Population and Employment
The region of Leuven has some 465,000 inhabitants, of which 90,000 in the city of Leuven. The different regions making up the Belgian part of the ELAt triangle have a total population of 1,69 million. They are:
• Leuven (province of Vlaams-Brabant)
• Turnhout (province of Antwerp)
• Hasselt (province of Limburg)
• Maaseik (province of Limburg)
• Tongeren (province of Limburg)
The total employment in the Leuven region is 162,000 people. Compared to Belgium, industry is a less important economic sector in the Leuven region (14.9% of employment in industry compared to 20.8% on average in Belgium). The population in the Leuven region is highly educated compared with the rest of Belgium. 40% of the population between 25 and 64 has received tertiary education compared to 30% in Belgium. Also, relatively more people keep learning via education or training courses throughout their lives. Another indicator which underlines the highly educated workforce is the employment in high-tech services, which is a sector that requires high knowledge levels. 5.6% of total employment is found in this sector, compared to 3.7% for Belgium. Overall, across all economic sectors, the employment rates are higher than in Belgium, and the long-term unemployment rate is lower.
Inc Geo is an interuniversity (K.U. Leuven, Ghent University, Free University of Brussels, VITO) incubator organisation active in tool development, contract research and creating an open network of companies active in geo-information.
Industrial Clusters and networks
The region of Leuven is characterized by outstanding technological competences that display a high level of interdisciplinarity and transfer potential between research and industry in the following technology domains. The next pages give an overview of all the domains in the Leuven region with per domain the largest companies (Amadeus, 2006) and innovative companies (Leuven, Knowledge Pearl).
A first cluster revolves around life sciences. The fundamental and applied research in this area is concentrated in the Group Biomedical Sciences (Faculty of Medicine and of Pharmaceutical Sciences) and Bioengineering of the K.U.Leuven, which are mainly located around the UZ Leuven. The research group for Molecular and Cardiovascular Medicine developed for instance recombinant t-PA. This medicine is administered yearly to 300,000 patients all over the world. Next to this, research groups like the Leuven Clinical Coordination Centre, the Centre for Human Genetics and the Centre for Experimental Surgery, to name just a few, play a major role in the innovation originating from the biomedical research groups in Leuven. Furthermore, the Rega Institute for Medical Research which clusters research groups in the field of immunology and infectious diseases, has an important impact on the innovation in the life science research in Leuven. Already more than 5 drugs currently on the market have been discovered at the Rega Institute, some of them which have reached blockbuster status, like Tenofovir (Viread®, Truvada®, Atripla® – Gilead Sciences), currently the first line treatment for HIV infections. Recently, in order to further boost the innovation at the K.U.Leuven, a Centre for Drug Design and Discovery has been established. This Centre will build upon research carried out in the biomedical field at the K.U.Leuven in order to discover novel therapeutic compounds directed against biological targets under investigation at the university. In the past few years, several life science spin-offs and start-ups have been established, with a rich diversity of activity profiles.
- Janssen Pharmaceutica (J&J – Turnhout
- Tibotec (J&J – Mechelen)
- Cambrex Profarmaco
This second cluster results from the close & daily interaction between the engineering and biomedical departments of the K.U.Leuven, the latter being integrated in the clinical practice of UZ Leuven. Strong areas of expertise are: image processing, biomedical data processing & bioinformatics, computer aided engineering in surgery, bone-tissue-stem cell research, sensor technology & biomedical systems. Also IMEC performs more and more research in this field. The convergence of life science and nanoelectronics opens several new opportunities. In the past few years, a strong increase in company creation has been realised. To further facilitate the interaction with industry, in 2007 the Leuven Medical Technology Centre will be started.
