13 September 2007

A virtual think tank on regional innovation in Belgium

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Since July we at Experientia have been working with the Belgian City of Genk and the Belgian Province of Limburg on helping them to define what a future design centre to be located within the spectacular C-Mine former mining area could become, and how it could be integrated with other facilities on the site (such as the Media & Design Academy and the JAGA Experience Factory).

[See also these previous posts on C-Mine and Genk]

We are treating the project as a typical user-centred design project, starting off with an extensive assessment of needs and requirements of users and stakeholders. These insights will then be brought together in a series of prototypical ideas that we are going to test again, before a final constellation will be agreed upon, and formalised into a legal entity.

At this stage it is too premature to say what the new design centre might focus on, but in the current research phase we are exploring many options: in terms of design – from product to service to strategic design; in terms of stakeholders; in terms of sectors we might be working with – e.g. business and industry, social services, public structures; and in terms of territory – considering only the Province or also its immediate surroundings (Maastricht, Leuven, Aachen, Eindhoven). At this exploratory stage we want to keep an open mind before we start making choices and assigning priorities.

The Province of Limburg is the region where Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken was born. He hasn’t lived there in several decades, in fact he haven’t lived in Belgium since 1994. Not surprisingly, much has changed. There is a new dynamism in the region, a belief that things are changing in a good direction, that Limburg could have a promising future. There is also a high quality of institutional leadership. Mark’s impressions are still fairly limited but energising nevertheless.

Hence our idea to bring together some Limburgers or Belgians, who may or may not be living abroad, are active in the design and design innovation area, care for the place they come from, and want to participate in an online think tank on regional innovation in that area. In fact, also non-Belgians are welcome to join, provided they know the area somewhat, for instance people from the neighbouring countries.

We are not yet entirely sure how we will structure this process, but to start off with we have created a Facebook group called C-Mine and a Yahoo Group that you can join. Once we have a small group of people on board, they will get to know more about the project and how they can contribute.

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