The steering group SALKTurbo has granted approval for the first Limburg EFRO projects.


On its steering committee meeting of March 28th, the SALKTurbo task force approved 11 projects that received a positive score by the EFRO management authority, worth about 32 million euros of European funding. These projects were launched under the calls made by VLAIO in September 2022, as part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), within the themes of Smart and Sustainable Flanders. They are also in line with the SALKturbo plan, which aims to sustainably strengthen and accelerate the economy of Limburg in the coming years. Notably, the gateway building of the Health Campus in Diepenbeek and the Maasbrug in Maaseik can count on a substantial grant.

Based on socio-economic indicators, the province of Limburg was recognized by Europe as a transition region. Therefore, €109 million from the Flemish ERDF budget was reserved for Limburg, and a tailored program for the region, called SALKTurbo was developed.

” The ERDFs are an important lever to take a leap forward in Limburg’s innovative, sustainable, digital and inclusive socio-economic transition. The projects presented today show that the stakeholders of Limburg have prepared themselves well with SALKturbo, led by the provincial government, POM Limburg and UHasselt. The 9 proposals we are giving green light today all formulate a smart and sustainable answer to the economic challenges that Limburg faces. – Jo Brouns, Flemish Minister of Economy

On September 16th, 2022, four calls for proposals were launched in line with the Flemish-wide appeals. For these calls, project proposals could be submitted until January 31st, 2023. The calls focused on both the Smart and Sustainable Flanders policy objectives. For Smart Flanders, the focus was on “developing skills for smart specialization, industrial transition, and entrepreneurship” and “strengthening research and innovation capacity.” For Sustainable Flanders, projects had to fit into the specific objectives of “renewable energy” or “sustainable multimodal urban mobility.”

Strengthen research and innovation capacity

Due to a significant need for additional research and innovation capacity, a call package of 13 million euros was set aside for this purpose. Within the GTI Limburg, 10 project proposals were submitted for this call, of which the following 8 projects received a positive evaluation:

  • IN2PV (UHasselt): IN2PV is a project of UHasselt, imec and Soltech, investing in upscaling production and several demonstration sites for IPV applications. This way, the entire value chain of thin film and tandem PV is covered within the Thor site in Genk.
  • Intellibat (SOLITHOR): Intellibat – a joint initiative of Solithor, Imec and the UHasselt to greatly increase battery innovation capacity by investing in 25 state of the art machines for battery R&D, manufacturing and testing.
  • Gatehouse Health Campus Limburg’ (Science park Limburg): The project aims to realize a gatehouse as an open innovation center for healthcare on Health Campus Limburg. Central to this will be THINK³ (living lab) and a Center for First Line Care (CELL). The gatehouse will be an impressive cylindrical tower with an open and sustainable character. Together with a second circular tower, they will form the entire gateway. Next to the effective gatehouse will be a parking building with about 500 spaces, as well as bicycle parking, small stores and a courtyard garden. The gatehouse itself accommodates an open innovation center for healthcare, and shared facilities for campus residents, including offices, meeting rooms and a restaurant. The Diepenbeek campus has been in transition for some time and, in the meantime, is home to many different initiatives. Besides the education campus, with UHasselt, PXL and UCLL, the Construction Campus and the Health Campus are the main building blocks. The construction of the new Gatehouse building is part of the Health Campus, will be the face of the site to the outside world and thus increases the campus feeling, recognizability and identity.
  • RCMC Demolab’(UHasselt): The project provides an interactive living lab for research, innovation and services serving remote patient follow-up.
  • Realization of a biomedical building complex (UHasselt): The project aims to realize a building complex for biomedical research housing shared advanced technology platforms to strengthen the life sciences ecosystem in the context of Health Campus Limburg as a regional economic spearhead
  • Movelab (UHasselt): This project aims to establish a high-tech movement and experience lab (MOVELab), which offers a demo, test and development environment, in which the establishment and commercialization of co-creations is stimulated.
  • Industrie 4.0 made real (SIRRIS): The project aims to develop a demonstrator which makes the full potential of Industrie 4.0, i.e. an AI supported manufacturing system, tangible at the scale of the SME and is used to support the (accelerated) digitization of the manufacturing industry.
  • PXL BusinessHub (PXL college): The PXL BusinessHUB project focuses on the realization of research infrastructure that lifts the ecosystem between the research and business worlds to a higher level. The content guideline of the BusinessHUB is digitalization and sustainable entrepreneurship.

