Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKIFD) is an international research and educational organisation focused on fluid dynamics in all its forms – from experiments trough theory to computer simulations. VKIFD is settled in the city of Sint-Genesius-Rode near Brussels in Belgium. VKIFD was established in 1956 as an institute aimed at preparation of specialists in fluid dynamics for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). VKIFD serves its purpose up to the present days, but not only. VKIFD has been also a reference laboratory of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 2011 and the institute carries out the contractual research for private companies too, in particular for enterprises active in the fields of aeronautics, renewable energy, propulsion and turbomashinery.
VKIFD consists of 3 Departments – Environmental and Applied Fluid Dynamics Department, Aeronautics and Aerospace Department, Turbomashinery and Propulsion Department. Around 100 employees work in VKIFD, including 29 research engineers and 18 professors, and about 190 students take part in activities of VKIFD every year. Nowadays, VKIFD has 15 Member States (only a Member State of NATO can become a Member State of VKIFD). Annual budget of VKIFD reaches the level of 13 million EUR. The membership fee of the Czech Republic is slightly above 33 000 EUR early and it is covered from the budgetary chapter of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.
As regards the VKIFD experimental facilities the institute has nearly 50 experimental set-ups, more than half of them are wind tunnels for a broad range of velocity – from low-speed to hypersonic, including wind tunnel capable to simulate rain conditions and world unique Mach 20 wind tunnel. Among other facilities belong the water tunnel, simulator of biological flows, 1200 kW plasmatron for simulation of atmosphere entry or HPC system for aerodynamic simulations.
Working at VKIFD is possible based on the staff selection procedures. Vacations are announced on the VKIFD websites. French and/or Dutch is often a compulsory condition for permanent staff employed by VKIFD. VKIFD offers more opportunities for students in the form of internships and study visits:
- One-week lecture series,
- Short training programme (3-6 months, usually for university thesis),
- Research master (one-year specialisation study for graduates),
- Ph.D. programme (usually for research master graduates).
Internships and study visits are dedicated for Czech citizens (candidates have to be recommended by the national delegate to Science and Technology Organisation NATO – STO NATO). In case of foreign students of Czech universities it is mandatory to obtain a special recommendation. The Czech citizens have reduced price for lecture series and can obtain scholarship in the case of study visits (application should be sent before 1st April).
Considered the nature of VKIFD procurement contracts are not advertised for the Member States, but it can be interesting for Czech companies to use the VKIFD services as a customer using its facility and expertise. It is also possible to use VKIFD for staff training, e.g. in the framework of lecture series.
Engagement of the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic became the Member State of VKIFD in 2001 and nearly 100 Czech students stayed in VKIFD since then. From the beginning, engagement of the Czech Republic in VKIFD was connected mainly with the Department of Technical Mathematics of Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Czech Technical University in Prague. Recently, there is an ambition to spread awareness about the Czech involvement in VKIFD among other relevant Czech institutions too. Membership of the Czech Republic in VKIFD is implemented officially under the umbrella of NATO, which expects that all NATO Member States will contribute to VKIFD. Almost all Czech students involved in VKIFD were civilians though.