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B-PHOT and City of Halle launch ambitious STEM support center


Vrije Universiteit Brussel, B-PHOT Brussels Photonics, and the City of Halle are collaborating on a new innovative STEM hub (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Starting in 2025 in a 4500m² space near Brussels, the project will address the growing demand for STEM professionals and the need to engage young people early in scientific and technological studies. With over 6,000 secondary school students, Halle is set to become an even more significant education hub.

The building, currently hosting the social enterprise for customised work AMAB, will become a unique center of innovation and education with laboratories and classrooms. VUB and B-PHOT, in partnership with the City of Halle, local schools, and Colruyt Group Technics, will develop a wide range of activities to support youth in their STEM development. This initiative is crucial: Agoria, the Belgian federation of the technology industry, predicts that by 2030, Belgium will face 500,000 unfilled job positions due to a shortage of STEM profiles.

Advanced education and practice-oriented learning

One of the primary goals is to offer photonics education, supported by two modern auditoriums. Additionally, a state-of-the-art photonics training laboratory will be established, where engineering students and interested individuals from technical schools, colleges, and the corporate world can master the latest photonics technologies. This practical approach helps address the shortage of well-trained personnel in this sector and contributes to employment and economic growth in the region. The building will also house a Photonics DEMO Center, showcasing the unique applications of light technology across various industrial sectors.

Tailored youth outreach center

For younger generations and teachers, a dedicated space for STEM activities will be created, including a fab lab where children and teenagers aged 6 to 18 can experiment with mechanics, electronics, and photonics. Youngsters and their parents seeking information about university study options and entrance exams will find a special information point. Additionally, teachers will have opportunities for further training.

"Unfortunately, we often see students not choosing a STEM education despite having the right profile", says B-PHOT director and VUB Vice-Rector for Innovation and Valorization Hugo Thienpont. "Flanders is one of the top regions in Europe in terms of innovation. If we want to maintain this position, we need to engage more young people in science. Given the shortage, there is a clear need for an extra push."

"With this new hub, we aim to involve not only our students but also the local community in the wonders of photonics and STEM. This project will help address the shortage of well-trained personnel in this key technology. We look forward to the positive impact of this project on the youth and the broader Halle community."

Forward-thinking collaboration

"The memorandum of understanding between the City of Halle and VUB marks the beginning of a long-term collaboration focused on promoting STEM education and innovation in the city", Marc Snoeck, Mayor of Halle, continues. "This project plays a crucial role in the development of Halle as a leading education city in Flanders. An innovative study and research center at the university level not only creates opportunities for our schools but also presents new possibilities for testing technological developments for city services and our Halle businesses."

Marc Dedobbeleer, Chairman of the Board of AMAB, is happy with the transfer of the leasehold of the building from AMAB to VUB: "This step builds an important bridge to the social sector and underscores the university’s societal role. The initiative offers better growth opportunities for youths and workers and embraces people distanced from the labor market, regardless of the reason. This partnership strengthens the bond between education and the social sector and contributes to a more inclusive society, where everyone can realize their potential."