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Funding and autonomy

The nuclear research centre SCK CEN plays a worldwide pioneering role in nuclear science and technology. Our research does not remain within the confines of the known. We objectively probe the boundaries of science to achieve societal innovation. But who funds that research?

Our funding comes partly from the government (general operating allowance and specific Belgian contracts) and partly from income we generate ourselves (own income through contract research and services), as well as awarded EU research projects. We want to generate more of our own income in the future.

2024_SCKCEN_annual turnover

Who is SCK CEN?

Our nuclear research centre SCK CEN has no shareholders in the traditional sense, we work in the interest of society. This is not an insignificant fact: we do not distribute profits to shareholders. Revenue flows back to research. 

We are a Foundation of Public Utility (Stichting van Openbaar Nut, SON) with private law status. But what does this mean? A Foundation of Public Utility has as its disinterested purpose the accomplishment of work of a philanthropic, philosophical, religious, scientific, artistic, educational or cultural nature. Our goal is to achieve societal impact based on ethical and innovative nuclear research.

What makes up our funding?

We can divide our operating funds into four areas.

  1. General operating allocation
  2. Own income
  3. Specific Belgian contracts
  4. EU projects

1. General operating allocation

Every year, we receive a general operating allocation from the Federal Government to ensure our operation, as well as specific funding for investments. Allocations represent about one quarter of the total budget (2022 figures).

The general operating allocation supports three major pillars:

  • This allows us to fulfil our statutory mission, such as ensuring our expertise in nuclear safety and ensuring the preservation of nuclear expertise.
  • We are implementing our strategy as finalised in the Exploring 2040 plan.
  • We ensure that our operation remains compliant with all regulations such as those on safety, environment and security.

2. Own income

We provide about half of our operating resources ourselves. These own revenues result from irradiation in the reactor, contract research, services, valorisation of intellectual property rights, among others. 

In 2023, we launched the new strategic plan 'Exploring 2040'. This plan is intended to bring about an optimisation in operating resources by achieving more social impact and thinking in a more market-orientated way. We can bridge the gap between industry and society with our research, and we want to do this through as much self-sufficiency as possible.

Will SCK CEN then become a commercial company? Not at all! We remain scientists, but with a drive to deploy techniques and technologies in relevant applications to serve society more smoothly. The revenue we would generate in the process would all flow back into new research.

SCK CEN strictly complies with applicable state aid and non-market distortion rules.

Examples of our own income:

  • 2022_SCKCEN_Nuclear-medicine_SPECT-dosimetry

    Nucleair medicine

    For decades, SCK CEN has been a key player in the global production of medical radioisotopes to detect and combat cancer. Now, thanks to years of accumulating nuclear expertise, we can take the next step: actively researching therapeutic radioisotopes. 

    Both the production of the radioisotopes and orders for clinical and industrial partners provide additional revenue, which we use to fund our own cancer research lines, among other things. 

    Read more

  • 2020_SCKCEN_LHMA_hotcell_material-testing

    Materials testing

    Several European countries, including Belgium, have decided to extend the operation of nuclear power plants.

    The safety of these is a priority. SCK CEN deploys its expertise on materials ageing and performs materials tests to accurately predict the lifetime of a nuclear reactor. 

    Read more

  • 2022_Ontmanteling-Seneffe

    Dismantling and waste

    The recycling expertise of SCK CEN in dismantling BR3 is leading internationally. We share this knowledge and experience with industrial companies so that they can specialise as sustainable experts.

    How do we manage radioactive waste streams safely and economically efficiently? What are the best possible solutions for radioactive waste and how can we restore radioactively contaminated sites? SCK CEN researches, offers guidance and provides new technologies.

    Read more

3. Specific Belgian contracts

The government often has specific contracts for SCK CEN, for which they allocate a budget. This budget is allocated exclusively to that particular contract. 

  • SCK CEN - Infrastructuur MYRRHA (2019)


    MYRRHA is the world's first research reactor powered by a particle accelerator. MYRRHA is paving the way for countless promising technologies and applications, for example to optimise the management of nuclear waste and to produce new medical radioisotopes. SCK CEN is providing the design and construction of the MINERVA, MYRRHA Phase I research infrastructure in close cooperation with MYRRHA ivzw.


  • recumo-flexbox_0


    The RECUMO project offers a systemic solution for the radioactive residues that remain after the production of medical radioisotopes. Thus, SCK CEN is ensuring the security of supply worldwide.

    Read more about RECUMO

  • 2024_SMR-LFR_SCK CEN.png


    The federal government decided in 2022, in addition to greatly accelerating the development of renewable energy, to explore other technologies to meet the 2050 climate goals. It is investing in research on innovative Small Modular Reactors (SMR) and has commissioned SCK CEN to take control of research and development.

    Read more about SMR-LFR

4. EU projects

The EU is strongly committed to science and innovation, launching many initiatives to this end. Companies and research centres are being encouraged to participate in projects to take advantage of EU funding for their research and innovations.

SCK CEN is participating in several EU research projects, accounting for about 4% of its annual operating budget. 

Examples of such projects include RadoNorm, NOMAD and ENGAGE: 

  • RadoNorm

    56 partners from 26 different countries are investigating the effects of chronic exposure to doses of radon and other natural radionuclides on humans and the environment. The ultimate goal is to improve risk management in order to reduce cancer risk. The consortium partners are dedicating a €22 million research budget to the Horizon 2020 project, called RadoNorm.



    The EU research project NOMAD is contributing to EU-wide efforts to ensure the safety and reliability of second- and third-generation nuclear reactors. It is also developing techniques to accurately guarantee the condition of reactor vessel steel. 



    ENGAGE is investigating stakeholder involvement in various situations of exposure to ionising radiation. For example, ENGAGE is studying the role of patients and doctors in nuclear medicine, the involvement of local communities in disaster planning, or the potential cooperation between authorities in combating radon exposure. 


Independant research centre

Everything SCK CEN is in the interest of society. This is how we provide solutions to major challenges such as climate change, waste management and the fight against cancer. These needs are what define our projects. They may be self-selected, or carried out at the request of the government

SCK CEN fulfils its mission independently with sufficient operational and financial scope provided from the Belgian State. 

SCK CEN sets great store by this independent, scientific integrity. SCK CEN is independent: science should be relevant to policy, rather than prescribing policy. As critical scientists, we want our research to inform accurately, without ideological or dogmatic restrictions. 

In addition, SCK CEN has a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), composed of internal and external members, which monitors the independence and quality of research.

Embedding of the role in Belgium

The Board of Directors determines the strategy of SCK CEN on this basis, while also taking into account long-term societal developments. The members of this board have been appointed for six years by Royal Decree by the federal government, on the proposal of the Minister of Economy and the Minister of Energy.  Members have different complementary areas of expertise.

In addition, SCK CEN is subject to the supervision of the Minister of Economy and the Minister of Energy, through government commissioners that they appoint. These government commissioners attend meetings of the Board of Directors in an advisory capacity and have a right of recourse against decisions of the Board of Directors that they believe are contrary to the law, SCK CEN's by-laws or the public interest. 

💡 Click here for more information about our structure and management.

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