At Thor Park in Genk, a unique cross-over takes place between technological research, talent development and industrial activity. The site houses research institution EnergyVille, the start-up hub IncubaThor, training centre T2 campus and the renovated main building Thor Central that has been transformed into a conference centre. LRM, city of Genk and KU Leuven are now adding NV Thor Park to that list by investing 40 million euros for the further development of the campus. AGB Genk is contributing land and LRM is making an equivalent cash contribution, representing a total investment amount of 40 million euros. KU Leuven is investing 500,000 euros. In the coming years, Thor Park wants to become a magnet for innovative companies with an important focus on the energy and smart manufacturing sector. This is the mission of Joris Merckx, the new general manager, and his management team.
Thor Park in Genk, covering 89 hectares, is a global redevelopment project on the former Waterschei (Genk) mining site. Under the impulse of the Limburg Investment Company LRM, the city of Genk and KU Leuven, the site is being transformed into a hotspot for smart manufacturing, energy and innovation.
The efforts to date have resulted in both the most important Flemish knowledge partners and the most important training partners within technological innovation and industry being already active at Thor Park. At the renowned research institute EnergyVille, researchers from imec, VITO, KU Leuven and UHasselt are joining forces in the areas of renewable energy, efficient buildings and smart grids. Thor Park is the first low-regulation zone in Flanders, offering opportunities for companies and researchers. At IncubaThor, young companies that focus on Smart Energy, Innovation & Technology are guided. On T2 campus, more than 300 engineering and technology courses are offered to students, employees, entrepreneurs and jobseekers. Finally, the imposing main building Thor Central has been transformed by the city of Genk into a successful business and activity centre.
The announced smart manufacturing building will also be ready by the end of 2022. This project by the city of Genk, LRM, POM-Limburg, KU Leuven, Flanders Make and SIRRIS will, in addition to office and production spaces for manufacturing companies, also offer labs where processes for digitisation and robotisation are developed and tested.
The development of Thor Park is based on a high-quality architectural and environmental concept, with a great deal of attention for sustainability and parking management.
NV Thor Park
With the most important foundations and building blocks in place, the project partners LRM, city of Genk and KU Leuven decided to gear up in the development of Thor Park. The new development company NV Thor Park is being baptised as an umbrella company for the general development of the site. It will have two subsidiaries: NV IncubaThor and NV Mothor. This structure will work closely with the other projects and companies on the site: SON EnergyVille, NV T2 Campus and NV Meet (Thor Central).
Tom Vanham, general manager of LRM, will also become chairman of the new NV Thor Park: ‘The intention is to bring Genk’s Thor Park to the next development stage. This former mining site is already undergoing an impressive transformation thanks to all the partners active on the site. LRM is investing 20 million euros to grow the campus into a powerful open technology ecosystem where sustainable business innovations can be supported and new business can be developed. The existing projects on the site were mainly realised by public partners. It has produced a unique mix of knowledge partners, researchers and training partners, which we want to use as leverage to bring more private companies to the site. Especially companies in the manufacturing industry and energy sector will feel at home here.’
Wim Dries, mayor of the city of Genk: ‘The Genk city council bought the site of the former Waterschei mine in 2007 from LRM with the clear intention of turning it into a high-quality technology park. Over the past thirteen years, dozens of projects have been realised and a clear-cut substantive vision has been developed. We thus laid solid foundations for the further development of a bright future for Thor Park. In the meantime, we gathered the necessary partners to further develop this beautiful site together with us. The time is now ripe to restart the restructuring of the company. We have appointed a new general manager who will take on day-to-day management of this amazing site with his team.’
Koen Debackere and Michael De Blauwe, KU Leuven: ‘KU Leuven has been enthusiastically committed to the development of Thor Park for 15 years, together with the city of Genk, LRM and our partners (imec, UHasselt and VITO). With focal points such as energy (EnergyVille) and the smart manufacturing industry, we are actively developing the Genk Triple Helix in which science, innovation and economy can meet, reinforce and accelerate each other. Consequently, Thor Park will play a pioneering role in the big social and economic transitions that we all, not least our companies, are facing. With the appointment of Joris Merckx and his team, we are fully drawing the map of renewal and sustainability of the economic fabric in and around Genk.’
General manager Joris Merckx
Mr Joris Merckx (56) will be at the head of the new company in his capacity as general manager. He emerged as the strongest candidate from a public selection procedure led by the selection agency Bakker & Partners.
Mr Merckx graduated in biomechanical engineering (KU Leuven) and perfected his knowledge throughout his career with various management courses, most recently a Senior Executive MBA programme at INSEAD – Fontainebleau. He built an international career in industry and held various management positions in industrial multinationals such as Monroe and Henkel, not only in Belgium, but also in France and Germany. From 2007 to 2017, he worked as CEO for Chemetall GmbH in Germany. Afterwards, he was an independent consultant for various German and American chemical companies and several private equity firms.
Joris Merckx, general manager of NV Thor Park: ‘I am very pleased to take on this socially very relevant project that addresses some of the most challenging issues of the 21st century. Thor Park has a solid foundation with all the elements for a perfect symbiosis of innovative technology and social transition. It is my ambition, together with the partners and the new team, to put Thor Park on the map, also beyond the national borders. In doing so, we will continue to focus on the energy transition, but we also want to bring the manufacturing industry back to our country. As a strong brand, Thor will become synonymous with sustainable and innovative economic valorisation.’
Mr Merckx will start working with a management team of three members:
- Gabriële Buglione, Business Development Manager Campus at NV Mothor, who will focus on attracting new companies and further developing the campus infrastructure.
- Erwin Junius: Project Manager Industry 4.0 at NV Mothor, who will focus on developing and translating Industry 4.0 business cases, as well as supervising new projects
- Kathleen Sterkckx: Manager IncubaThor, already working for NV IncubaThor.