VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research, is an independent and customer-oriented research organisation, providing innovative technological solutions as well as scientifically based advice and support in the areas of cleantech and sustainable development. VITO focuses on five research programmes: chemistry, energy, health, materials and land use. With a staff of 750 highly qualified collaborators in a diversity of disciplines, VITO is in these domains a major player internationally.

VITO is an important research partner for industries as well as for governments and institutions at the local, regional, national, European and global level. It provides scientifically sound input required by governmental and institutional decision makers for putting policies in place in an efficient and goal-oriented manner. It also develops indicators measuring the results of policies, that quickly reveal when and where adjustments are needed.

VITO works closely together with companies, governments, universities and other research institutions, both in Belgium, Europe and beyond. More details on VITO can be found at

The work on GeoFleX is carried out by the Team Spatially-Dynamic Modelling, supported by colleagues from the Environmental Modelling Unit as well as the Smart Energy & Built environment Unit and the Separation and Conversion Technology Unit.

Team Spatially-Dynamic Modelling

The Spatially-Dynamic Modelling (RDM) team develops spatially explicit decision support systems based on integrated spatially-dynamic models operating at high resolution as well as Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The main activities include:

  • land use modelling, applying simulation and optimization, amongst others on the basis of the GeoDynamiX toolbox and the RuimteModel Flanders;
  • spatially-explicit modelling of energy demand, energy supply and the potential for renewable energy production, amongst others by means of the Dynamic Energy Atlas;
  • spatially-explicit emission modelling to the air and the surface waters, using both the EISSA and WEISS systems;
  • systems modelling based on qualitative and quantitative modelling techniques including the Systems Model Flanders;
  • spatial decision support systems;
  • development, analysis and visualization of geographic information and spatial indicators.

The policy instruments developed by the RDM team are intended to provide policy makers, governments, businesses and stakeholders with scientifically rooted and immediately usable information in the field of land use, comprehensive planning, environmental management, emission modelling, energy modelling, watershed management, integrated coastal zone management, flood risk analysis and other topics requiring spatially-dynamic analyses.
In VITO’s structure, the RDM team is an integral part of the Environmental Modelling Unit.

Environmental Modelling Unit

In the Environmental Modelling Unit (RMA) some 50 researchers work on the exploration and prediction of the evolution of environmental resources that become increasingly scarce: air, water, energy and land. They use various types of foresight techniques and computer models to assess the state of the system as a function of time and place and to value it economically. The spatial aspect is central. The computer models are based on state-of-the-art expertise from various fields and on the latest developments in ICT. The investigations in the Environmental Modelling Unit focus on four themes, namely:

  • Land and water management
  • Economic valuation of ecosystems and landscapes
  • Spatially-dynamic and integrated modelling of land use
  • Modelling of Atmospheric Processes

Smart Energy & Built environment Unit

The Smart Energy & Built environment Unit (SEB) consists of some 50 researchers providing scientific substance to the transition to a sustainable society. The research mainly finds its application in policy advice to regional, national and international authorities amongst which the European Commission. The research focuses on four themes, namely:

  • Energy and emission scenarios
  • Energy and climate
  • Integrated sustainability assessments
  • Smart and sustainable cities and district planning

The SEB unit has become an integral part of EnergyVille, which unites the research of KU Leuven, VITO and imec related to renewable energy sources and intelligent energy systems. Energyville examines the economic, technological and behavioural aspects of the current and future energy system and advices stakeholders with respect to expected changes on the short and long-term.

Separation and Conversion Technology Unit

The team Biomass sustainable transition of the Separation and Conversion Technology Unit (SCT) focuses on the potential of using biomass in a transition to a more sustainable energy (bio-energy) and material production (bio-based economy / green chemistry). Replacing fossil fuels by bio-based sources remains a true challenge because of four important obstacles. These are the main lines of research of the team:

  • Biomass is very heterogeneous in nature meaning that there is a need for a range of biomass conversion technologies in order to convert it into energy and materials;
  • New supply chains are needed, that can handle the wide variety in the quality and the seasonal variation of the biomass and consider less obvious biomass residues;
  • Major R&D efforts are needed to develop conversion technologies to convert biomass efficiently in electricity, heat, biofuels and other bio-products, while having low emissions;
  • Bio-energy is in competition with other uses of biomass and other ways to exploit the limited available land.