Joint Research Groups

A ULB-VUB Joint Research Group assembles researchers from the two universities that are active around a common research line, i.e. a clearly defined thematic research area that includes multiple related research projects, PhD’s, master dissertations and published papers. A new strategic collaboration within a ULB-VUB JRG should enable both partners to strengthen their position in their individual core competence domains and deliver disciplinary or cross-disciplinary strengthening research contributions.

The ULB-VUB Joint Research Groups serve as:

  • high level academic centers for science & technology cooperation and exchange;

  • platforms for research oriented training and mobility;

  • pools of knowledge, expertise, and - if applicable - infrastructure & equipment;

  • knowledge or technology transfer for creating impact on society, culture, economy, nonprofit sector, governmental bodies, the public at large,…

Current projects:

BBRG: Brussels (Bio)Pharmaceutical Analysis Research Group

Partenaires VUB: Y. Vander Heyden (GF_FARM), D. Mangelings (GF_FARM), Ann Van Eeckhaut (C4N).
Partenaires ULB: P. Van Antwerpen, Jean-Michel Kauffmann, Caroline Stevigny et& Kris De Braekeleer (Pharmacognosy, Bioanalysis and drug discovery, Faculté de Pharmacie),

Biopharmaceuticals represent one of the fastest growing classes of new drug molecules. New synthetic strategies to reduce the rapid metabolism of peptides, along with the availability of new formulation and delivery technologies, resulted in an increased marketing of peptide drug products. Also the identification and analysis of biomarkers for various diseases is becoming increasingly important.

In this regard, the development of analytical methods for quantification of peptides and biomarkers in biological fluids is of utmost importance. From the sample preparation step to their analysis by means of chromatographic or electrophoretic methods using various detection approaches, many difficulties should be tackled to analyze them. For this purpose, a method development approach using various techniques will be used where we will investigate the potential of alternative detection approaches, such as mass spectrometry and electrochemical detection. Finally, a rational approach will be defined for the data analysis of the obtained results.

BDRP: Brussels Diabetes Research Pole

VUB partner: H. Heimberg (GF_PATH)
ULB partner: D. L. Eizirik (ULB Center for Diabetes Research, Faculté de Médecine)

Brussels Diabetes Research Pole is focused on studying the mechanisms of dysfunction, death and regeneration of pancreatic beta cells in diabetes and the discovery of new biomarkers for beta cell imaging in diabetes:

  • Beta cell imaging based on novel biomarkers, specific Nanobodies, and imaging by SPECT-CT;

  • Identification and characterization of synthetic phytochemicals augmenting beta cell mass and preventing beta cell death in diabetes;

  • Beta cell death, dedifferentiation and regeneration during diabetes;

  • Development of iPSC cells to study monogenic forms of diabetes.

BIGE: Brussels Institute for Geochemical Techniques in Earth Sciences

VUB partner: Ph. Claeys (WE_DSCH)
ULB partner: N. Mattielli (G-Time, Faculté des Sciences)

Brussels Diabetes Research Pole is focused on studying the mechanisms of dysfunction, death and regeneration of pancreatic beta cells in diabetes and the discovery of new biomarkers for beta cell imaging in diabetes:

  • Beta cell imaging based on novel biomarkers, specific Nanobodies, and imaging by SPECT-CT;

  • Identification and characterization of synthetic phytochemicals augmenting beta cell mass and preventing beta cell death in diabetes;

  • Beta cell death, dedifferentiation and regeneration during diabetes;

  • Development of iPSC cells to study monogenic forms of diabetes.

BURN: Combustion and Robust optimization

VUB partner: F. Contino (IR_MECH)
ULB partner: A. Parente (ATM, Ecole Polytechnique de Bruxelles)

[Site web]

BURN, the research group on comBUstion and Robust optimisatioN: it comprises the Brussels School of Engineering's aero-thermo-mechanics department (ATM) and VUB's department of mechanical engineering (MECH). The BURN group's research topics are related to new energy carriers and new energy conversion technologies; its purpose is to contribute to developing flexible, efficient and green technologies for energy conversion in order to adapt to a constantly evolving energetic landscape that requires safe, green and cost-effective solutions.

