Mission of the Hercules Foundation
As a structural funding instrument for investments in research infrastructure, the Hercules mechanism has filled a gap in the support for fundamental and basic strategic research in Flanders.
The Hercules Foundation was set up at the end of 2007 by the Flemish Government in order to manage this funding mechanism.
All scientific disciplines can call on Hercules funding, including the humanities and the social sciences, for example for the funding of databases or collections.
It is not only the acquisition of research infrastructure itself that is funded. A maximum of 15% of the subsidy can be used to fund the costs of necessary modifications to buildings, for connection and maintenance costs, and for staff responsible for the continual maintenance and operation of the research infrastructure.
Fostering mutual cooperation between public knowledge institutions and also between these institutions and third parties in the purchase and use of scientific infrastructure is also one of the core tasks of the Hercules Foundation. “Third parties” are private and public bodies, not necessarily established in Flanders, which cannot receive subsidies themselves. In order to stimulate such cooperation, the subsidy percentage is increased if a proposal is submitted by a consortium(90% instead of 70%). With a third party in the consortium (a private company or a foreign partner) 100% of the costs can be funded.
In the Hercules mechanism, a distinction is made between medium-scale and large-scale research infrastructures. Medium-scale research infrastructure is further subdivided into:
- Hercules 1 investment initiatives (initiatives with a total funding cost between EUR 150,000 and EUR 600,000).
- Hercules 2 investment initiatives (initiatives between EUR 600,000 and EUR 1,500,000).
Large-scale research infrastructure comprises the Hercules 3 investment initiatives (initiatives above EUR 1,500,000).
In principle, 2/3 of the funds provided by the Flemish Government (currently EUR 15,000,000 per annum) are intended for funding medium-scale equipment (Hercules 1 & 2) and 1/3 for large-scale equipment (Hercules 3). On objectively determined requirements, the Flemish Government can each year decide to change this apportionment.
Medium-scale infrastructure (EUR 150,000 to EUR 1,500,000)
Universities and university colleges can submit proposals for medium-scale infrastructure. The funds are allocated after consultation with the Associations. Associations are structured networks of universities and university colleges. The aim here is to achieve forms of mutual cooperation and/or cooperation with third parties.
Large-scale infrastructure (more than EUR 1,500,000)
The purchase and operation of large-scale research infrastructure is often beyond the means of an individual establishment. Strategic cooperation is thus the way forward here. The Hercules Foundation regularly organises calls for proposals. Universities and university colleges can submit proposals, as can the IMEC (Research Centre for Nanoelectronics and Nanotechnology), the VIB (Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie - Flemish Institute of Biotechnology), the VITO (Vlaams Instituut voor Technologisch onderzoek - Flemish Institute of Technological Research), the IBBT (Instituut voor BreedBand Technologie - Institute of Broadband Technology), the ITG (Instituut voor Tropische Geneeskunde - Institute of Tropical Medicine), the UAMS (University Antwerp Management School) and the Vlerick Leuven Ghent Management School.