The Brussels Research Open Lab stems from shared ambition of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) to encourage engaged research and learning activities.  Once it is established at the joint Usquare-campus, the lab will serve as a hybrid interface between the academic world and the city’s institutions. We will explore and try out new ways of teaching and learning, investigating a wide range of societal and scientific topics from diverse perspectives. The OpenLab will enable both universities to learn with and from one another, sharing tools and resources and coming together in an ambition to move towards a more sustainable, inclusive and socially just Brussels.

OpenLab will connect people from different backgrounds and specialisms who want to set up projects together. Through connecting students, academics, citizens, entrepreneurs, public sector workers, government agencies and more, OpenLab hopes to set up collaborative learning and research communities. The exchanges generated in the OpenLab will aim to tackle today’s complex societal, economic and ecological challenges, building on both academic and experience-based practice and knowledge to create change. This will happen through partnerships, joint teaching and research activities, project work and public events. OpenLab will be not only a welcoming physical place but also a digital space with an evolving network and practical toolkit.

OpenLab aims to address research questions that arise from society. Its aim is to inspire and support sustainable change, by establishing a shared, co-managed, multilingual and transdisciplinary workspace that focuses on common practices that make sense for everyday citizens. At the same time, it will generate scientifically robust and practical research and learning activities. This synergy between the academic and the non-academic lies at the heart of OpenLab’s ethos of empowerment for all, and will help nurture an essential dialogue of trust and reciprocity between the participating universities and wider society. We want to foster an environment in which different disciplines and frames of reference can joyfully intermingle, and by doing so we will also be able to broaden our own openness towards the world, serving society by seeing more than simply economic value. In a nutshell, OpenLab is a way for both universities to capitalise on the expertise and knowledge that they have acquired through years of community engagement, participation and transdisciplinary work, and give it a structure.