BuS: Bulk and Surface Engineering of Materials

VUB partner: A. Hubin (IR_MACH)
ULB partner: F. Reniers (CHANI, Faculté des Sciences)

The broad research area of the present JRG is Materials Science and Engineering. More specifically, it aims at strengthening and broadening the numerous current collaborations between materials science and materials engineering in both institutions.

The originality of the present consortium is primarily that it encompasses both surface and bulk aspects since linking those two scales is crucial in the development of innovative materials. Moreover, it actually considers a ‘third scale’: the interface, between the material’s bulk and the functional coating or thin films deposited on it. It must be stressed that the surface treatments involves both wet and dry processes, working at pressures ranging from atmospheric pressure to ultra-¬‐high vacuum. Furthermore, the research topics are of both fundamental and applied natures. Indeed, our philosophy is that those two scales are actually more than complementary in the field of materials science. Fundamental understanding of microstructure development is key in the long term development of innovative products, while applied or industrial research, beside providing a large spectrum of funding possibilities, aims at the incremental development of products of direct industrial interest (including the scale-up of the process from the lab to the pilot scale).

CHsB: Brussels Research Centre for Construction Histories

VUB partner: I. Wouters (IR_ARCH)
ULB partner: B. Espion (BATir, Ecole Polytechnique de Bruxelles)

[Site web]

The researchers of the Brussels Research Centre for Construction Histories will join their expertise and focus on key topics within the field of Construction History. Four research lines are proposed which will benefit from the inter-disciplinary ULB-VUB research environment:

  • the actors of building;

  • the history of building materials, construction techniques and structures;

  • knowledge transfer on construction;

  • construction history as a discipline: collaborations, definition of the field.

CURB: Critical Urban Research Brussels

VUB partner: D. Bassens (Cosmopolis)
ULB partner: M. Van Criekingen (IGEAT, Faculté des Sciences), Geoffrey Grulois (Louise, Faculté d’Architecture)

CURB - Critical Urban Research Brussels - intends to strengthen existing ties between researchers at ULB and VUB in the field of Urban Studies, for the sake of deepening existing research collaborations and stimulating further debates around a range of contemporary urban issues, both within academia and beyond. Themes of particular interest among CURB affiliates include (but are not limited to) : community-building and social cohesion in (super-)diverse neighborhoods ; prospective research by design regarding i.a. the functional mix of urban areas or the reinvestment of urban brownfields ; how urbanism as a discipline operates vis-à-vis citizen participation and the State ; uneven development at the urban scale (incl. polarization, gentrification, relegation) ; geographies of economic elites and advanced service clusters ; the future of transport policies in a wake of entrepreneurialisation of urban policies ; the commodification of urban spaces as tourist destinations. Though these diverse topics, the group also intends at nurturing a reflexion about what "being critical" actually means as researchers in the field of Urban Studies.

DEGO: The Politics of democratic Governance

VUB partner: K. Deschouwer (ES_POLI)
ULB partner: E. Van Haute (CEVIPOL, Faculté de Philosophie et Sciences sociales)

The central research theme of the JRG will be the analysis of democratic governance. This includes political participation, political representation, political parties and elections. We analyze these processes in a comparative way and across levels of governance.

The planned collaboration focuses on the common core theme of our research, i.e. the analysis and evaluation of democratic governance, in particular processes of political participation and representation, political parties and elections (Belgian, comparative and European level). That includes the continuation of collaborative projects on the evolution of party organizations, party membership, strategic voting, the evolution of electoral systems, the impact of electoral systems on representational roles, the analysis of voting behavior (in particular personal voting and strategic voting).

GRAM L1 versus L2: Learning, teaching and describing French L1 & L2

VUB partner: M. Pierrard LW
ULB partner: D.Van Raemdonck (Centre de recherche en linguistique LaDisco, Faculté de Lettres, Traduction et Communication)

IB²: Interuniversity Institute of Bioinformatics in Brussels

VUB partner: W. Vranken (WE_DBIT)
ULB partner: G. Bontempi (Machine Learning Group, Faculté des Sciences)

[Site web]

The goal of the (IB)² is to bring together research groups of the VUB and ULB specialized in bioinformatics analysis of large scale omics data, into an interuniversity, cross-faculty (Medicine, Sciences, and Applied Sciences, of ULB and VUB) laboratory.The (IB)² has the ambition to evolve into a competitive structure of scientific excellence, recognized at national and international level.

