The IWT (the main Flemish institute for research funding) has released a much-awaited new funding scheme, which will allow companies and universities to cooperate around a PhD project.
The Baekeland programme aims to offer researchers the opportunity to finish a doctoral degree at a Flemish university (or a knowledge institute that works with an academic supervisor) in close cooperation with industry. The programme provides co-financing of individual mandates, including the funding of operational costs associated with the project.
A basic principle of the Baekeland mandates is that on one hand a Flemish company is responsible for co-financing the research project and defining its strategic objectives, whilst on the other hand a Flemish university is responsible for managing the doctorate and granting a degree in accordance with the high Flemish educational quality standards.
The funding is granted by the IWT as a project funding to the applicant company. The company needs to have an agreement with the researcher’s host institution.
This program fills a real void in current funding schemes and offers a means for companies to attract relatively cheap, motivated and smart talent. The importance for innovation in Flanders should not be underestimated, as it will also directly contribute to applicability of research results. In my time at Synergetics, Luk Vervenne and I have talked to the Flemish government on a number of occasions in which we pointed out this void (and apparently we were not the only ones). Glad to see something has been done about that now. More information (in Dutch) about the programme can be found here (PDF).