The 8 well-performed projects represent an ERDF budget of 22.5 million euros. This is a substantial overutilization of the foreseen budget of EUR 13 million. Therefore, the SALKturbo task force decided to increase the envelope for the call.

Developing skills for smart specialization

A second project call was located within developing skills for smart specialization. The call budget is 6.5 million euros. In this project call, 3 project proposals were submitted.

The project ‘XR Competence Point De Skip’ of the municipality of Heusden-Zolder was positively assessed. The XR Competence Point De Skip is an innovation cluster where companies and organizations can go for demonstrations and training in or through XR techniques.

Within the policy objective of sustainable Flanders, a call was launched focusing on sustainable urban mobility, which could be translated concretely into, among other things, the elimination of bottlenecks on bicycle highways or the construction of multimodal infrastructure projects aimed at the shift from trucks to more sustainable options such as rail or inland navigation.  A budget of 4.5 million euros was reserved for this call. Out of the 4 project proposals submitted, 2 projects were positively evaluated.

Pater Sangersbrug, Maaseik (De Vlaamse Waterweg) The project intends the realization of a bicycle bridge over the Maas on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. The bicycle bridge is part of new Pater Sangersbrug, which will replace the original bridge dating from 1952. The Pater Sangers bridge is a symbol for both Limburg regions.

The current bridge is seriously outdated and suffered an additional hit during the water bombing and high water levels in the summer of 2021. With the replacement of the bridge, the decision was made to build the new location of the bridge slightly further upstream next to the existing bridge.

The new bridge will be part of a bicycle highway so a connection can be made to the “through-cycle network” on the Dutch side. During an average work/school day some ±1,500 cyclists make the crossing and on weekends there’s also a huge amount of recreational bicycle traffic.

A climate-robust design was chosen that ensures sustainable multimodal urban mobility.

The construction of a new bridge seizes the opportunity to extremely optimize the functional relationships, as well as recreational, bicycle and pedestrian facilities on the bridge. With the support of EFRO, the new design of the bridge provides a safe crossing for cyclists and pedestrians on this important connection between Belgian and Dutch Limburg.

Port of Limburg: multimodale accelerator (Port of Limburg): The project aims to realize a container terminal on the site of the former Ford factory in Genk. This way, a sustainable interpretation is provided to an abandoned company site. Due to its location along the Albert Canal, the site is extremely suitable for the construction of a new inland port with a multimodal terminal for freight containers. Albert Canal at Genk. The PoL will facilitate water transport from Limburg to and from the port of Antwerp. Thanks to its connection with the road network, the Port of Genk and Genk North (rail station), the regional transport demand will be served and the infrastructure network of Flanders and the province of Limburg in particular will be strengthened in a multimodal way.

The construction of the inland port and transshipment site (or hub) will contribute to the future resilience, sustainability and efficiency of the transport sector in Limburg. The establishment of PoL will play an important role in achieving a substantial modal shift to inland shipping, taking about 240,000 trucks off the road. This amounts to about 28.8 million kilometers driven, half of which will be within the province of Limburg. This not only provides an answer to the ever-growing problem of traffic congestion, but also leads to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The project receives a positive score but a final decision on this project is being postponed for now due to the need for additional clarifications, including in the field of state aid.

TV Limburg (Dutch only)

TV Limburg devoted a detailed news report to the approval of these 11 projects in its March 28 news program.

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