Walter Eevers

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The milestone of Walter Eevers

As a young researcher, Walter Eevers was once given advice on his doctoral thesis by a Nobel Prize winner. Today, he leads a team of more than 900 scientists as the R&D director of VITO (the Flemish Institute for Technological Research). “Foreign visitors are often wide-eyed with amazement.”

Turns waste into pavements using CO2

Developing innovative solutions for a more sustainable world is the mission of research centre VITO. “The impact of these solutions on society is really important to me,” Walter tells us. “We want to innovate in ways that are healthy for everyone who lives and works here. A landmark achievement in that respect is our ability to turn waste from steel furnaces into new building materials by using CO2. The city of Ghent has been using these materials to lay pavements. That’s a brilliant instance of circular thinking, and it’s also a great example of the innovative entrepreneurship that surrounds us here in Flanders.”

“We want to innovate in ways that are healthy for everyone who lives and works here.”

Walter Eevers

Taking the lead

Another project involving VITO is the Open Thor Living Lab: an ecosystem where solutions for the energy transition are developed and tested in a low-regulation zone. “Besides working with various knowledge institutions, we also collaborate with companies, government bodies and citizens themselves,” Walter says. “This helps us progress faster in areas such as solar energy, thermal systems or power electronics. Right now, in fact, we’re setting up a similar site for water. Our work is based on our scientific background, but with the aim of creating real-life applications. After all, Flanders is already a dry region, so the issue of water shortage is bound to become even more pressing in the future. VITO hopes to take the lead in this area as well.”

“There are so many inspiring places in Flanders to bring people together.”

“At the Open Thor Living Lab, we regularly organise conferences about energy to share our knowledge and vision with a wider, international audience. Foreign visitors are often wide-eyed with amazement when they see what we’ve achieved here. But there are many other inspiring places in Flanders where you can bring people together. KU Leuven and Ghent University are among the top 100 innovative universities in Europe, and they are located in beautiful cities full of art. For example, The Irish College in Leuven and Thor Central in Genk, close to the Open Thor Living Lab, have the capacity and the expertise to host a successful congress.”

Motivation boost

“I once got invited to a congress in Vaals organised by the Dutch company DSM. I was only just getting my foot in the door at the time as it was the first year of my doctorate. It was there that I received advice on my doctorate from none other than Professor Ben Feringa, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize for chemistry years later. Unbelievable, right? What a motivation boost! I’ve spoken twice at the Love Tomorrow Conference myself. It’s a considerable challenge because the audience is extremely diverse, which forces you to tell your story in a whole different way. That’s something I really enjoy.”

“Telling my story to a diverse audience is an enjoyable challenge.”

Schouwburg Kortrijk - (c) Mark Depaepe

What’s your milestone?

Set it with a conference in Flanders.

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