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Leuven Institutes: a promising organisational format for interdisciplinary research

Talking about the experience of scientific organizations and educational institutions that seek to promote the development of interdisciplinary research at various levels, we would like to talk about the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Flanders, Belgium. In 2019, the University’s Academic Council approved the format and procedure for submitting applications for the so-called “Leuven institutes”.

By bringing together researchers and resources from various disciplines, these institutions will become an important lever in the development of interdisciplinarity - one of the priority areas in the strategic plan of the University of Leuven.

What are Leuven Institutes for?

The Leuven Institutes are meant to encourage the large-scale pooling of expertise and resources across disciplinary boundaries. For the University, the Leuven Institutes are a way to highlight certain focal points in research – a strategic instrument, in other words. For the outside world, they’re a recognisable contact point for a specific area of research. And for the individual researcher, they are a form of recognition, a signpost towards organisational security, and a kind of intellectual home base.

Filing an application

A two-step application procedure was developed. First, an ad-hoc panel assesses whether an application has enough potential to go to the second round. If the first application is approved, a more elaborate application may be submitted to the Executive Board via the Group Executive Committees and the Research Council. A research plan is an important element of that second part, as is the administrative and financial situation of the Institute. If your application is approved after the second phase, you can start calling yourself a ‘Leuven Institute’.


The Institutes are expected to be self-supporting after the start-up phase. Therefore, the financial benefits of establishing an Institute are limited to seed capital. For instance, funding will be available for a postdoc who can help develop the Institute as a research manager. This three-year funding can be renewed once. Money can also be made available for limited administrative support.

Expected Positive Results

The Leuven Institutes show the outside world that we’re very strong in certain fields, across disciplinary boundaries. But I also see a great advantage in the creation of more synergy. Working together on joint lines of research will lead to more depth in our research and to better answers to the societal challenges of our times.


Based on an interview with KU Leuven Rector, Luc Sels, published on the University website  https://nieuws.kuleuven.be/en/content/2019/leuven-institutes-a-promising-organisational-format-for-interdisciplinary-research