The missions of the (IB)² consist of the following:

  • Design and use of large-scale omics driven bioinformatics, biostatistics and computational biology to achieve a better understanding of the physio- and pathological mechanisms of living organisms;

  • Enable interdisciplinary and interuniversity research collaborations in bioinformatics by providing a physical location for research, meetings, collaborations, seminars as well as high-performance computer facilities, including the ULB-VUB computing center;

  • Allow Technology Transfer through training, education, innovation and collaborations.

IMMU: Immunologie

VUB partner: J. Vanginderachter (WE_DBIT)
ULB partner: O. Leo (Institut interfacultaire d’Immunologie, Facultés de Médecine et de Science)

The common research will be focused on the role and function of macrophages and dendritic cells in vivo in the tumor micro-environment in mouse and human. The long-term objectives will be to optimize cancer immunotherapy by potentiating antigen presentation and inhibiting the immunosuppressive mechanisms in the tumor micro-environment.

Specific aims:

  • To test the effect of some environmental cues (lymphopenia, hypoxia) on the function of tumor-infiltrating dendritic cells and macrophages;

  • To characterize the role of Kupffer cells in the development of hepatic colorectal metastases;

  • To identify the molecular mechanisms underlying the function of regulatory T cells and their capacity to modulate dendritic cell/macrophage function;

  • To use dendritic cells as platform to deliver tumor antigens in an immunogenic form.

JRG: Joint Dissipative Solitons Group

VUB partner: K. Panayotov (Engennering/Applied Physics and Photonics, TONA-IR)
ULB partner: M. Tlidi (Optique Non-Linéaire Théorique, Faculté des Sciences)

Localized structures belong to the class of dissipative structures introduced 50 years ago by Ilya Prigogine. They have been observed in numerous nonlinear systems such as biological, hydrodynamics, and optical systems. In optics and laser physics, they manifest themselves in the form of short pulses either stationary in space or propagating along the cavity. They have attracted growing interest due their to potential applications in encoding/storing information in all optical devices and all-optical memories in fiber based devices.

In this project we are investigating theoretically and experimentally the formation of localized structures in the most advanced semiconductor technology, namely the Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Lasers. We have proven the vectorial character of solitons due to the polarization degree of freedom as well as their complex dynamics induced by delayed feedback. An extension, of this work toward the generation of light bullets (spatio-temporal localized structures) is under way.

THEA: Theatricality and the Real

VUB partner: K. Tindemans (LW_SKAR)
ULB partner: K. Vanhaesebrouck (ReSIC, Faculté de Lettres, Traduction et Communication)

[Site web]

The Joint Research Group THEA | Theatricality and the Real aims at building (paradigmatic, theatrical, political) bridges between artistic practices, artistic research and scientific research in the fields of theatre, performance and theatricality. This transversal approach implies close epistemological and methodological connections with intermediality, ethnography and discourse theory. The central line of research within this group is formed by the tension between theatricality (the research object is thus wider than theatre in the strict sense) and reality. Both historical and contemporary theatrical practices constitute our object of interest. The central themes of our research group could be described along the following lines: (1) the intertwinement of performative and documentary practices (both historical and contemporary), (2) theatricality, cultural performance and urban reality (Brussels as an icon of postmodern glocalization, cities in so-called ‘failed states’ such as Kinshasa, cultural hybridization in Brazil, etc.), (3) intermedial representations of the tension between theatricality and reality and (4) corporality and interculturalization.

THEA is a joint research initiative of the ULB, the VUB and RITCS | Royal Institute of Theatre, Cinema and Sound (School of Arts of the Erasmus University College Brussels). THEA supervises both artistic and scientific research projects sponsored by FWO, FNRS, RITCS Research council, Innoviris and the likes, organizes internal research seminars on a regular basis and collaborates with several cultural institutions like Kaaitheater, KVS and many others.