The oPEN Thor living lab offers a strategic stepping stone for all stakeholders to sustainably tackle the energy transition through co-creation.
For a long time, the goal of a climate neutral Europe towards 2050 seemed a far-away future. In the meantime, the effects of global warming have become more and more apparent which accelerates the realization that, among other things, the switch to a sustainable energy system is a necessity. “The challenges are there. Solutions too. We have to make choices now. These are not only technological but also economic and social. The solution lies in proactive collaboration, in which everyone contributes”, says Daan Six, Research Program Manager at VITO, which, together with KU Leuven, imec and UHasselt, forms the basis of EnergyVille, one of the driving forces behind the oPEN Thor living lab.
Developed in Flanders but with a European impact
The oPEN Thor living lab is a strategic living lab to connect governments, policymakers, industry, academics and citizens, both literally and figuratively. “All actors from the so-called ‘quadruple helix’ work together to develop, test and validate innovative energy solutions in interaction with the entire energy system”, explains Daan Six. He calls it a Flemish story with a European impact to put the transition to a sustainable energy system into practice. EnergyVille is part of the unique test site on and around the Thor Park in Genk. “In combination with the Smart Manufacturing Campus, IncubaThor, the T2 campus and the community center Thor Central, we offer a unique pool of attraction to stimulate and valorise synergies around the smart manufacturing industry and energy transition,” says Gabriele Buglione, Business Development Manager at Thor Park, a project of the City of Genk, LRM and KU Leuven where 40 organizations and 800 people are currently active. “By 2035 we aim to attract 5,000 people for our 93ha area to be developed, so entrepreneurs are welcome, regardless of their scale, both for office space and production. Every technological or economic step in this ecosystem helps to build the bridge.”
In a real-life test environment
The oPEN Thor living lab, in collaboration with the city of Genk and local partners, integrates a number of neighboring residential areas and the adjacent KRC Genk site into the living lab. This gives all stakeholders access to a state-of-the-art infrastructure, knowledge and an extensive ecosystem to validate innovative energy solutions in a real, safe environment with end users. This co-creation is crucial to put the pieces of the puzzle around the energy transition together.