UMONS, a Long-standing Partner of the Initialis Science Park, which in 25 Years Has Become an Innovation Center in the Heart of Hainaut.

Published on 25 November 2020
Written by DCOM
UMONS' involvement in the Initialis Science Park in Mons is notably reflected in the presence of 3 of its 4 innovation centres (the fourth is currently being set up in Charleroi). This prime location enables the University of Mons to benefit from a dynamic environment of technological development. 

UMONS’ involvement in the Initialis Science Park in Mons is notably reflected in the presence of 3 of its 4 innovation centres (the fourth is currently being set up in Charleroi). This prime location enables the University of Mons to benefit from a dynamic environment of technological development.

Thanks to its research activities and the close links it has forged with the players in the surrounding socio-economic area (companies, intermunicipal associations, hospitals, schools, etc.), the University of Mons has always been a key partner, actively contributing to the support and economic recovery of the region and surrounding area.

It demonstrated this once again on Wednesday 25th November on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Initialis Science Park, which has become a major innovation centre in the heart of Hainaut.

The partners of the Initialis Science Park met to discuss their collaboration, the synergies that link them, and the challenges ahead.  This occasion also deserved a new identity.  This was unveiled by the managers of the IDEA Intercommunal Association, UMONS and the Materia Nova research centre, accompanied by the Mayor of the City of Mons.

A new sign will be displayed on the site to affirm: More than a science park, Initialis is now positioned as a major innovation centre and has become an “Innovation Pole by IDEA/UMONS”! This was unveiled on Thursday 25th November 2020.

Twenty-five years ago, IDEA launched this unique industrial park on the edge of Mons, on land then owned by the University. Initialis has always had a scientific vocation, with a focus on life sciences, ICT, R&D, etc. In a quarter of a century, Initialis has enabled the emergence of a digital ecosystem based on innovation and the close links between companies, research centres, IDEA and the University of Mons.

The Initialis Science Park, which today covers more than 27 hectares, boasts more than 70 companies specialising in ICT, material sciences and life sciences, and generates more than 720 jobs.

The geographical and historical proximity of UMONS to its strong partners makes it a key player in innovation in Hainaut and throughout Wallonia.

This has been the case for many years with the Initialis Science Park.  Located at the entrance to the city, just a stone’s throw from our sites and campuses, it is a driving force for regional development and the University’s influence.  It is also a perfect symbol of the solid and historic partnership that exists between UMONS and IDEA, a partnership which benefits the region and its economy,” insists UMONS Rector Prof. Philippe Dubois.

This approach is also in line with the recent launch of the “UMONS Innovation Center” label, which identifies and promotes the close partnership that the institution maintains with its approved research centres or with dedicated research centres.  The complementarity with its research teams makes it easier to work on any innovation project, whatever the level of maturity of the technology.  “UMONS and its Innovation Centers form a unique structure in Belgium which enables fundamental, strategic and applied research to be carried out with partners recognised for their excellence”, sums up Rector of UMONS.

 Three “UMONS Innovation Centers” at the Parc Initialis

 Materia Nova is an approved research centre founded in 2000 for the development of innovative, high-performance and sustainable solutions through its research into, and development of, multifunctional materials and surfaces and materials and processes in the fields of energy, the environment, mechanics and metallurgy, transport and health. Since the creation of Materia Nova by UMONS, the two institutions have been working very closely together. This collaboration is a considerable asset as it combines expertise in fundamental and applied research in order to accelerate technology transfer to the industrial world. Thanks to a solid network of partners, Materia Nova supports industry from the design phase to industrialisation. The strong links with UMONS, and the collaboration with IDEA looking towards 2050, also make Materia Nova an indispensable partner in making the region a fertile breeding ground for the emergence of new projects beneficial to society today and tomorrow.