- Terumo Europe
- Agfa Gevaert (Antwerp)
- Materialise Dental
In the past, the food industry has always had a strong foothold in Leuven. It is no coincidence that Leuven is home to InBev, the largest brewer in the world. In addition, various companies are active in water-, soil- and air purification, like Waterleau Global Water Technology. The Faculty of Applied Bioscience and Engineering of the K.U.Leuven conducts a large amount of fundamental research in the feed-food-health field. Several centers of excellence are situated in this cluster. One of these is the Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement, which was founded in 1978. Just as in the field of life sciences, the VIB is also active in this area of research. Companies in this sector in the Leuven region are the following:
- Tiense Suikerraffinaderij
The Faculty of Applied Science at the K.U.Leuven forms the basis for research in this sector, more particularly the Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Materials Engineering and ESAT (the department for Electrotechnics). More than 20 technological enterprises in Leuven are active in the domain of mechatronics. Their activities encompass several sub-domains. The following applications are part of this: machine development and instrumentation, structural dynamics and acoustics, automation and new production processes. Next to these purely innovative companies, a large number of mixed innovative companies are active in the field of mechatronics: manufacturers of end-products, engines and machines for industrial applications.
Various networks of companies try to stimulate innovation in the mechatronics sector.
The WTCM is a knowledge centre for the technological industry. It represents almost 2,500 companies active in various types of industry, including mechatronics. The aim of the organization is to support companies by giving them insight in technology and innovation developments. Another more specialized organization is Flanders’ DRIVE. Flanders’ DRIVE supports the vehicle suppliers with know-how through the Flanders’ DRIVE Network on the one hand, and infrastructure through the Flanders’ DRIVE Engineering Centre on the other.
- Donaldson Europe
- Leuven Measurement & Systems
- Belgian Electronic Sorting Technology
- Barco Elbicon
Telematics and Communication
Research on tomorrow’s intelligent environment takes shape in the Leuven region. Wireless communication, new multimedia techniques, speech-processing technology and microwaves are intensely investigated at the K.U.Leuven and IMEC. IMEC, the largest European independent research centre for microelectronics and nanotechnology has a special division called Design Technologies for Integrated Information and Communication Systems (DESICS). This division in particular houses all the necessary expertise for designing chips and systems for the intelligent environment.
The Flanders Multimedia Valley (FMV) is the cluster organisation for the Flemish multimedia industry. Flanders has a large amount of – usually small – companies active in multimedia. The multimedia industry represented by Flanders Multimedia Valley is active in various domains of the multimedia value chain. The highest concentration of activities is to be found in online multimedia creation and software development. DSP Valley is a technology network organisation, focusing on the design of hardware and software technology for digital signal processing systems. DSP Valley groups members of different kinds: universities, research institutes and industrial companies (from small start-ups up to large international groups).
- Option International
- Philips Innovative Technology Solutions
Ever since the end of the seventies, the region around Leuven and Brussels has yielded important international players in e-security. Leuven was also one of the first regions to geographically concentrate research on e-security. The geographic concentration of the research centers in the field of e-security led to the founding of the Leuven Security Excellence Consortium (L-SEC). L-SEC provides a single point of entry to a unique geographic concentration of world-class e-security expertise and e-security professionals in Belgium. Formed in January 2002, it is an independent not-for-profit network organisation uniting all actors in the e-security value chain: users, hardware and software vendors, service and knowledge providers, experts in information technology law, research institutions and governmental organisations. Today, L-SEC has 40 members. L-SEC operates on an international scale by organising theme programmes and by participating in relevant e-security fairs and conferences all over the world.
- Norkom Technologies
- Banksys-Atos Origin
Micro-electronics & Nanotechnology
Research in this field is concentrated at IMEC and K.U.Leuven. IMEC conducts research into process technologies for the next generation of chips, for ambient intelligence and for nanotechnology. The research into new process steps for the production of the next generation chips is a key activity at IMEC. IMEC has succeeded in gathering the top of the microelectronics industry in its brand new 45 nm / 300 mm-compatible nanoelectronics laboratory.
- Agilent Technologies
- Icos Vision Systems
- JSR Micro
- Vector International
The K.U.Leuven recently launched the Leuven Materials Research Centre (Leuven-MRC) to cluster and co-ordinate its innovative materials research. Leuven-MRC is an interdisciplinary collaborative research centre within the university, combining the efforts of 19 research groups and over 400 researchers. Their activities encompass a wide variety of material families, processes and applications and are underpinned by an impressive and state-of-the-art infrastructure and a unique combination of competences. Applications range from nanotechnology and microelectronics to space programmes, from construction technology to modern surgery and biomedical applications, from fuel cell research and clean processing to treatment of waste materials. The centre aims at strengthening the interaction with the industry through its portal function, not at least with the research intensive materials companies active in the ELAt triangle. Leuven-MRC also cooperates with other technological research laboratories in the region: WTCM (the research institute for the technology industry), VITO (the Flemish Institute for Technological Research) and IMO (Institute for Materials Research) in Hasselt. Since materials technology is an enabling technology in a lot of application areas, there is a close interaction with most of the above mentioned clusters.
