The Reef: a brand new lab for training and research in the blue economy

(04-10-2023) Ostend Science Park, the science park of Ghent University in Ostend, has gained a new lab: The Reef is an innovative XR Training Lab that offers numerous possibilities for education and research in the blue sector.

With XR (extended reality) technologies such as VR and AR, The Reef aims to educate students and (future) employees for careers in the blue economy sector. There is currently a high demand for this because companies often struggle to find people with the right qualifications and necessary skills.

"Training people in the offshore field is not always straightforward due to weather conditions, accessibility, and safety," says Ruth Teerlynck, coordinator of The Reef. "Thanks to the innovative visualization techniques of this training lab, we create a controlled and safe environment."

Ghent University will use the lab for specific courses in marine and maritime sciences. At the same time, the lab is open to any Ghent University student or researcher working on themes related to the blue economy as part of a teaching assignment and/or research. This includes areas like modeling and visualization of technical elements related to offshore wind energy, as well as research on the health of our seas or the health effects of working at sea. The immense computing power of The Reef's IT systems also offers almost endless possibilities for data analysis.

Innovative Technologies

The reef_vrThe VR technology in the lab provides an immersive experience for students and researchers. The first content modules developed introduce the world of offshore wind energy. A digital twin of the Belgian North Sea serves as the foundation, supplemented with a safety exercise in VR, a simulated control room for Belgian offshore wind farms, scenario training for drone inspections, and a 3D experience in the VR cave where the basic principles of a wind turbine are interactively taught.

The Reef also offers extensive opportunities for the development of new educational content and collaboration with companies and other organizations, for instance, in the context of research projects. It is equipped with recording equipment such as a high-end 3D SLAM scanner and a Titan 360° camera.

Four Institutions at the helm

The Reef is an initiative of POM West Flanders, which funded the infrastructure. The operation of the training lab is managed by a consortium of four educational providers: Ghent University, VIVES, Howest, and Syntra West. This unique collaboration aims to ensure optimal use of the training lab across a wide range of educational levels. Companies and other knowledge institutions can also rent the lab to provide training to their staff or customers.

Contact The Reef

The reef_labWould you like to explore the possibilities of The Reef yourself? Do you have an idea for the development of specific content or research collaboration? For a tour and all your questions, you can contact Dirk Hoet (, project coordinator Blue Energy at Ghent University.

You can find more information at