VUB makes research into light technology accessible

Young and old invited to discover how light can contribute to solving global challenges

On 15, 16 and 17 March, the VUB Photonics Innovation Center in Gooik is opening up to the public as part of the Flanders Technology & Innovation (FTI) Festival, which runs from 15-22 March. As the opening act of the Brussels section of the festival, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) has created a programme of exciting and interactive activities relating to technology and innovation. Researchers will show visitors how photonics, also known as light technology, affects society, with a wide range of experiments planned for children and young people.

Photonics - the intersection of optics (the study of light) and electronics (the study of electric currents) - is a trans-disciplinary field that develops innovative methods to create, detect and manipulate light. The objective is to contribute to solutions to current and future global challenges in various domains including mobility, food, space travel, industry 4.0, information and communication technology, smart cities and biomedicine.

B-PHOT Brussels Photonics, a VUB research group, is an international team of 70 highly trained researchers and technology experts based at the Photonics Campus in Gooik, led by VUB professor and vice-rector for Innovation and Valorisation Hugo Thienpont.

"In terms of sustainability, B-PHOT has expertise in developing advanced optics for solar panels, distributed optical detection for monitoring offshore wind park infrastructure, and detecting pollution or plastic particles in water. These projects result in innovations that contribute to a cleaner environment," says Hugo Thienpont. "B-PHOT also plays a role in the mobility sector, such as with the lidar - light detection and ranging of laser imaging - system. This uses laser beams to measure the distance to objects or surfaces and is used by autonomous vehicles."

On the Public Days on 16 and 17 March, B-PHOT researchers will lead visitors around the high-tech labs of the Photonics Campus. Visitors will see up close how photonics affects society. On Friday, the group is hosting businesses and industry representatives, who can explore the impact of photonics on their products or services.

There will also be a wide range of STEAM experiments for young visitors, to introduce them to photonics, science and engineering. These are arranged by the VUB STEAM Academy, another initiative by B-PHOT. The DataBuzz initiative will allow young people to explore the world of AI and cybersecurity.

Tours are already fully booked, but those without a place can register on the waiting list. Children and young people who only wish to take part in the experiments do not need to register for the tour.

Practical info

15-17 March VUB Photonics Innovation Center Vollezelestraat 48, 1755 Gooik

About VUB

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By delivering high-quality research and tailored education, VUB aims to make an active and engaged contribution to a better society.

About FTI

FTI stands for Flanders Technology & Innovation. It’s a new, compelling societal project through which the Flemish government aims to equip our region for the future. FTI aims to connect people and knowledge to create innovations that sustainably strengthen our competitiveness and societal well-being. FTI is developing a path full of initiatives to showcase technology & innovation in Flanders, promote STEM education, and help citizens find jobs in various policy domains.

FTI establishes concrete, targeted projects to address tomorrow’s challenges today, such as the very first Open Technology & Innovation Day. FTI is a collaboration between the Flemish Government and the private sector. Six official partners support the project: Hangar K, Wintercircus,, Leuven Mindgate, VITO, and VUB.

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Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By providing excellent research and education on a human scale, VUB wants to make an active and committed contribution to a better society.

The World Needs You

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig - The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People , because that’s what it’s all’about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership , VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré , the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ’urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.­eftjenodig