VKI is a non-profit international educational and scientific organisation, hosting three departments (aeronautics and aerospace, environmental and applied fluid dynamics, and turbomachinery & propulsion). It provides post-graduate education in fluid dynamics (research master in fluid dynamics, former "VKI Diploma Course", doctoral program, short training program and lecture series) and encourages "training in research through research". The von Karman Institute undertakes and promotes research in the field of fluid dynamics. Extensive research on experimental, computational and theoretical aspects of gas and liquid flows is carried out at the VKI under the direction of the faculty and research engineers, sponsored mainly by governmental and international agencies as well as industries.
The von Karman Institute organizes each year 8 to 12 one-week Lecture Series on specialized topics in the field of aerodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer with application to aeronautics, space, turbomachinery, the environment and industrial fluid dynamics. These courses have gained over the years world wide recognition for their high quality which is the result of a careful choice of subjects of current interest and lecturers known for their excellency in that field and willing to co-operate in building up well-structured courses.
VKI has a permanent staff of approximately 100 persons, among them 21 research engineers and 16 professors. Besides the permanent staff about 190 students and temporary researchers are involved in the different academic programmes. Students involved in these programmes have been recently awarded numerous prestigious grants such as those provided by the Belgian agencies FNRS, FRIA, FWO, IWT and the European Union ERC and Marie-Curie.
Furthermore, this Center of Excellence operates about fifty different wind tunnels, turbomachinery and other specialized test facilities; some of them being unique. The facilities of the Institute are renowned and VKI is recognized as a world-class research center of excellence by its peers. As an example, VKI and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in November 2011 under which VKI acts as a reference laboratory for ESA. This agreement involves 10 research staff and more than 20 PhD students in a continuous effort devoted to the present space transportation missions and the challenges of the future space explorations.
The VKI acknowledges the sustained support from BELSPO and its international consortium of member states, which has allowed the VKI to reach the present level of competence and its worldwide recognition as a true center of excellence in fluid dynamics.