The ambition to establish a Leuven Institute for Advanced Study has been around for quite some time. Several Leuven researchers who stayed at the Princeton IAS and other prominent Institutes for Advanced Study, knew the added value of this kind of institutions. KU Leuven plays a leading role internationally in various fields. It has a unique cultural heritage and it is situated in the heart of Europe, making Leuven an interesting location for top researchers to study as a fellow and to consult with other colleagues.
In the past Prof. Herman Van der Wee tried to convince the board of KU Leuven to set up an Institute for Advanced Study in Leuven. From 2018, international fellows were invited to Leuven for thematic interdisciplinary consultations on socially relevant issues and since 2020, a Leuven Institute for Advanced Study (LIAS) has officially been established.
LIAS was established in stages. In 2008, KU Leuven founded Metaforum: a consultation platform for interdisciplinary discussion on socially relevant themes. The intention was to do better justice to KU Leuven research by creating more integrated position papers to participate in a fruitful way to the social debate. When Metaforum took up residence at Hollands College in 2011, the steering committee decided to develop this old university college into a meeting place for substantive conversation and cultural events. At the same time, the ambition grew to internationalize the Metaforum interdisciplinary dialogues and to expand the Hollands College into the base of an Institute of Advanced Study.
In 2016, friends and acquaintances of Herman Van der Wee took the initiative to create a fund for the establishment of a Leuven Institute of Advanced Study, which was given the name Metaforum Institute by the then university board. The first fellows were invited to discuss the social aspects of dementia in 2018, with the resources of the Opening the Future campaign. In 2019, with the resources of the Herman Van der Wee Fund, fellows were invited to consultations on democracy and civil society.
In 2020, rector Luc Sels and the board of KU Leuven decided to go all out for the development of a Leuven Institute of Advanced Study. LIAS should bring together scientific insights about major societal challenges on the basis of international and interdisciplinary consultation. For the realization of this ambition, KU Leuven could count on the cooperation of the Vanmeerbeeck-Debois family. The development of LIAS seemed to Joost and Hilde Vanbeerbeeck a suitable project to give something back to society after a successful career. In addition to investing in the organization of the international dialogue, they inspired LIAS to not only invest in the interdisciplinary discussions, but also in the communication about the results of this kind of dialogue.
In May 2021, the rector and the general administrator of KU Leuven signed an agreement with Joost and Hilde Vanmeerbeeck-Debois and the LIAS Foundation was established that, in addition to the Herman Van der Wee Fund and the contribution of KU Leuven, will provide the means for the development of the LIAS guarantees.