- Bosal International
- Tenneco automotive
Networks, Incubators and Science parks
K.U.Leuven Research & Development (LRD), the technology transfer unit of the K.U.Leuven has been established to promote and support the transfer of knowledge and technology from the university to the business world by giving professionals legislative, technical and business advice.
Leuven Innovation Networking Circle, or Leuven.Inc is a platform for technological entrepreneurs that stimulates contacts between university, high-tech startups, innovation actors, consulting agencies and venture capitalists.
The K.U.Leuven Innovation and Incubation Center (I&I) provides offices, laboratory & prototyping space, shared facilities, equipment and services for innovative businesses. The centre is aiming at new research-oriented businesses bringing innovative services and/or products to the market. Priority is given to companies that work in close co-operation with the University of Leuven and IMEC, but this is not a prerequisite.
Business Centre Leuven
The Business Centre Leuven is an incubator – located in Haasrode – which provides modern offices for young companies. The Business Centre Leuven offers 70 modern offices. In addition, two additional business centres have been developed within the Leuven Region: Ubicenter and Campus Remy. Existing, old industrial sites were renovated in order to transform them into attractive, high-quality equipped business centers.
Haasrode research park
Haasrode research park, with a total area of 136 hectares, accommodates tens of high-tech companies, including spin-offs of the K.U.Leuven and IMEC but also renowned international companies like JSR Electronics, Terumo and Philips.
Science park Arenberg & Bio-Incubator
The new science park Arenberg offers more than 100,000 m² of business space allowing high-tech companies to rent state-of-the-art infrastructure. The park is located closely to IMEC and is targeting specifically ICT enterprises, enterprises in biotechnology and enterprises developing new materials. The Arenberg park will also be equipped with a modern bio-incubator, which will be ready for use in late 2006.
Leuven has always been an active promoter of entrepreneurship. More than 95 spin-offs have evolved from the exhaustive research activities in Leuven. They can rely on solid financial guidance and an excellent infrastructure.
The availability of venture capital in the Leuven region can be attributed to both public and private investors.
The K.U.Leuven Gemma Frisius Fund I (GFF) is a seed capital fund related to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven with a capital of € 16,4 million. It was established in 1997 as a joint venture between K.U.Leuven, the KBC Group and the Fortis Group. The objective of the fund is to stimulate the creation and growth of university related spin-off companies at the K.U.Leuven by providing seed capital in the very early phases of research-based spin-off companies. As a result of the success of the first fund, Gemma Frisius Fund II was founded in 2002 with a capital of € 8,5 million.
In 2005 IMEC launched a new venture capital fund, called Capital-E focusing on financing ‘young potentials’ within the micro- and nanoelectronics sector. In 2006, the fund – together with its daughter fund Capital-E ARKiv – extended the capital to € 35.5 million. Next to IMEC’s contribution, injected through its daughter Fidimec NV, Capital-E secured additional investments from various (mainly institutional) Belgian players, including the Arkimedes fund of the Flemish government.
In addition to these university seed and start-up capital funds, various private venture capital investors regard Leuven as an interesting region for investing in new companies. Six venture capital groups are actually based in Leuven: Capricorn Venture Partners, Quest Management, Software Holding & Finance, Beluga, Stonefund, Servifund and Allegro Investment Fund. Together with the university and IMEC, they manage an accumulated capital of more than € 300 million. These venture capital funds have an investment policy that is complementary to that of the university funds. This complementarity has many advantages. While the university funds concentrate on the start-up phase, the venture capital funds support companies’ further development, until the companies’ introduction on the stock market or another form of exit.
Finally, the Flemish Government has recently launched two initiatives to further increase access to seed & early stage funding: Arkimedes and the Flemish Innovation Fund.