WELBIO was founded on 12 December 2008 at the initiative of the Walloon Government (memorandum of 12 December 2008) in order to support “excellence in research, leading to new and significant discoveries capable of generating future applications and feeding the work supported by the Marshall Plan" in the field of life sciences and biotechnology. When founded, WELBIO received an initial budget of €15 million.
In 2009, WELBIO established its administratively independent structure (statutes) and set out its cooperation agreement with the Universities of Wallonia and Wallonia-Brussels Federation.
In 2010, WELBIO its first and highly successful call for projects, with 87 applications received. WELBIO programme selection is based on a rigorous evaluation procedure founded on excellence, performed by international experts. The WELBIO evaluation and selection procedure is the responsibility of its international Scientific Commission.
A new milestone was reached in 2011, with the start of the first 15 WELBIO research programmes for a total budget of €19,040,000 over 4 years. WELBIO’s research teams comprise 130 people, 41 of whom are subsidised by WELBIO. In the first 12 months since they started, these innovative fundamental research projects in the field of life sciences have already generated more than ten publications in prestigious journals such as Nature and Cell Stem Cell.
2011 was also marked by the establishment of individualized support for WELBIO researchers in order to develop the valorization potential of their fundamental research projects. The individual support given to WELBIO investigators through regular meetings with its Managing Director is one of WELBIO’s characteristics. Inventions are developed working closely with the host universities and, in particular, with members of technology transfer offices. This integrated research valorisation strategy from the very outset of the projects has already proved effective, since two patent applications were already filed in 2012.
In 2012, WELBIO launched a new call for projects , this time with an emphasis on talented junior investigators, with a new “starting grant” category dedicated to them. These junior investigators must have no more than 12 years of post-doctoral experience. They must also have demonstrated their scientific independence as last author of several publications and their ability to set up their own research team. Furthermore, they must have a guaranteed salary, independently of the project, for its entire term. Experienced investigators apply in the “advanced grant” category.
2013 saw several new developments.
WELBIO launched 8 new research programmes, including five in the “starting grant” category, for a total budget of €7,800,000 over 4 years. These programmes come in addition to the 15 programmes already in progress. Thus, WELBIO consolidated its position in the scientific landscape.
WELBIO established the internal "Bridge Fund" to initiate the development of the intellectual property resulting from the institute's research programmes. The Bridge Fund forms a bridge between funding of fundamental research leading to an invention and other "downstream" funding sources to develop that invention.
WELBIO joined the Fund for Strategic Fundamental Research (FRFS) as Wallonia's strategic axis for life sciences. The FRFS is a fund associated to the FNRS and was founded by the Walloon Government decree of 17 July 2013. The FNRS implements the FRFS’ missions. The Walloon Government has given the FNRS the responsibility of managing administratively and financially calls for projects.
By the decree of 13 February 2014, based on the cooperation agreement of 04 December 2012, the Walloon and Wallonia-Brussels Federation Governments guaranteed WELBIO an annual budget of €6 million.
In 2014, the institute is now counting 23 research programmes of excellence, established financial resources to initiate the valorisation of results generated by its research programmes, and consolidated its administrative structure. Thus, five years after the publication of the Walloon Government memorandum defining the principle behind the creation of WELBIO, the now well-established institute has solid foundations for launching a new call for projects.
In 2015, the first call for projects FRFS-WELBIO is launched. For the first time, researchers who were already supported by WELBIO can apply for a new grant. Fourteen research programmes have been selected. Half of them are led by WELBIO investigators receiving their second advanced grant. Seven investigators have been selected for their first WELBIO grant (3 “advanced grants” and 4 “starting grants”).
In 2016, the WELBIO institute is now counting 22 active research programmes funded under the FRFS-WELBIO and launches 3 WELBIO Bridge Fund projects in order to enable the commercialization potential of 3 projects which ended in 2015.
In 2017, the 4th call for projects was launched. Convinced by the necessity to provide long term support to research project in order to materialize a commercialisation potential, the new "Continuation Grant" funding instrument has been introduced. 14 projects have been selected for funding as a result of this 4th call. End 2017, the WELBIO institutes counts 28 active research programmes under the FRFS-WELBIO.