Leuven is a typical university city, very active in the creation of knowledge through the presence of a large university and numerous other knowledge generating institutions. Leuven is located in the Flemish region, only 15 km away from Brussels international airport. Through its neighbouring regions, Limburg and Turnhout, the Leuven region borders both Germany and the Netherlands.
The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, with more than 30,000 students, is the largest university of Belgium. The university is very active in the transfer of knowledge to the community. In 1972, it established Leuven Research and Development (LRD), one of the first technology transfer units in Europe, with the specific mission to exploit the economic potential of the university’s research results. One way to measure the knowledge-transfer between university and industry is the number of patent applications in the region. In 2003, the city of Leuven had an 11% share in patent applications by Belgian organizations, with 4,5% of the national population living in the area. This share has been rising in recent years and is still increasing. These patent applications are spread across various different institutions and companies, which is an important factor for the vitality and diversity of the region. The K.U.Leuven also has its own venture capital fund, the Gemma Frisius Fund, co-owned by K.U.Leuven, Fortis Private Equity and KBC. In addition, the more than 8,200 employees of the University Hospital Gasthuisberg, including 200 professors in the medical field, play a prominent role in the medical curricula and research in Leuven. Another important actor in the Leuven region, active in the creation and transfer of knowledge, is IMEC. With more than 1,400 employees, this research center plays a leading role in Europe in nanoelectronics and nanotechnology.
With its renowned knowledge institutes, its science parks and the presence of venture capitalists, the region of Leuven provides a fertile breeding-ground for spin-off companies as well as an attractive location for international research-intensive businesses.
More than 300 technology based companies are located in the Leuven region, employing around 15,000 people. High-tech companies of the Leuven region are mainly concentrated in one of the following industry clusters: life sciences, medical technology, feed-food-health, mechatronics, telematics and communication, E-security, Micro-electronics & Nanotechnology and Materials. Leuven Inc., Leuven Innovation Networking Circle, provides a platform for these technology firms by stimulating contacts of technology entrepreneurs with other innovation actors such as the university, high-tech start-ups, consulting agencies and venture capitalists.