Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel

About us

The imec-SMIT-VUB research group was founded in 1990 and conducts fundamental, applied and contractual research on IT, media and policy.


Our focus is on research related to innovation, policy and socio-economical challenges. To this aim, imec-SMIT-VUB conducts user research, policy research and business analysis, making use of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The research group consists of 2 research programs (‘Media & Society’ and ‘Data & Society’), which both are subdivided in three specific units.

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imec-SMIT-VUB is leading three knowledge centres (Knowledge Centre Data & Society, Mediawijs, Hannah Arendt Institute) and holding four academic chairs (Data Protection On the Ground, Smart Cities Chair, Chair Personalisation, trust & sustainable media, Leerstoel Media in een samenleving in transitie).

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Highlights in our history

A not so exhaustive series of events in the history of SMIT

1990 — SMIT is born!

SMIT is founded by Jean-Claude Burgelman.

1996 — Caroline Pauwels becomes director ad interim Jean-Claude Burgelman takes on a position at the European Commission.

2000 — Caroline Pauwels becomes director

Guiding SMIT safely through wild rivers, and fascinating passes for many years to come.

2004 — SMIT joins IBBT

The Institute for Broadband Technology makes it its mission to join academic research groups, authorities, companies and non-profit organizations in doing research and development together.

2005 — Before there were new offices, there were containers..

SMIT is temporarily ‘stored in containers’, as our new offices in the Pleinlaan are being prepared, which we later occupy in 2007!

2011 — Welcome, Digital Society, and New Media and Society in Europe

SMIT teams up with research groups MICT (UGent) en Mintlab (former CUO, KULeuven) to form the Digital Society Department at iMinds as partners in social science. In the same year, the international master, New media and society in Europe, is started at the VUB.

2012 — IBBT becomes iMinds

Technology alone is not the answer to tackle societal challenges. The new name iMinds wants to clearly convey that message.

2013 part 1 — Transitions at the VUB

The department of communication sciences, which SMIT is part of, becomes part of the Faculty of economic sciences.

2013 part 2 — Sharing media wisdom

The knowledge center for media literacy ( becomes a reality.

2016 — Great changes, great expectations

Caroline Pauwels is elected VUB University Rector. Pieter Ballon becomes our new director. In the same year iMinds merges with imec.

2017-2019 - Four VUB chairs take shape

Structural partnerships result in VUB chairs on smart cities, data protection, media personalisation and media policy.

2019 - SMIT reaches out

SMIT increases its societal impact with the launch of the Databuzz, the Knowledge Centre Data & Society, and the Hannah Arendt Institute.

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