January 31 the kick-off event of the EDIH-EBE took place. In the presence of about 200 attendees the EDIH-EBE website went live. Digitalization is both inevitable and crucial for the competitiveness and sustainability of the Flemish economy. Today, many companies and public sector organizations, working on energy applications in construction, are not yet sufficiently aware of the opportunities that further digitalization offers. Yet the use of advanced digital technologies is essential to improve products, processes and services and to accelerate the energy efficiency of the construction and renovation of buildings and neighborhoods. This will eventually have a significant impact on the energy consumption of the Flemish housing stock and increase the usability of new technologies for residents.

Those who make the digital shift today are ready for tomorrow!

Everything under a single roof! 

To quicken this digital transformation, a central digital and physical access point launched yesterday at Thor Park in Genk: EDIH-EBE, European Digital Innovation Hub Energy in the Built Environment. The EDIH-EBE offers several services that will increase the digital knowledge and skills of Flemish companies and organizations, giving them a competitive edge. The focus is on the intersection between construction, energy and ICT. The uniqueness of EDIH-EBE is the accessibility and centralization of expertise and support. All the necessary services to achieve a digital transformation are in one place, both online on the EDIH-EBE website and physically at Thor Park. This approach makes it easy to embark on the digital transformation and ensures that the digitalization journey can be successfully completed.

Cities and municipalities have a pioneering role to play in energy transition and with the city of Genk we are fully committed to this. Making homes more sustainable is crucial in this regard. In our city, this is a challenge and opportunity that we grasp with both hands and therefore support various projects that provide the necessary tools for this. EDIH-EBE is a unique initiative that, thanks to the bundled expertise and easy accessibility, will eventually contribute to a more sustainable construction. Of course, we are proud that Europe has chosen our city as the home base for EDIH-EBE. With the companies, educational and knowledge institutions at Thor Park, we also have world-class expertise and infrastructure. – Wim Dries, Mayor of the city of genk.

Various challenges and obstacles: one address

Flanders is a European leader in research and innovation with a strong focus on sustainability and digitalization. And both priorities come together in the 'European Digital Innovation Hub'. As Flemish Minister of Innovation and Economy, I am delighted that we, in Flanders, are developing smart solutions for societal challenges such as the sustainable transition. For example, digital applications are crucial to let solar panels, heat pumps, electric cars or home batteries work together.– Jo Brouns, Flemish Minister of Innovation and Economy

For example, when a construction company, that produces insulation materials, or a social housing company, wants to equip its housing with renewable technologies, want to make the switch to a future-oriented digital approach, they face several challenges: the staff is insufficiently trained, the financial resources are lacking, there is no knowledge or experience internally, ... 

But there are obstacles on the supply side as well. A company, who offers energy-related products or services to the construction industry, has an ingenious idea or a ready-to-use innovative solution. However, they do not have the capabilities to test it or the resources to develop it. And is there enough domestic demand or should they aim at foreign markets as well?

From now on, they can turn to the EDIH-EBE with their questions because this "One-Stop-Hub" brings together various actors from the construction and energy sectors and ensures maximum cross-fertilization between these partners. The result is an efficient service via:

  • training, courses, job placement and internships
  • tailored advice
  • testing, experimentation and validation in small demonstrations in digital, physical and living labs
  • expert panels for discussion and advice
  • support in finding investments
  • events that bring the ecosystem together with a focus on innovations
  • international collaboration.

Many of these services are accessible for free (SMEs) or at interesting conditions, thanks to support from Europe and because of co-funders.

Benefits of a ‘One Stop Hub’

The benefits of a single central access point like the EDIH-EBE, economically, environmentally and socially, become more obvious when you add some concrete challenges.

One of the major bottlenecks in the energy renovation of the Flemish housing system, is engaging homeowners. One-Stop-Hubs can offer a journey which can include the energy scan, design, financing, implementation and even follow-up or maintenance. Through the EDIH-EBE, companies can find access to tools that automate and digitize these processes (for example, through a digital twin). This will allow advice to be more reliable, affordable and accessible.

In the future, it will become very important for building technologies to cooperate better and smarter with each other, in order to make the best use of the available renewable energy. In the EDIH-EBE, for example, a company will have access to virtual labs (data platforms) where they can test - with expert support - new energy management systems that, for example, allow solar panels, a home battery, a heat pump and possibly an electric car to work together more efficiently.

One access point, many partners

Nuhma supports the EDIH-EBE project because of its commitment to sustainability and innovation. The climate company in Limburg works on behalf of 41 municipalities of Limburg and the municipality of Laakdal on targeted participations that increase social value for the community. The investments and participations help realize Nuhma's goal of making Limburg carbon neutral. I believe that green energy, smart cities and citizen involvement represent the future vision of Limburg, for society and future generations. Nuhma strives for a sustainable future for Limburg and its citizens. – Ludo Kelchtermans, CEO of Nuhma

The digital innovation hub is a collaboration between several Flemish actors who are making their strengths, knowledge and infrastructure available: EnergyVille (KU Leuven, VITO, imec, UHasselt), T2-campus in cooperation with SyntraPXL and VDAB, Flux50, Embuild Vlaanderen in cooperation with Techlink, Embuild Limburg and POM Limburg.

They are joined by supporting partners who each add significant value: Incubathor, Thor Park, VOKA, Enterprise Europe Network Vlaanderen and the Vlaams Supercomputer Centrum (the Flemish Supercomputer Centrum).

This initiative and its favourable conditions are made possible by a grant from the Digital Europe Programme and co-financing by the Province of Limburg, City of Genk, Nuhma and the implementing partners.

Our province's record on renewable energy is already impressive. The first land based wind turbine was in Limburg, we have the largest solar park in Benelux and soon we will have the largest battery park in Europe. These Limburg initiatives are not only a choice, but actually a necessity. After all, we face gigantic challenges worldwide if we still want to slow down the ticking time bomb of global warming to some extent, or defuse the current energy crisis. Our province wants to set an example in this. That is why we are putting our shoulders to the wheel in EDIH, an important project linking sustainable energy and digitalisation.– Tom Vandeput, Commissioner for Economy and chairman of POM Limburg.

Relive the event
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