In October 2019, together with the Regional Platform Kempen, we organised a two-day “Future Forum” on the future of our region Kempen. The Regional Platform Kempen is a socio-economic consultative body of Kempen MPs, provincial and local administrators together with social partners.

During this Future Forum some 80 people brainstormed intensively about the future of our region Kempen. As Chairman, I was quite proud of the dynamics present during these two days. The participative approach was a new way of working for the Regional Platform Kempen.

As a result, after a weekend of strong process management and active participation, we found a common horizon for our region: in 2030 the Kempen region will be a sustainable community, an inclusive, warm and caring community and an enterprising and innovative community.

Kempen an innovative region
Today, the potential for an innovative region is already present in many places. An increasing number of large and small companies, already have innovation at the heart of the agenda.

In addition, the Kempen hosts a number of prominent knowledge institutions such as SCK and VITO. Also the KU Leuven university and Thomas More focus their attention on the Kempen region. However, in my opinion the actual knowledge and research results do not yet sufficiently lead to the creation of new companies: this remains an important challenge for the Kempen.

Recently, however, a number of important initiatives have been taken to support innovation in the region. For instance, the Open Manufacturing Campus, located on the former Philips site in Turnhout, is growing into a hotspot for smart manufacturing (industry 4.0 and smart processing). And in Geel, the realisation of the Innovation Campus Geel is being prepared by our intermunicipal IOK. The intention here is to link up with the research of KU Leuven and Thomas More and their special fields of expertise in the health economy, agro-food, bio-based economy.

But as I said: it can all be done in a more coordinated way, with more power. We need to put more emphasis on the promotion our potential. In this respect, our Kempen’s modesty probably plays tricks on us.

Campus Campina
I was therefore delighted that the leverage project ‘Campus Campina’ was launched during the two-day event. With Campus Campina, we want to strengthen the branding of the Kempen as an innovative and entrepreneurial region. We want to stimulate, cherish and develop innovation and entrepreneurship within the Kempen, especially within the Kempen spearhead sectors: industry 4.0 – smart processing, health economy, agro-food and biobased economy.

Furthermore, we want to offer incubation and/or production space on the sites Open Manufacturing Campus (OMC) in Turnhout and the Innovation Campus Geel, giving innovative and starting entrepreneurs the opportunity to establish themselves in the Kempen. Around these two innovation poles, a network of service providers will be developed to make their offer even more accessible for start-ups and scale-ups. At the same time, the transfer of knowledge from the research to the entrepreneurs needs to be realised. Around the Kempen spearhead sectors, we want to develop ecosystems, through which innovative startups, scale-ups and spin-offs can grow together, through and with each other.

Personally, I will be satisfied in 2030 if more start-ups, more scale-ups, more spin-offs are realised in the Kempen, including from the knowledge institutions, but not exclusively, and if the Open Manufacturing Campus Turnhout and the Innovation Campus Geel have become hotbeds of innovation. Students and young people with an innovative entrepreneurial spirit must be able to start their dreams there.


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