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VLIZ was found in 1999 with an intention to create a clearly identifiable point of contact in Flanders in order to increase the visibility of marine scientific research among the regional as well as the international community. Prior to the establishment of VLIZ in 1999, the interests of the marine research community in Belgium were promoted by ZWI and IZWO. When it started in 1999, Dr Jan Mees was appointed as General Director and consisted of a team of ten permanent and two temporary employees, this number had risen to 22 permanent and 36 temporary employees by December 2012. Over the years, the institute has also grown in its role of supporting organisation of marine scientific research in Flanders.
The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) aims to promote accumulation of marine knowledge and excellence in marine research in Flanders. Research areas include ocean and seas, the coast and the tidal systems. It accumulated knowledge from the marine research community, educational institutions, the general public, policymakers and the industry within the scope of the blue economy. It coordinates and acts as an information platform for marine and coastal research in Flanders and promotes and supports the international image of Flemish marine scientific research, international marine education and various projects and networks.
VLIZ is a non-profit organisation that receives an annual allowance from the Government of Flanders, from the department of Economy, Science and Innovation (EWI), and from the province of West Flanders. Facilities available at VLIZ are RV Simon Stevin, the Flemish multidisciplinary coastal research vessel that is equipped with all standard sampling equipment as well as sophisticated sonar technology for flow measurements and soil characterisation, The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Genesis for deep-sea research, The Marine Station will become the satellite laboratory by the sea for all Flemish marine scientists and is used within the scope of the European infrastructure networks LifeWatch and EMBRC.
VLIZ is associated with three European research infrastructures: Life Watch focuses on biodiversity research, ICOS monitors the greenhouse gas balance and EMBRC provides access to marine organisms. VLIZ monitors contain valuable data of biotic and abiotic variables that is freely accessible for marine and coastal research in Flanders. RIB Zeekat can be used on the Belgian part of the North Sea and can also be launched independently from a slipway for sampling activities in the coastal waters, the Belgian ports and the Scheldt estuary.VLIZ include a greenhouse complex in the Nieuwmunster dunes that is accommodated for research related to coastal vegetation (dunes, salt marshes, polders). This complex consisted of three greenhouses, six seed beds and a basic laboratory. VLIZ provides various small-scale services to support marine scientific research. This includes a printing service for posters, making conference rooms and a vehicle fleet available, and easy wi-fi access via eduroam.