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BRAIN-be - About BRAIN-be


On 5th October 2012, the Council of Ministers approved the launch of the first phase (2012-2017) of the recurrent framework programme for research, BRAIN-be (Belgian Research Action through Interdisciplinary Networks).

This framework programme allows through the funding of research projects based on scientific excellence and European and international anchorage to meet the needs for scientific knowledge of the federal departments and to support the scientific potential of the Federal Scientific Institutions (FSIs 1).


The strategic objectives, which have been set, based on the federal visions and priorities (both political and scientific) underlying the BRAIN-be programme are as follows:

  • to promote a coherent scientific policy within the FSI, and to thereby support and reinforce scientific excellence;
  • to facilitate the access to the scientific potential, the infrastructure and the collections available within the FSIs;
  • to align the research potential to the societal needs;
  • to supply the scientific knowledge necessary for the preparation, implementation and evaluation of federal policies/strategies, particularly those related to topics involving multiple departments;
  • to provide the scientific support necessary for the formulation of a Belgian position within various international forums for policy development;
  • to develop and reach a critical mass for research on topics deemed priority areas in order to reinforce the impact of the federal research;
  • to stimulate cooperation within the Belgian scientific community;
  • to align with the European and international research agendas and to encourage Belgian participation in transnational and international research activities;
  • to provide scientists with a framework allowing them to take up their role in scientific watch and to anticipate issues related to the priority areas of the programme;
  • to promote systemic, multi/interdisciplinary and integrative approaches;
  • to create added value through strengthening the complementarity and synergies between the activities of BELSPO (including the contributions to the international infrastructure and organisations);
  • to meet the obligations in terms of research stemming from international agreements - to develop interfaces with potential users of research achievements.

The framework programme is structured around 6 thematic areas:

  1. Ecosystems, biodiversity, evolution
  2. Geosystems, universe and climate
  3. Cultural, historical and scientific heritage,
  4. Federal public strategies
  5. Major societal challenges
  6. Management of collections

BRAIN-be is open to the whole Belgian scientific community: universities, public scientific institutions and non-profit research centres.

The framework programme is based on the financing of two types of research projects:

  • Four-year network projects with the possibility of two-year projects and,
  • Pioneer projects lasting a maximum of two years.

Each year a call for proposals is launched for these two types of research projects.

The total research budget of BRAIN-be is around 117 MEURO.

Management structure of the framework programme

BRAIN-be is implemented under the aegis of the Belgian Science Policy Office, assisted by a plenary accompanying Committee made up of representatives of the federal departments and the FSIs.
The Plenary Committee has appointed six thematic Committees open to all of the federal departments and FSIs whose primary role is to identify the priorities for research to be included in the calls for network research proposals.

Thematic axis

The six key thematic areas of the BRAIN-be framework programme were identified in relation to the scientific potential of the Federal Scientific Institutions (FSIs) and the areas of competence of the federal departments, in order to stimulate collaboration within the Belgian scientific community, in synergy with European and international research agendas.

The description of the 6 thematic axis as mentioned in the note to the Council of Ministers is as follows:

Axis 1: Ecosystems, biodiversity and evolution

Thematic axis 1 is geared towards the description and comprehension of various biotic modules – soil, plants, bodies of water, atmosphere - their processes and interactions (bio/geo/chemical cycles).

It is also geared towards the comprehension and prediction of the evolution of life, of the natural dynamics of ecosystems and of biodiversity as well as their reactions to the pressures of mankind and climate.

Finally, the research would provide the necessary scientific support for the management and sustainable utilization of biodiversity and ecosystems and associated policies. This theme will allow the establishment of monitoring or surveillance if this should prove useful in the context of the research.

Axis 2: Geosystems, univers and climate

Axis 2 is geared towards the description and understanding of the various elements that make up planet Earth: the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, solid earth - and their interactions.
It is also geared towards the understanding and prediction of its dynamics, and its evolution as well as that of its resources (mineral and hydrogeological) as well as its reactions to the pressures of mankind and climate. This includes the study of natural hazards and those stemming from the use of resources. It includes the understanding of the climate system and its modelling, geodesy and spatio-temporal reference systems. It allows the study of various components of the universe and their interactions, including the study of the sun-earth interaction, solar wind, the magnetosphere and atmosphere, as well as space weather effects.

Finally, the research will contribute to the scientific support necessary for national and international policy development related to the topics addressed (particularly international agreements and conventions such as the Climate convention, the Montréal protocol, etc.). This theme will support monitoring or surveillance activities if this proves necessary to fulfil the needs of the research.

Axis 3: Cultural, historical and scientific heritage

The Federal State - and particularly the FSIs - acquires, conserves, restores, manages and valorises collections as well as archives which are composed – or relate to – material and immaterial cultural and scientific heritage, of an origin and scope that is either national or international. Through its expertise, it also contributes to the valorisation of non-federal heritage.
This heritage and the associated expertise must be made the most of through (inter)disciplinary research having to do with putting it into context - social, artistic, historic, geographical, environmental, scientific, technical, political, archaeological, linguistic, literary, musical, economic or cultural – within a synchronic or diachronic perspective.

The research will particularly include scientific inventories, monographic studies, work in the field, the examination of materials and techniques as well as the ongoing analyses involving methods specific to the various disciplines concerned.
It will lead to the production of work acknowledged at the national and international level in the form of publications, conferences, exhibitions… designed to make the knowledge and heritage available in diverse contexts within our societies.

Axis 4: Federal public strategies

The federal government deploys it competencies by means of public policies that organise and/or regulate the life of its citizens and its own functioning. We have in mind public policies applied by the federal public services such as Foreign Affairs, the Interior, the Economy, Public Health & Environment, Social Security, Defence, Employment, and Justice… like in any modern state, the organization and monitoring of these policies relies on scientific results among other input. This thematic area aims to finance the activities and support of the competencies of the Federal Authorities, from a perspective that is historical, contemporary and prospective. Priority will be given to issues that touch upon multiple areas of federal competency and which offer a coherent and complementary framework for the research conducted by the departments in order to minimize the fragmentation of the research.

The topics of research will be based on the strategic orientations of Belgian policy.

Axis 5: Major societal challenges

Established to support the competences of the Federal Authorities, this thematic axis is based on major societal challenges and relates to an array of important concerns for individuals and society such as demographic changes, democracy, migration, safety, poverty, sustainable development, health and environment, globalisation, and multiculturalism.
In an increasingly globalised society, the analysis of these challenges must take the international context into account. These challenges not only concern the problems that arise and for which a response is needed, but also the opportunities that can be seized to ensure the well-being of individuals and of society in general.

The research financed within the context of axis 5, is based upon these societal challenges and takes the individual and/or society as the primary unit of analysis.

Axis 6: Management of the collections

The Belgian State manages numerous collections, defined in the broadest sense as coherent gatherings of tangible or intangible elements. This concerns material or immaterial artistic and cultural, scientific and documentary data based on observation and monitoring and administrative records and other sources of information of the ESF and the public Federal authorities.
Managing these collections is understood as entailing their acquisition, conservation, restoration, maintenance and valorisation. This thematic area deals with the financing of scientific research aimed at improving this management with the aim of supporting its exploitation, particularly in a scientific way. These activities cover the development and/or the test of best practices of techniques and methodologies of sampling, digitization, documentation or filing, identification and conservation and access to the information.

They take place upstream of the thematic research in and of itself, their scientific exploitation forms part of other thematic areas.

1 The acronym FSI covers the institutions as defined in the Royal Decree of 30 October 1996 and the Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Contemporary Society (CEGES-SOMA)

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