'Leuven Inside' as a Flemish role model
A cluster of hightech companies and research institutes in Louvain is hard at work on building the knowledge economy of the future, grooming themselves for the next step after fifteen years of activity. In future, hearing aids will probably all boast a ‘Louvain inside’ sticker just like computers currently carry the label ‘Intel inside’ as microchips from Louvain will become as synonymous with hearing apparatus and a myriad intelligent devices as chips from Intel are with personal computers. This may sound a little boastful, but according to Peter Simkens of DSP Valley, a cluster of more than 80 Louvain companies and research institutions specialising in micro- and nanotechnology, this is not too far-fetched. The most well-known name among these is probably Imec, the world-renowned nano-electronics research centre. Simkens calls DSP Valley “an industrial marriage broker”; an agent who links related institutes with a view to closing partnership deals. And after fifteen years the results have been quite formidable, with leading hearing aid manufacturers like Cochlear, Phonak and Siemens using chips made in Louvain, and a range of companies leading the global market in the development of imaging sensors. The cluster can now also look forward to support from Flanders and Europe, with Flemish support coming from 'Geneess', the project that was launched to develop new medical equipment. Support from Europe will be in the shape of the 'Silicon Europe' project, with partnership agreements between the Louvain cluster and nanotechnology clusters in Eindhoven, Dresden and Grenoble. This has led to DSP Valley increasing its team from six to ten and redefining the meaning of the abbreviation DSP from Digital Signal Processing to Designing Smart Products. For the first time ever, the technology cluster will also include players in the chip and sensor network who use the components in their products. Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters CD&V, on a visit to DSP Valley yesterday, views it as an example for the entire region, seeing its success as welcome news at a time when layoffs at Ford Genk and ArcelorMittal is front-page news. “I know mass production will remain in the Far East,” admits Simkens, despite hoping that Flemish innovation will eventually result in more production jobs in the region, among them prototypes and niche components.