In the presence of Minister-President Kris Peeters, Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Family, Jo Vandeurzen and Philippe Rogge, General Manager of Microsoft, the Microsoft Innovation Center Flanders has been launched simultaneously in Genk and Kortrijk. The MIC Flanders is the third innovation center that Microsoft opens in Belgium. Each center works as a public-private partnership which aims to stimulate the development of ICT applications, to create new companies and jobs. The MIC Flanders has two operational offices, one in Genk and the other one in Kortrijk.
The onset to open a MIC in Flanders was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Minister-President Kris Peeters and Microsoft last year. The objective was to create a center promoting the development of ICT in Flanders and stimulating this development particularly in the health sector.
The cities of Genk and Kortrijk and Microsoft have therefore founded an association that aims to:
- Stimulate ICT projects in Flanders in the areas of health; educate and inform on the topic.
- Give advice and guidance’s to companies active in the development of computer applications; help them through the use of new technologies like cloud computing or the use of natural interaction with a computer.
- Guide start-ups who engage themselves in projects focusing on e-Health.
The decision to focus on e- health was taken not only because of the important and strategic role for the plan ‘Vlaanderen in Actie’ this sector plays, but also because of the significant value e-health brings to the social and economic sector of the Region.
The MIC serves as a catalyst for regional IT companies, innovators, start-ups and spin-off’s, but also for the government and institutions. In addition, the MIC will inform them about new opportunities and applications and will help to create new companies and thus new jobs. Networking also is an element that is marked in capital letters in the objectives of the new Microsoft innovation center.
Operations on 4 axes:
- Networking: creating a positive frame for IT innovation and for a place where people can meet and enrich themselves on matters of common interests.
- Discover and learn: the transmission of expertise around new technologies through conferences, seminars and workshops.
- Innovate: around new technologies and create new innovative applications through “calls for projects” that are directly related to professional opportunities.
- Entrepreneurship: Start-ups are guided and supported through boot-camps in which everyone’s ideas can turn into business plan.
A lot of attention is being paid to data security and privacy: two themes that are of primordial importance in the health sector. Since often patients have difficulties using IT, and service providers should give priority to patients, special attention will be paid to natural and intuitive technologies.
The organizational structure
The MIC Flanders is organized as a public-private partnership, just like MIC Brussels and MIC Mons. The Flemish government has committed to an initial contribution of 35%. The cities of Genk and Kortrijk give 15% and which brings the government’s contribution to 50%. Microsoft takes the responsibility for 30% of the costs and the last 20% come from additional private sector partners. All these actors commit to the MIC for an initial period of three years that can be renewed afterwards.
The funds will be spent on projects in both locations with a centralized management for the budget under the responsibility of the Director of the MIC Flanders, who is accountable to the Board of directors. The Board consists of representatives of the cities of Genk and Kortrijk, and of Microsoft. This board can be further expanded with experts, government officials and target groups.
Each office will have an Office Manager and a Project Manager who will ensure the good functioning of the centers. Active collaboration with other organizations with similar objectives is expected to maximize synergies and minimize duplication in the initiatives.
The success of the method:
Flanders is happy to also have a MIC on its territory, especially a center that creates future opportunities for patients and for the economic impulse by young, future-oriented businesses. To Genk and Kortrijk, the launch of MIC also means a promising challenge, since in both cities an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, partners and institutions will be created.
The MIC of Mons is a great evidence of success of the MIC-formula. At its beginning in 2009, the Microsoft Innovation Center of Mons had ambitious goals. In three years, the MIC had to create 250 jobs, to coach 25 start-ups and to deliver certificates to 500 candidates. But these goals have been largely surpassed with the creation of 266 jobs, the launch of 30 start-ups and the certification of 1,112 people.
The MIC Brussels has been launched recently and focuses on cloud applications.