The university is a genuine laboratory in situ. A place where research drives investigation, sparks innovation and crystallises solutions. In 2002, UCL created its first research directory oriented toward sustainable development issues, indicating the range of pertinent disciplines and the strength of corresponding teams. Since then, its commitment has only grown. The university boldly sets out to position itself as a cutting-edge institution in all sustainability-related subjects.
It does so through fundamental research and interdisciplinary platforms including:
Building bridges between disciplines, researchers and themes in order to respond to urgent questions facing society – this is the primary objective of the Louvain4 multi- and interdisciplinary research platforms, supported by research consortia dedicated to diverse and crucial topics: nutrition, cities, ageing, education, energy, water and evolution. It’s an innovative approach to generating the knowledge and action that culminate in innovative solutions.
The belief that overcoming the ecological crisis requires collective reflection gave birth to the Groupe de Réflexion Interdisciplinaire sur la Crise Ecologique, GRICE (‘Interdisciplinary Task Force on the Ecological Crisis’). A meeting of UCL researchers initiated by the Centre for the Philosophy of Science and Society (CEFISES), GRICE has organised colloquiums, working groups, conferences and other activities since the 2014-15 academic year.
Working toward ecological and social transition in agreement with other social actors, LP Transition (Louvain Partnership Research on Ecological and Social Transition) is not a research entity. Its role is rather to procure for existing entities and researchers involved in the transition a service platform for stimulating multidisciplinary research at UCL and to promote the identification of potential synergies.
The Hoover Chair addresses economic and social ethics. Its mission is to stimulate ethical reflection on education and research in the Faculty of Economic, Social and Political Sciences and Communication, and address social issues. Supplementary certification, doctoral and postdoctoral grants, meetings, colloquiums, event organisation all emanate from the chair, a dynamic structure fuelled by researchers dealing with ethics regarding, among other fields, sustainable development.
The first garden was planted in 1975 at UCL’s Brussels Woluwe location. Ten years later, it was turned into a public park for educational purposes but also in the hope of fostering recreation and bringing people together. Centred on phytotherapy, the Medicinal Plant Garden is also a sustainability laboratory and den of biodiversity.
The non-profit Centre agri-environnemental de Michamps, (‘Michamps Agro-environmental Centre’) near Bastogne, in Belgium’s Luxembourg Province, combines the expertise of the UCL Grassland Ecology Laboratory and the Centre d’Information Agricole de la Province du Luxembourg (‘Luxembourg Province Agricultural Information Centre’). Its role is essential to supporting the development of analysis, advice, and agricultural, environmental and food-processing research. It acts as an interface between the needs of the rural world and the university. It proposes services to farmers and food-processing professionals, industries, communities and individuals. The Michamps Centre and its laboratory are specialised in: agricultural and environmental research and popularisation, and analysing soil, fertiliser, feed, water and foodstuffs.
UCL research leads to spin-offs whose essence is sustainable development. Ideas, initiatives and innovations translate into concrete solutions in the form of dynamic and progressive companies. As Sustainable development is becoming more advanced but needs support. UCL professors and researchers are involved in international organisations and initiatives concerned with building a more sustainable present and future (IPCC, UNESCO, FAO, UN, etc.). Research associates and professors are frequently awarded prizes, such as the Prix Francqui or HERA (Higher Education and Research Awards for Future Generations), for incorporating sustainable development in their work.
The faces of UCL sustainable development research can be found in every university faculty:
UCL researchers at the December 2015 COP21 in Paris.