Brussels, 05 August 2002
Belgium's Federal office for scientific, technical and cultural affairs (OSTC) has published its annual report for 2001, revealing that 36 per cent of the organisation's credits in that year were devoted to international commitments.
The OSTC's mandate includes the initiation of programmes, actions and information networks with a view to promoting the country's research potential, manage Belgian participation in intergovernmental scientific organisations, produce research and development (R&D) indicators, valorisation of research results and evaluation of the impact of research programmes.
Not only did the OSTC channel more than one third of its credits towards international research activities, but the budget allocated to international research is twice that for national research. The majority of the international research budget is swallowed up by Belgium's participation in the European space agency (ESA). Belgium is fairly active in aerospace research, and is also involved in bilateral projects with France, Argentina and Russia.
Further resources were directed towards the granting of scholarships to researchers from Central and Eastern Europe, participation in the EU's Fifth Framework programme, EUREKA, COST and the scientific programmes of UNESCO. Further international collaboration will be encouraged in 2002 when Belgium launches return mandates for Belgian researchers working outside the EU.
Nationally, Belgium funded research programmes on sustainable development and the information society. The report highlights the fact that for the first time, Belgium's national research programmes were open to researchers from other countries in the EU, 'thus facilitating the creation of a European research area [ERA].'
Objectives for 2002 include preparations for integration into the ERA, particularly by strengthening 'networks of competence', the stimulation of interdisciplinary research projects, the optimisation of result exploitation through the development of new valorisation approaches and the evaluation of research projects and their results.
2001 also saw the publication of Belgian report on science, technology and innovation, which indicated that while Belgium performs below the European average in terms of the allocation of research credits (1.36 per cent of the budget, compared with 1.73 per cent in the EU as a whole), R&D activities in Belgium did experience considerable growth during the second half of the 1990s. The authors of the report concluded by suggesting that Belgium was suffering from the same 'disease' as the rest of Europe: a strong scientific and technological basis, but lack of ability to transform this knowledge into economic benefits.
To see the OSTC annual report, please consult the following web address (also available in French and Flemish): http://www.belspo.be/belspo/ostc/geninf o/publ/pub_ostc/rapport%20ostc/R2001_en .pdf