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Important moments in the history of the F.R.S.-FNRS

The Belgian public does not fully understand that pure science is the necessary precondition for applied science, and that nations which neglect science and scientists are destined to decline.
Albert I of Belgium, 1 October 1927.

 

The origins of the FNRS

This royal speech was the driving force behind the creation of the F.R.S.-FNRS, at the time called the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique): less than a year later, on 27 April 1928, the FNRS was established as a public interest foundation by a group of industrialists and scientists and placed under the leadership of Émile Francqui, a captain of industry, a philanthropist and an important member of Belgian civil society. In just three months, a hundred million Belgian francs were given to the FNRS, not only by wealthy philanthropists, but also by private individuals, demonstrating the real national interest in scientific research.

State involvement

After WWII, the FNRS gradually adapted to both the new realities of Belgian and international politics, and especially the exponential growth of scientific knowledge.

From 1947 onwards, in order to take on the challenge of the internationalisation of research, the FNRS accepted ongoing government subsidies. Before this state intervention, the FNRS relied solely on the income from its assets. 


Adapting to society’s needs

During the fifties and sixties, several specialised and complimentary institutions were placed under the guardianship of the FNRS and became known as the Associated Funds. In 1994, the Fund for Research Training in Industry and Agriculture (FRIA) joined them.

Belgium’s progressive transformations into a federal state were integrated in the structures of the FNRS, which became the F.R.S.-FNRS, today committed to the development of research in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.

The FNRS today

As a public interest foundation, whose budget is more than 90% publicly financed, the F.R.S.–FNRS helps develop fundamental research in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. It does this by providing additional training to individual researchers and by funding research programmes, mainly in francophone Belgian universities.

Brochure 90 ans
Read the F.R.S.-FNRS constitution here

The National Fund for Scientific Research - FNRS is a public interest foundation.

The purpose of the foundation is to advance scientific research in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation by granting subsidies both to researchers, thereby enabling them to dedicate themselves to scientific research, and to institutions, thereby enabling them to equip or run research units.

The F.R.S.–FNRS is governed by a Board of Trustees, which represents the foundation in all judicial and extrajudicial proceedings. The Board appoints a Secretary, who oversees the day-to-day management of the Funds. The Board of Trustees and the Committees or Boards of the Associated Funds are the managing bodies of the F.R.S.-FNRS. Read the full details constitution of the F.R.S.-FNRS (only in FR).


 

The Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees shall have the power to carry out all actions considered necessary or useful for the fulfilment of the foundation’s purpose.


The Bureau

The Bureau shall examine any issue which must be put before the Board of Trustees, and may add proposals. It shall do the same for any other issue which the Board has asked it to examine.


The Secretary

The Board of Trustees shall appoint a non-member of the Board to the position of Secretary, who may also be granted the title Secretary General by the Board. The Secretary shall oversee the day-to-day management of the Funds within the criteria set by the Board. They shall report to the Board. They shall also inform the secretariat about the meetings of the Board of Trustees and the Bureau.

The Board of Trustees may also decide at any time to terminate the Secretary’s role.

A more detailed history of the F.R.S.-FNRS

1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000 - 2010

2010 - 2019

2018

The Observatory of Research and Scientific Careers Pilot Project

The F.R.S.-FNRS was entrusted with this observatory, which aims to monitor and analyse the careers of young researchers, to study how and why people stop pursuing scientific careers and also to study the professional integration of young doctors.



2018

2018

Creation of the Art Research Fund

This new Fund aims to develop art research and enable art colleges and universities in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation to establish a special relationship between art research and teaching.

2017

Cooperation agreement

with the Swiss National Science Foundation.

2017

2016

Cooperation agreement

with Les Fonds de recherche du Québec. 

2016

Launch of the EOS - Excellence of Science programme

With the EOS programme, the F.R.S.-FNRS and the FWO (Research Foundation - Flanders) have joined forces to promote closer collaboration in research between the Flemish and French communities in Belgium. The programme succeeds the Federal Interuniversity attraction poles. The EOS programme aims to promote joint research between Flemish and French researchers by funding shared fundamental research projects in all scientific disciplines.

