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Flemish Government supports Center of Excellence for Logistics

The Flemish government decided that it would invest 11.125 million euro in the Flemish Institute for Logistics (VIL) during the next five years. The VIL will act as a center of excellence to provide support for the logistics sector in Flanders. It will be

At the end of 2001 the Flemish government agreed to subsidise the setting up of what was then known as the Flanders Chamber of Logistics. This decision was based on an assessment that the logistics sector – which is of great importance to the Flemish economy – had few means of obtaining expert advice on matters of technical development and innovation.

During 2002 a group of experts, under the chairmanship of Professor Willy Winkelmans and working in collaboration with Professor Alex van Breedam of the University of Antwerp, drew up a business plan for the establishment of a Flemish Institute for Logistics. This involved making a detailed analysis of the logistics sector in Flanders, based on interviews with a number of the major players.

The clear intention was that the VIL should act as one of the main pillars of technical support for the Flemish logistics industry. It was also decided that the Chamber should be managed by the industry itself and that it should eventually become self-supporting.

The main task of the VIL is to translate the research requirements of the logistics companies into practical and concrete research projects, for which the very best technical research teams will be engaged. Individual companies can also make use of the VIL’s archives of generic information for specific technical matters. Amongst the first problems to be tackled were those of inland waterways, collaboration networks and the overloading of radio frequencies.

In addition to its main tasks of gathering information and promoting innovation, the VIL also has a number of subsidiary functions. These included the wider dissemination of logistical information of a more general nature and the provision of special services to individual companies.

The VIL is managed by a board of directors comprised of top researchers, logistical managers and representatives of the government. Its operational activities are organised by a managing director, supported by two deputy directors. A team of permanent staff is responsible for the general gathering and dissemination of relevant information. Outside experts are hired on a short term basis for specialist research in specific fields.

The Flemish government plans to invest 11.125 million euro in the VIL over a period of five years. This money is being made available from the Hermes Fund, which was set up to provide credit for business support. During this period of five years, the VIL will not only need to prove its commercial value but also attract sufficient funding to survive independently, without long-term state financing. The provision of temporary state support was conditional upon the conclusion of a management agreement. The VIL will become operational in the spring of this year and the Flemish Government expects that a number of company-driven research projects will be announced in the near future.

Reported by
24 January 2003

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