The Flemish government has announced a programme to allow 13 top world scientists to carry out their research in the region over the next five years.
The Odysseus programme, run in conjunction with the Fund for Scientific Research (FWO), aims to attract top scientists to institutions in Flanders, including the five universities as well as institutions like the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, imac and the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp.
The five-year programme is named for the journey described by the poet Homer that brought Odysseus back from the Trojan war to his home in Itheca. In that case, however, the international adventure lasted two decades – one for the war (described in the Iliad), and one for the return home.
“Attracting top talent and anchoring it in the Flemish research landscape contributes to a better future for research and innovation, for example in the field of healthcare,” said Hilde Crevits (CD&V), minister for science and innovation, in a statement.
“This also remains an important pillar for the economic and social recovery after this crisis. Moreover, the Odysseus program not only brings top research to Flemish universities, the researchers are also given the opportunity to develop a research group. In this way they provide extra employment for Flemish and foreign research assistants. In short, attracting these talents will result in economic growth and excellent science in Flanders.”
The majority of the scientists selected will arrive in Flanders for the first time. However for two of them, like Odysseus, the programme is about a return home.
Louisa Bogaerts, currently working at the university of Amsterdam, will come to the university of Ghent, and will focus on the human learning ability.
Ruben de Groote is currently busy at the university of Jyväskylä in Finland, and comeback to will test contemporary theories in nuclear and particle physics at KU Leuven.
Among the others, Panagiotis Ntziachristos comes from Chicago to research new medications to take the place of conventional chemotherapy in children.
Greek-born Georgios Spyropoulos, currently working at Columbia University in New York City, will carry out research in neuroscience at the university of Ghent.
Also busy in neuroscience is Lynette Lim from Singapore, currently occupied at King’s College London. She comes to the KU Leuven to research therapies for the development of neurological conditions, based on cell types.
“This corona crisis has made us all understand the importance of excellent science, research and innovation,” said Crevits. “That is why we must continue to invest in talent. Only in this way will our science improve and will we benefit in the future from better technology, innovation and knowledge in healthcare.”