2016

2015

Cooperation agreement

with the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Brazil).

2014

Cooperation agreement

with the Luxembourg National Research Fund (Grand Duchy of Luxembourg).

2014

2014

Cooperation agreement

with the National Research Foundation (South Africa).

2014

AAdoption of the 2015-2019 PHARE II plan

Following the PHARE I plan, this new refinancing plan proposed a series of measure and key focus areas to meet the needs of researchers.


2014

2013

Implementation of the OCN (Organe de Concertation et de Négociation du F.R.S.-FNRS)

2013

Financing decree

Wallonia-Brussels Federation for the F.R.S.-FNRS and its specialised Associated Funds. 

2013

2013

François Englert, Nobel Prize in Physics

François Englert, an advocate for many FNRS researchers and research projects, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics

2013

Creation of the Fund for Strategic Fundamental Research 

The Fund for Strategic Fundamental Research (FRFS) is a F.R.S.-FNRS specialised associated Fund which has been tasked by the Walloon Government with the funding of outstanding fundamental research on key strategic focus areas:

- research into the sustainable development focus area, called WISD;

- research into FRFS life sciences focus area, called WELBIO.

2013

2012

Creation of FRESH (Human Sciences Research Fund)

The goal of FRESH is to support fundamental research into human and social science, with a focus on its societal impact.

2011

The F.R.S.-FNRS and the FWO become 2 of the 7 founding members of Science Europe.

2011

1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000 - 2010

2000 - 2009

2009

Publication of the PHARE I refinancing plan

Research Harmonisation and Action Plan (PHARE) for 2010-2014.

2009

2008

Véronique Halloin, Secretary General of the F.R.S.-FNRS

Appointment of Véronique Halloin to the position of Secretary General of the F.R.S.-FNRS and Associated Funds.


2007

Creation of the European Research Council

The European Research Council (ERC) is a European Union body dedicated to coordinating research efforts between EU member States and is the first pan-European funding agency for “research at the frontiers of knowledge”. The ERC was officially established on 27 February 2007 as part of the Seventh Framework Programme.

2007

2006

NCP-FNRS

Created in 2006, the National Contact Point hosted by the F.R.S.-FNRS (NCP-FNRS) aims to encourage and support the participation of Wallonia-Brussels Federation universities in the European Commission’s research Framework Programmes.

2005

Cooperation agreement

with the National Research Foundation of Korea (South Korea).

2005

2000

The Quinquennial Prizes take on their current form

Two Dr A. De Leeuw-Damry-Bourlart Prizes (fundamental and applied exact sciences), one Ernest-John Solvay Prize (human and social sciences) and two Joseph Maisin Prizes (fundamental and clinical biomedical sciences).


1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000 - 2010

1990 - 1999

1998

Cooperation agreement

with the Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnologia e Innovacion Productiva (Argentina).

1998

1997

Cooperation agreement

with the Czech Academy of Sciences (Czech Republic).

1994

Increased collaboration with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)

Increased collaboration with the CNRS including the establishment of the LEA (Laboratoire Européen Associé), “Structure-function of biomolecules”, bringing together the Lille, Brussels and Gembloux laboratories.

1994

1994

Creation of the Fund for Research Training in Industry and Agriculture (FRIA)

FRIA grants are given to university graduates who want to enter careers in industry or agriculture and who are studying for a doctorate in a Wallonia-Brussels Federation university in order to achieve this goal.

1993

Cooperation agreement

with the Magyar Tudomanyos Akadémia (Hungary). 

1993

1992

The FNRS becomes the F.R.S.-FNRS and the FWO

As the country federalised, the responsibility for scientific research was passed down to the Regions and Communities, thereby splitting the FNRS along linguistic lines. The constitution of the FNRS was modified and saw two independent entities emerge: the F.R.S.-FNRS (Fund for Scientific Research - Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique) on the francophone side and the FWO (Research Foundation Flanders - Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) on the Flemish side.

1990

Cooperation agreement

with the Polska Akademia Nauk (Poland).

