Mol, 23 October 2023: VITO, the leading Flemish research organisation for research and innovative solutions in sustainable development, lays the foundation stone of a new laboratory building named Earth. The state-of-the-art laboratory infrastructure is part of the larger master plan for the VITO Sustainability Park in Mol. The new building will house numerous flexible laboratories and pilot installations, responsible for the development of the next generation of sustainable technologies for both domestic and international 'factories of tomorrow'.

With a team of approximately 1,200 employees and a turnover of 237 million EUR in 2022, VITO is a significant player in the field of sustainability research in Flanders, Europe, and beyond. The new infrastructure will not only provide a more efficient working environment but will also house numerous labs and demonstration spaces where the raw material technologies of the future are developed and scaled up into market-ready innovations. Two existing examples of this are the LignoValue Pilot (the first and only pilot line in Europe to extract bio-molecules from grass and wood waste instead of petroleum) and Characterise-to-Sort (inline characterisation and valuation of waste using AI).

The Earth building is the next step, following the Balmatt power plant and an initial demo hall for circular materials research, in gradually consolidating VITO's infrastructure in the VITO Sustainability Park. In this way, VITO will foster more collaboration and synergy, not only within the VITO teams but also for external researchers and companies willing to tackle sustainability challenges together. This will strengthen Flanders' competitive position within Europe and Europe on the global stage.

Jo Brouns, Flemish Minister for Economy, Innovation, Labor, Social Economy, and Agriculture, couldn't attend the event but wanted to emphasize his confidence in the project: "We face many societal challenges, and climate change, in particular, will demand efforts from us. It's essential to develop solutions through innovation. In this regard, Flanders is already excelling; we are at the forefront of research and innovation in Europe. VITO is a key player in this, and the construction of the new 'Earth' building will enhance their role. The new infrastructure will provide space to cluster various research projects, thus increasing the potential for innovation. VITO will have the opportunity to expand their expertise in climate solutions with this new infrastructure. For instance, there is the LignoValue pilot plant in the bio-economy, where we use biomass as a raw material for new products, such as in the construction sector (insulation, adhesives, flooring, MDF boards, coatings, sealants, etc.). This reduces our economy's dependence on fossil resources."

Wim Caeyers, Mayor of Mol, emphasizes the importance of the investment for the region: "I am delighted with the significant investment by VITO and the Flemish government in the Mol site. Cutting-edge scientific research remains, more than ever, connected to our municipality."

The building will serve as a showcase for sustainability, applying innovative materials and energy efficiency principles and is expected to be in use by mid-2025. It will not only enhance research capacity but will also be a crucial next step in remediating and transforming a former polluted site into a sustainable business location.

Rob Jansens, CEO of and spokesperson for the temporary consortium Van Roey –, says, "Working in a construction team fortunately goes beyond the traditional silo thinking of the past. As the temporary consortium Van Roey –, we prefer this way of working as it allows us to share our market knowledge and optimally guide the process."

Inge Neven, CEO of VITO, emphasized the urgency of the renewal and requested the supervising minister and the Flemish Government to prioritize this project: "I am incredibly proud to take this step today. The 65 million EUR investment is essential to enable VITO to contribute to the accelerated transition to a sustainable future, with a focus on socio-economic reality, one of the most significant challenges for Flanders and Europe in the coming years."

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