissions, nuclear energy).
Vlaamse Overheid – Departement Economie, Wetenschap en Innovatie – EWI
The EWI Department prepares, monitors and evaluates policy in the Economy, Science and Innovation policy area. Their main aim is to develop Flanders into one of the most advanced and prosperous regions in the world. The driving forces are the promotion of: excellence in scientific research, realizing an attractive and sustainable business climate, and a creative, innovative and entrepreneurial society.
Vlaams Energieagentschap (VEA)
VEA is a government agency of the Flemish Region under the Flemish Minister of Environment, Nature and Energy, tasked with preparing and executing Flemish energy policy. Tasks include promoting and supporting the use of renewable and green energy; energy conservation; emissions trading; setting up covenants with industry; energy demand management; reporting on energy economics; developing and executing social energy policy; and communicating these issues to industry and the public.
Wallonia Operational Directorate-General for Land Planning, Housing, Heritage and Energy - Department of Energy and Sustainable Building
Direction générale opérationnelle de l'Aménagement du territoire, du Logement, du Patrimoine et de l'Énergie - Département de l'Énergie et du Bâtiment durable
The Operational Directorate-General and minister are responsible for energy policy making and jointly responsible for energy-related R&D policy.
Wallonia Operational Directorate-General for Economy, Employment and Research - Department of Research Programmes and Department of Technological Development
Direction générale opérationnelle de l'Économie, de l'Emploi et de la Recherche - Département des Programmes de recherche et Département du Développement technologique
The Operational Directorate-General and minister are responsible for R&D policy, including energy-related research.
National research programme management agenciesTop
Cluster TWEED – Technologie Wallonne Énergie-Environnement et Développement Durable
TWEED is the Business Cluster covering organisations active in the sustainable energy sector, including renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. The portal was developed by the Direction des Réseaux d’Entreprises of the Direction Générale de l’Économie, l’Emploi et la Recherche (Directorate-General for Economy, Employment and Research) of the Ministry of the Walloon Region.
MECATECH is a technical, academic and industry driven cluster involved in joint mechanical engineering projects. MecaTech Cluster projects revolve around four strategic orientations: Materials and surfaces of the future, Comprehensive forming technologies, Microtechnologies and mechatronics, and Intelligent maintenance.
Milieu- en Energietechnologie-Innovatieplatform (MIP)
The MIP brings together important players (authorities, businesses and research organisations) in various areas related to environmental and energy technology.
MIP is both an innovation platform and innovation programme. The MIP3 budget (2012-2013) is about €3.8 million.
Smart Grids Flanders is a platform for all companies and other organisations involved in developing the energy networks of the future.
Generations is an industrial technology platform for renewable energy technologies in Flanders.
The Flemish Region also has three strategic research institutes involved in energy research and innovation: VITO, Imec and iMinds. iMinds focuses on ICT innovation but includes energy-related technology projects.
This is a nuclear research institute. The budget amounts to €100 million. It receives 45 % funding from the federal level. The rest of the budget comes from private contracts and procurements for the industrial sector. SCK-CEN plays a central role in the security of the Belgian (until 2025) and the European nuclear park. SCK-CEN participates in the Sustainable Nuclear Initiative of the SET-Plan.
Funding organisations at national levelTop
Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS)
FNRS is a funding agency of the French-speaking community which supports and develops scientific activities in all fields of science.
IWT is a Flemish government institution supporting and stimulating industrial research and technology transfer in Flemish industry
Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek-Vlaanderen (FWO)
The FWO-Vlaanderen is Flanders’ instrument for supporting and stimulating fundamental research and advancing its quality on the basis of academic, inter-university competition.
Institut Bruxellois pour la Recherche et l’Innovation / Brussels Instituut voor Onderzoek en Innovatie (Innoviris)
Innoviris is a public institution whose mission is to promote and support technological innovation. It funds research projects and demonstration activities in sectors including energy. These activities are carried out by companies and research centres in the Brussels-Capital region.