1990

1990

The Belgian National Lottery participates in funding the FNRS

The Belgian National Lottery became one of the most important patrons of the FNRS. Its donations funded the purchase of equipment in university research laboratories, and also helped fund the payment of researchers and human science research projects.

1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000 - 2010

1980 - 1989

1989

Creation of Télévie

Télévie was launched at the initiative of the Belgian television station RTL-TVi to raise funds for the FNRS among viewers. The money collected is allocated to cancer research projects, particularly research into childhood leukaemia.

1989

1988

Reform of the Belgian State and the FNRS

Up until the 1988 Reform of the State legislation, the FNRS fell under the scope of the Belgian Science Policy Ministry. Following the 8 August 1988 law on the funding of the Communities and Regions, the Flemish and francophone Communities each had to manage their own research and higher education budgets.

1988

Marie-Josée Simoen, Secretary General

Appointment of Marie-Josée Simoen to the position of Secretary General of the FNRS.


1988

1984

Cooperation agreement

with the Consejo Nacional de Investagaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas (Argentina).

1984

Cooperation agreement with the NIH

A scientific cooperation agreement on medicine was signed with the National Institutes of Health of Bethesda (USA).


1984

1984

Cooperation agreement

with the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnologico (Brazil).

1981-88

Multiple cooperation agreements

with various Chinese research organisations.

1981-88

1980

Cooperation agreement with the NSF

A scientific cooperation agreement covering all scientific disciplines (except medicine) was signed with the National Science Foundation of Washington (USA).


1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000 - 2010

1970 - 1979

1978

Expeditions to Greenland and Canada.

The FNRS funded the expeditions to Greenland and Canada led by Professor Louis Beyens.


1978

1977

Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Ilya Prigogine, an advocate for many FNRS researchers and research projects, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry


1977

Cooperation agreement with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

1977

1976

Creation of the Medical Ethics Commission.

Creation of the Medical Ethics Commission within the Fund for Medical Scientific Research. The Commission is now an authority on ethical matters.

1975

Creation of a new Quinquennial Prize

The Joseph Maisin Scientific Prize (biomedical sciences).

1975

1974

Creation of the European Science Foundation

On 18 November 1974, the European Science Foundation (ESF) was created in Strasbourg. The FNRS was one of the 42 academies and research councils of the 15 European countries which made up the ESF. Thanks to this forum, European scientific institutions and research councils are able to collaborate more closely and exchange their views on science policy.


1974

Christian de Duve and Albert Claude, Nobel Prize in Medicine

Christian de Duve, a former FNRS research fellow and an advocate for many FNRS researchers and research projects, and Albert Claude, who was also an advocate for various FNRS researchers and research projects, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

1974

1973

Modification of the status of research fellows

The status of research fellows was changed in 1973. From then on, research fellows were employed on a contractual basis which led to an increase in the cost of a research fellow grant and a decrease in the number of grants overall.

1972

New buildings for the FNRS

The evolution of the university landscape forced the FNRS to adapt its internal structure and, in 1972, the FNRS took possession of new facilities more suited to the needs of the time.

1972

1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000 - 2010

1960 - 1969

1969

Linguistic parity

Linguistic parity was adopted, not only by the scientific commissions (which were already operating on this basis), but also by the Boards and Committees of the FNRS and its Associated Funds.

1969

1969

A new Secretary General

Paul Levaux was appointed Secretary General of the FNRS-NFWO and the specialised Associated Funds.

1967

Belgian expedition to the Great Barrier Reef

As part of the great increase in cooperation between France and Belgium following the creation of the bathyscaphe, the FNRS, working alongside the authorities of the two countries, created a new bathyscaphe, Archimède, in 1961 at Toulon. At the same time, the Centre belge d’Océanographie was created with the FNRS. It funded the dives of the FNRS III and Archimède, as well as research into sedimentology, paleobiogeography and biology.

1967

1965

The law on university expansion

The increase in the number of university students caused organisational and structural problems for higher education institutions. The 1965 law on university expansion profoundly changed the university landscape and had a considerable impact on the importance of the FNRS and how it operated.

