On Friday March 15th, The Center for Environmental Science and Technology (CES&T) held its biannual ‘Inspiring Afternoon’, with a workshop organized by CAPTURE. The 150 participants were a good mix between university researchers and representatives from companies and governments. A welcome by CES&T chairman professor Ingmar Nopens and invitation for participation in research and education set the scene for an afternoon that aimed precisely at this – tackling the environmental challenges of the 21st century by working together.
The afternoon started with a showcase of current collaborative projects between the university and partners in the three parallel sessions. Next to the session organized by CAPTURE, there was a session of the End-of-Waste consortium and one of the Sustainability Assessment specialist group within CES&T. The CAPTURE session opened with a general introduction to the CAPTURE initiative by Korneel Rabaey and some examples of the multidisciplinary research and training that are key to it by Ingmar Nopens. The body of the session was provided by four industry partners. Tim Van Rompaey (Umicore) gave an overarching industry perspective on the recycling of complex waste streams, while Peter Brughmans (Intersolution/Van Werven), Wim Van der Stricht (ArcelorMittal) and Wim Audenaert (AM team) zoomed in on plastics, CO2 and water respectively.
The plenary session focussed on three broader topics – i) strategic developments in environmental policies, ii) the rise of data science in environmental decision-making and iii) the current gaps in Africa’s water sectors. Sven Schade (European Commission, Directorate General for the Environment) set the framework by discussing how policy development is not in pace with a rapidly changing world, the emerging threat of alternative realities that are shaped by the media and the opportunities that deep tech and big data can give. Victor Dries (Flemish Government, advisor Environment cabinet Liesbeth Homans) advocated for more cocreation in policy, and how this can be obtained by better communication between researchers and policy-makers. Frederik Verdonck (Arche consulting) demonstrated how data science is increasingly used as decision-making tool and what the opportunities and challenges are. The session ended with a presentation of Murray Biedler (Unesco International Hydrology Programme) on recent work by Unesco and partners to identify the main gaps in human capacity in Africa’s water sectors. This resulted in a program to tailor trainings and deliver water professionals that meet the current needs. The event closed with a networking reception where the participants further discussed and digested the Inspiring Afternoon.