The Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters, and Fine Arts, founded in Brussels in 1772, and since divided into French and Flemish counterparts, has sections for mathematics, physical sciences, and the natural sciences. There are, in addition, many specialized societies for the study of medicine, biology, zoology, anthropology, astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, geology, and engineering. The National Scientific Research Fund (inaugurated in 1928), in Brussels, promotes scientific research by providing subsidies and grants to scientists and students. The Royal Institute of Natural Sciences (founded in 1846), also in Brussels, provides general scientific services in the areas of biology, mineralogy, paleontology, and zoology. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 41% of college and university enrollment. In the same period, total research and development expenditures amounted to 1.6% of GNP; 2,201 technicians and 2,272 scientists and engineers per million people were engaged in research and development.
Among the nation's distinguished scientific institutions are the Center for the Study of Nuclear Energy in Mol (founded in 1952); the National Botanical Garden of Belgium in Meise (founded in 1870); the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels (founded in 1826); the Institute of Chemical Research in Tervuren (founded in 1928); the Royal Meteorological Institute in Brussels (reorganized in 1913); the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in Rhode-St-Genese (founded in 1956) and supported by NATO; and the Institute of Spatial Aeronomy in Brussels (founded in 1964). Belgium has 18 universities and colleges offering degrees in basic and applied sciences.