1965

Creation of the Fund for Collective Fundamental Research Fund (FRFC)

Thanks to the creation of the FRFC (Fund for Collective Fundamental Research), the FNRS was able not only to train more researchers to swell the university ranks, but also to fund research programmes proposed by these same researchers.

1965

1965

Creation of two new Quinquennial Prizes

The Baron Holvoet Prize (Human Sciences) and the Ernest-John Solvay Prize (Human Sciences)

1962

The Galapagos Islands

A geopedological mission, funded by the FNRS and initiated by Professor Paul De Paepe, went to the Galapagos Islands to carry out an initial soil study.


1962

1960

First Quinquennial Prize

In 1960, the FNRS awarded its first Quinquennial Prize (the Dr A. De Leeuw-Damry-Bourlart Prize) to draw attention to eminent Belgian scientific research.

1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000 - 2010

1950 - 1959

1959

Creation of the National Council for Science Policy

The National Council for Science Policy was created in September 1959 to advise the Belgian government on any problem related to scientific research and higher education.

1959

1958

Creation of the Fund for Medical Scientific Research (FRSM)

On 25 January 1958, the Fund for Medical Scientific Research was created and became an integral part of the FNRS.

1957

Exploration of the South Pole

In collaboration with an international research team and with help from the FNRS, Gaston de Gerlache undertook an expedition to the South Pole to explore and map the region.

1957

1955

The first electronic calculator

In 1946, the FNRS funded the training in America of two scientists in order to evaluate the possibility of creating an electronic calculator in Belgium. With help and additional support, the first machine was unveiled in Antwerp in 1955. It was the beginning of digitisation which would continue thanks to the collaboration between the FNRS and IBM.

1954

Creation of CERN

After WWII, research into nuclear physics and the discussion of its possible applications developed at break-neck pace. CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) was established in Geneva in 1954. 12 member States, including Belgium, were involved. Jean Willems, President of FNRS, signed the CERN charter on behalf of Belgium.

1954

1953

Development of the FNRS III

Following its experiences of Auguste Piccard’s bathyscaphe, the FNRS proposed a deal to the French Navy (which had participated in the test expedition) in which the FNRS would help perfect the vessel. The agreement between Belgium and France was signed in 1950, with Jacques-Yves Cousteau among the signatories. In 1953, the third version of the vessel (FNRS III) was able to descend to 2100 meters and survey many sea and ocean floors.

1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000 - 2010

1940 - 1949

1948

FNRS II: the first bathyscaphe

Building on the success of his stratospheric balloon, Auguste Piccard wanted to apply his knowledge of airships to submarines. In 1939, he began to receive FNRS subsidies in order to test equipment for the first bathyscaphe. After the war, research continued and the FNRS II bathyscaphe made its first voyage in 1948. But the test was not very conclusive and it quickly became clear that the size of the project would need additional collaboration.

1948

1947-60

Corneel Heymans, Nobel Prize in Medicine

The 1938 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Corneel Heymans, whose institute was subsidised by the FNRS.

1947

Creation of the Interuniversity Institute for Nuclear Sciences (IISN)

Conscious of the importance of nuclear power and the uranium deposits in Congo, the FNRS created, as early as 1945, a committee to study the science of nuclear physics. The Interuniversity Institute for Nuclear Sciences was created in 1947 and immediately received 10 million Belgian francs from the Government.

1947

1947

First government subsidy

In 1947, the Belgian Government allocated funds to the FNRS for the first time. While the initial amount was small (5 million Belgian francs), it was doubled the following year and became the most important source of income for the FNRS. On 2 April 1949, ongoing state financial contribution to the FNRS was confirmed in law.

1940-45

The FNRS during WWII

As the world suffered because of the war, so too did science: some researchers were imprisoned, the international exchange of knowledge was reduced to almost nothing, and the researchers who did try to pursue their work were faced with a desperate lack of resources and equipment.