Multitel is a research centre in Telecommunications, Signal and Image Processing which was founded in 1995 by the Faculty of Engineering (UMONS). Since then, Multitel and UMONS have remained very close and collaborate on numerous projects in the fields of Telecommunications and Signal Processing. Multitel’s mission is primarily to help Walloon companies integrate new technologies more effectively into their products, processes and services, with a view to improving competitiveness and sustainable economic prosperity. Today, the research centre relies on the expertise of 70 employees and operates on 3 sites in addition to Mons (Tournai, Lille and Charleroi).  It is currently involved in 29 projects (8 of which are European).

CLICK is the result of a joint initiative between UMONS, IDEA and numerous entrepreneurs, and is the most recent addition to the UMONS Innovation Centers.  It is a place, a team and a community dedicated to stimulating creativity and innovation, particularly in the digital and creative industries. It is also a structure bringing together a Fablab, a Hub, a Living Lab and CLICK N’Start (an incubator for student/researcher entrepreneurs). CLICK’s project support methodology is based on the active and “co-creative” involvement of all stakeholders throughout the innovation process, particularly the end user. This approach significantly increases a project’s chances of success.

Initialis is also home to one of the Business Centres of La Maison de l’Entreprise (LME), an incubator and accelerator for new entrepreneurs and emerging companies, and the European Centre for Enterprise and Innovation (CEEI).

On this technological site, IDEA has developed a complete chain of infrastructures enabling it to accommodate companies of all sizes: from its LME early-stage incubator to the Technological Business Accelerator. The objective is to encourage the emergence of companies and rapidly optimise their growth potential by offering them property adapted to their needs.

This cluster has gradually created and now supports a whole ecosystem conducive to innovation: companies, an incubator, research activities in which the University of Mons, via its research centres, plays an important and determining role, and finally, IDEA, which acts as a kind of link, a network of all the players in the heart of Hainaut,” explains Jacques Gobert, President of IDEA.

In the near future, many prospects will be offered to companies through the marketing of the Initialis 2.0 zone, an extension to the park of nearly 30 hectares, which will enable it to continue to meet the ever-increasing demand. This new zone will be equipped with shared car parks and electric car recharging stations, while at the same time reserving a significant amount of space for motorless transport.

The territorial anchoring of the University of Mons in Hainaut is essential. It is for this reason that the institution has set up a Vice-Rectorate for the Promotion of Regional and Interregional Partnerships. This Vice-Rectorate, initiated by Prof. Diane Thomas, member of the rectoral team, aims to strengthen and, above all, establish new regional and interregional collaborations in the field of research and services to society, while also improving student recruitment.

The numerous contacts initiated with industrial groups, companies and other structures (hospitals, etc.) have so far favoured the establishment of multifaceted partnerships, including training, research and student support opportunities (projects, dissertations, challenges, etc.) as well as the promotion of the UMONS Chair concept (mixing training and research).

Beyond Mons, the rise of UMONS in Charleroi is also a major challenge through the “CampusUCharleroi” and the future “C3E2D” research centre, which will be the fourth UMONS Innovation Center.

In Tournai and the wider Walloon Picardy region, various strategic contacts have already been established as well: with the Eurometropolitan e-campus (digital technology) and with various local players, thanks both to a territorial project led by UMONS and a framework agreement signed with the CHwapi hospital centre.

With regard to the strengthening of interregional networking, the past academic year has seen an intensification of interactions with two key players in the North of France: ITM Lille-Douai and UPHF (Valenciennes). Each interaction aims to develop research (co-supervised theses promoted by the RSF) and institutional prospects. With UPHF, collaborations have been fertile: they have specifically led to the setting up of the European University project “EUNICE” and joint degree projects.

UMONS, via its Vice-Rectorate for the Promotion of Regional and Interregional Partnerships, also planned to focus on Flanders, to reach other university institutions in the North of France (Amiens, Artois, etc.) and to take an interest in the Eurometropole Lille-Courtrai-Tournai network.

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