All good things come in twos

Splitting yourself in two can be pretty intense sometimes, but it is also a learning experience that broadens your horizons. It has been daily fare for me since the summer of 2015. That was when I got the chance to combine my research position at VITO’s BAT Knowledge Centre with a facilitating role at Vlaanderen Circulair. VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research) invests in the development of a circular economy, and that is what my work at Vlaanderen Circulair is all about.


So how do I combine the two? Well, I work an average of two days a week for Vlaanderen Circulair, at the OVAM offices in Mechelen. For the rest of the week, I work for VITO in Mol. That means two diaries and two mailboxes, but I also have two different teams to work with – and both of them are great. Incidentally, I sometimes do things for Vlaanderen Circulair at VITO and vice versa. Flexibility is essential!

Making sure I go to the right office

I do have to be alert in the mornings and ask myself: ‘Where am I working today?’ I take the train to Mechelen from Tielen. But if I’m working in Mol, I go by bike whenever I can, to try and compensate for a sedentary job with a bit of exercise. 

Best Available Techniques

I have been working for VITO at the BAT Knowledge Centre for several years. BAT stands for ‘Best Available Techniques’. Our team investigates, for example, what economically and technically feasible measures a company in sector X or Y can take to make its activities eco-friendly.

As for myself, I am currently conducting two Flemish BAT studies, one for distribution infrastructure for liquid natural gas (LNG) and one for hydrogen filling stations. Alternative fuels such as hydrogen or LNG, preferably from renewable sources, are going to be the next big thing in the years to come. It’s exciting to be able to contribute to that development.

My BAT colleagues and I also represent Belgium’s standpoints at European forums that help determine the new European emission rules, for example. I am the Belgian coordinator of the revision of the European BAT study on waste incineration.

Facilitating circular enterprise

At Vlaanderen Circulair, I focus on facilitating ‘circular enterprise’. For example, how can we make it easier for projects in the circular economy to gain access to financing? Or what legal and other obstacles prevent businesses in the same value chain from working together better or setting up a product-service system? How can we map and resolve these obstacles in cooperation with the businesses concerned? VITO has extensive know-how in this area as well, so it is great to be able to fall back on my VITO colleagues’ expertise sometimes and put them in touch with the companies that come to Vlaanderen Circulair looking for solutions. Organisations have a lot to gain from good matchmaking!

Sheik Yerbouti

When I come home in the evening and take off both my hats, I have another duo waiting for me at home: my girlfriend and I have two daughters aged one and three. I’m impressed, by the way, that you have found a photo of me without bags under my eyes. Our younger daughter tends to like causing havoc at night...

When I’m not at work, I also like to find time for my hobbies, sport and music. The Kasterlee half marathon is my next sporting challenge. I also like to keep myself in shape as the drummer of ‘duo’ band Sheik Yerbouti, named after an album by our musical hero Frank Zappa. Sheik Yerbouti is currently writing music for ‘The Lionheart Brothers’, a theatre play in which we are going to play live as part of the Tielen Music Village project. You’re all welcome!