Flemish support for expanding research infrastructure of AUGent universities of applied sciences

(07-02-2022) Universities of applied sciences are an important player in the Flemish innovation landscape. That is why the Flemish Minister of Economy and Innovation Hilde Crevits invests 3 million euros to strengthen their research infrastructure.

The support fits within the Relanceplan Vlaamse Veerkracht (Flemish Resilience Recovery Plan). For the AUGent universities of applied sciences, this concerns 6 projects (two for Arteveldehogeschool, two for HOGENT and two for Howest), together worth more than 840,000 euros.

Universities of applied sciences contribute to important innovations for solving problems that companies also struggle with. Having state-of-the-art infrastructure is essential to be able to conduct qualitative, practice-oriented research. With this support, the AUGent universities of applied sciences can further strengthen their collaboration with companies in the field of research and services, and open their infrastructure to other knowledge institutions and industry. “We expect that our investments will also lead to mutual cooperation and collaboration with SMEs and to sharing of valuable knowledge,” said Flemish minister Hilde Crevits.

AUGent.PNGUnlocking knowledge

Universities of applied sciences focus on scientific research that is directly applicable in companies. The knowledge and expertise they create can help SMEs with concrete challenges. Via the Blikopener-project, VLAIO is already committed to unlocking innovation knowledge at universities of applied sciences and to supporting collaboration between universities of applied sciences and companies.

In order to strengthen research by universities of applied sciences, Minister Crevits again launched a call in the spring of 2021 for financial support for new research infrastructure or the improvement of existing infrastructure. This investment will expand the research possibilities of universities of applied sciences, which should give an impulse to mutual collaboration between various departments and knowledge institutions and with companies.

In the selection of the projects, the link with the business world was especially important. The intention is to conduct research in close collaboration, so that results flow smoothly to the business world and society.

Six infrastructure projects for the three AUGent universities of applied sciences

A total of 17 projects receive support from the Crevits cabinet. Six of these were acquired by the three AUGent universities of applied sciences, accounting for almost 30% of the total budget of 3 million euros.

Howest receives budget for the expansion of their Circular Solution Lab. Here, Howest is investigating the possibilities of re-using post-industrial residual flows within the industrial product development activities of companies. This material-driven innovation offers opportunities not only to look at product innovation from a different point of view, but also to extend the life of materials. Howest will also receive support with the purchase of a mobile Immersive Room with Virtual & Augmented Reality material and an immersive dome with 360° projection for their occupational therapy research. By surrounding users with images, sounds and other stimuli that simulate an entire environment using immersive tools, researchers want to test the effectiveness of new, digital applications together with patients and companies.

HOGENT is investing in the purchase of devices that can be used in research into high-quality valorization of food waste, the processing of grains and other protein crops and the development of plant-based foods and bio-based materials. In addition, HOGENT will receive a budget for the expansion of their drylab, where practice-oriented research is conducted into phage therapy. Phages are viruses that specifically target bacteria, which are administered, among other things, to patients with resistant bacterial infections. With this investment, the HOGENT researchers want to improve the freeze-drying process for high-quality phage preparations. This would represent a concrete added value for phage therapy in chronic infections such as sinusitis, burns and cystic fibrosis and in the application of phages in agriculture and the food industry. At the same time, this freeze-drying equipment can be used in research into alternative wastewater treatment. This allows researchers to purify components generated from the biomass of alternative biological water purification processes. Researchers want to test whether they can also use these components as biostimulants or weed control.

Finally, Arteveldehogeschool is committed to two projects, one within the healthcare sector and one within retail. The first focuses on expanding the existing Prototyping lab for the development of internet of things applications (IoT) within retail. In retail environments, there are many applications for sensors and smart data processing, such as detecting customer behavior and emotions. With this new equipment, researchers can directly analyze and measure the effect of promotions or different packaging designs. In addition, Arteveldehogeschool will receive an envelope for the expansion of the existing Sim@rt observation lab, where care innovation is central. The purchase of additional equipment offers opportunities to conduct research into smoother work reintegration. Objective measurements for the functional capacities of persons who want to return to work after a period of incapacity for work are currently limited or scarcely available. The new devices offer the opportunity to conduct more research within this topic, and thus provide concrete added value for the professional field.

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