Namur, the “living lab” of Belgium

Located in south-central Belgium at the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers, Namur reigns as the capital city of the Wallonia region. Home to a population of around 110,000 people, the city may be small in size, but historically it’s one of the more powerful in Europe, with a former military citadel considered among the most fortified constructions on the continent. Now Namur, once labeling itself as a “digital gateway,” is looking to earn another title: smart city. A new project in the historic centre is operating as a “living lab,” where citizens can gather and collaborate on creative projects. Here are a few of the ways Namur is working toward a sustainable revolution in the region, one solution at a time. - Bruno De Man 


Creating a creative economy

With Namur Innovative City Lab, Namur is looking to transform into a smart city, attracting projects that fall into three key areas: artistic, commercial and new technology. Currently, there are 11 projects underway that will help promote smart urban innovation and create a network of businesses, developers, designers, students, and technicians who can contribute to the city’s creative economy. In an effort to see these projects come to fruition, the city has carved out 34 business parks, 30 incubators, 1,300 fully equipped hectares, thematic business parks, and a property database. The Crealys Science Park, for example, hones in on the ICT industry, working together with Namur and Gembloux AgroBiotech universities, in addition to featuring shared office space for telecommuting associates and freelance workers. In the town centre, meanwhile, Coworking Namur offers work areas for 30 to 40 people, as well as meeting and seminar rooms. The city has also launched a project dubbed “Namur Intelligente et Durable” (Smart and Sustainable Namur), or NID, in the historic heart of town, Grognon. NID will offer a network catering to both local and regional clusters, such as technology cluster TRAKK, a creative hub offering collaborative work areas, offices and an entertainment-based programme for businesses. In an effort to grow TRAKK into a successful hub, Namur is venturing into living labs across Europe, researching and studying spots like Lyon’s Tubà, the test tube of urban experimentations. By incorporating citizen-oriented goals and developing an online portal connecting the political side of the city with its citizens, Namur is creating a framework for its future as a smart city, while promoting a more collaborative—and sustainable—community in the process.