Thor Park starts with the construction of a modular production facility for smart manufacturing companies.

The construction of the FacThory building was officially inaugurated in the presence of the Flemish Minister of Economy, Innovation, Work, Social Economy & Agriculture Jo Brouns. FacThory will be a multifunctional building with modular production, lab and test areas and offices for smart manufacturing companies. It is a project by the City of Genk, LRM, POM Limburg, KU Leuven, Flanders Make and SIRRIS, and represents an investment of 20 million euros. The project is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF – project 1383, 5.2 million euros) and the Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Hermes Fund, 1 million euros extra support). FacThory is the first step in the realization of a smart manufacturing campus on the site. Added to the other ambitions at Thor Park, the site should generate 5,000 extra jobs over ten years.

Thor Park in Genk, good for 93 hectares, is a global redevelopment project on the former mining site of Waterschei and today already offers a unique cocktail of technological research, talent development and industrial activity. The site is a hotspot for smart, sustainable and innovative companies with a focus on the energy transition, smart manufacturing industry and smart city applications.

On the site you will find the renowned research institute EnergyVille where researchers from imec, VITO, KU Leuven & UHasselt join forces. At the T2 campus, students, employees, entrepreneurs and job seekers can choose from more than 300 training courses in engineering and technology. The impressive old mining building, renamed Thor Central, has become a successful business and activity center. 

Additionally, Thor Park is the very first regulatory sandbox in Flanders, which offers opportunities for companies and researchers. Young companies that focus on smart energy, innovation and the manufacturing industry receive support and space to grow in the IncubaThor building.

FacThory: the factory of the future

The building of no less than 30,000 m² will be constructed in four phases. The first phase will be ready in December 2023 and will consist of 3,500 m² production floor, 1,000 m² laboratory and test facilities and 3,500 m² of office spaces.

Start-ups, scale-ups, but also mature companies are welcomed to develop and test processes for automation, digitization and robotization. FacThory is a project of the City of Genk, LRM, POM-Limburg, KU Leuven, Flanders Make and SIRRIS and represents an investment of 20 million euros. The project is supported by the European Regional Development Fund and the Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Hermes Fund).

Joris Merckx, general manager of NV Thor Park: “The ground floor will be set up as a production floor for companies that make or assemble an end product, or that want to optimize or scale up a process by setting up a pilot line. On the first floor you will find labs and test facilities for companies working on a prototype or offering support services in the manufacturing process – think of integrators, robotization, automation… The second floor consists of office spaces, both for companies already present in the rest of the building, as well as for tech companies active in industry 4.0. FacThory will put Thor further on the map, even beyond the national borders. Thor Park has a solid basis in which all parameters for a perfect symbiosis of innovative technology and social transition are aligned. Thor Park will become a strong brand synonymous for sustainable and innovative economic valorisation.”

FacThory is the perfect operating base for smaller companies looking for a permanent location, or for larger – Belgian and international – companies that want to work undisturbed on new products or processes. They are offered an external R&D base and come into contact with other innovative companies working on industry 4.0-related applications.

By literally bringing all those companies together under one roof, a strong ecosystem is created. Clever cross-fertilisations are created in which companies use each other's activities to grow further. A company developing XR technology in its offices for example will benefit from a company's machines on the production floor. The company on the production floor can in turn obtain advice from process experts in the test room and can make use of software developers in the offices.

Impressive transformation

“FacThory takes Thor Park to the next level,” says Tom Vanham, LRM General Manager and Thor Park President. “The former mining site has already undergone an impressive transformation and is a prime example of reconversion. A story where the triple helix phylosophy prevails. The powerful synergy between the knowledge institutions, researchers and training partners that are already active on site is a stepping stone to attract even more private companies to Thor Park. FacThory will be a catalyst for the local manufacturing industry – which plays an important role for our province. Thor Park is heading straight for its goal: to be the technology hotspot where sustainable business innovation is supported and new business can be developed in a dynamic ecosystem. Companies in the manufacturing industry in particular – a sector that LRM has been actively focusing on in recent years – and the energy sector will feel at home here.”

Jo Brouns, Flemish Minister of Economy: “FacThory will play a crucial role in the transition to a sustainable economy and a strong Flemish manufacturing industry. It offers opportunities for smaller companies to test ideas or developments on a larger scale, so that they can subsequently grow faster to a new application in the industry.”

Wim Dries, Mayor of the City of Genk: “With the realization of FacThory, we confirm that the manufacturing industry will remain an important spearhead for Genk industry, even after the closure of Ford. This initiative will give industrial companies in Genk and the region the opportunity to continue developing in the broad domain of industry 4.0. In time, this will also contribute to the creation of new jobs, both for highly educated people and for people with technical training at TSO and BSO level.”

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