1940-45

1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000 - 2010

1930 - 1939

1934

Expedition to Easter Island

The archaeologist Henri Lavachery requested FNRS funding, but was rejected. The request was then expanded, particularly by Adrien de Gerlache who had returned from the South Pole aboard the Belgica, and who proposed that, on top of linguistics and ethnography, oceanography and marine biology could also be researched as part of the expedition. This request was still considered too costly and was once again rejected, however a collaboration agreement with France was reached, with the research expedition now covering French Polynesia as well. The FNRS and the Belgian government agreed to finance the Belgian side of the deal, and the expedition took place between July 1934 and April 1935. 18

1934

1933

Florine’s helicopter

The FNRS provided financial support to Professor Nicolas Florine for the development of the Florine II and III helicopters. The Russian engineer, an expert in aviation mechanics who had fled to Belgium in 1920, was working at the Laboratoire Aérotechnique de Belgique. On 25 October 1933, the Florine II was flown by the pilot and engineer Robert Collin, and hovered at up to 5 meters for 9 minutes and 58 seconds, until running out of fuel. 

1932

Creation of the Francqui Foundation

which offers grants to young Belgian graduates so they can attend European universities. The Foundation set up both the Francqui Chair, which enables foreign scientists to teach in Belgian universities, and the Francqui Prize. 

1932

1932

Behaviour of ferrous metals at high temperature

A large metallurgical programme was launched to examine the behaviour of ferrous metals at temperatures from 300 to 700°C. It was a collaboration of several participants: the Thyssen laboratory in Liège, the Dustin laboratory of the Université libre de Bruxelles, Université du Travail de Charleroi and the École des mines de Mons This subsidy also had industrial aims by researching new manufacturing processes. 

1931

Auguste Piccard’s stratospheric balloon

Invited by the ULB to the Chair of Applied Physics, the Swiss physicist Auguste Piccard received help from the FNRS to build a flying laboratory: a 30 meter-diameter hydrogen balloon with a basket to carry the researcher. The goal of the experiment was to confirm the theory of Victor Hess, which claimed that cosmic rays came from the upper atmosphere. The balloon, named FNRS, was launched in May 1931 and reached — not without difficulty — a height of 15,000 meters, and was followed by two more successful launches in August 1931 and April 1934. 

1931

1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000 - 2010

1920 - 1929

1928

The first allocation of funds

went to the archaeological excavations of Apamea in Syria (Fernand Mayence, Professor at the Université de Louvain and Curator of the Royal Cinquantenaire Museums). This first case brought forward the nagging question of the finality and the funding of projects with or without economic “utility”?

1928

1928

The FNRS is born

A committee presided over by Émile Francqui created the National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS) which was then headquartered at the Fondation Universitaire, rue d’Egmont in Brussels. Jean Willems was appointed as its first President. “We have definitively understood that the researcher is at the forefront of progress and civilisation.  Through his discoveries, he gives engineers, chemists and doctors, the very basis for improving man’s condition. Our continuous march towards progress and well-being relies upon these new scientific generalisations.” Émile Francqui, March 1928.

1927

Creation of a fund-raising committee

Under the leadership of Émile Francqui, a fund-raising committee was created with the goal of collecting donations for the creation of the FNRS. The donations from the first sponsors added up to an astonishing total: 110 million Belgian francs from the country’s biggest businesses (Solvay alone contributed 25 million, la Société Générale, la Banque Nationale, la Banque d’Outremer, la Banque de Bruxelles, Cockerill, etc.), however hundreds of smaller contributions also flooded in, ranging from a post office to medical students, demonstrating the public support for the new institution.

1927

1927

Albert I’s “Seraing speech”

The history of the FNRS begins with Albert I’s “Seraing speech” delivered at the 110th anniversary of the John Cockerill company. In a powerful plea for science, the sovereign lamented the lack of public investment in research. “The Belgian public does not fully understand that pure science is the necessary precondition for applied science, and that nations which neglect science and scientists are destined to decline.”

1920

The existence of the Fondation Universitaire was formalised by a new piece of legislation,

which was based on American models. The Foundation became a rallying point for Belgian universities and scientists visiting Brussels. It played a significant role in scientific communication, helped fund the publishing of scientific literature, contributed to the updating of university libraries and provided financial help to struggling students.

1920

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