Welcome to the Open Thor Living Lab, a large-scale living lab where sustainable and innovative energy solutions come to life.

We are the Open Thor Living Lab

Built on the black gold of the past and with an innovative vision for a green future, that is the Open Thor Living Lab: a top-level European innovation environment that focuses on innovative solutions for the energy transition on the one hand, but also wants to provide solutions for smart manufacturing and smart city applications on the other.

To achieve this, EnergyVille, Thor Park and the City of Genk have joined forces to create an unparalleled ecosystem – with a state-of-the-art infrastructure in which innovative energy solutions are developed, tested and ensure an accelerated market entry in unique interaction with scientific institutions, companies, education, governments and local citizens.

Energy Transition
Smart Manufacturing
Smart City Applications

Within the Open Thor Living Lab collaboration takes center stage

The Open Thor Living lab is a story of many assets. It is a unique infrastructure environment where innovation comes to life, but also where governments, companies and citizens are actively involved to interact and exchange knowledge. It is a living lab where issues related to social topics are specifically tackled via co-creation, open innovation and collaboration, making Thor Park a unique test environment to provide meaningful answers and solutions to the climate objectives.

Geographically, the Open Thor Living Lab is equally a unique location to stimulate and valorise initiatives. The Open Thor Living Lab includes the Thor science and business park, the New Texas social housing estate, the adjacent Waterschei garden suburbs, and the buildings and training complexes of KRC Genk. These five areas each have a different context and challenges, but together form a valuable ecosystem of industrial companies, researchers, entrepreneurs, end users, citizens and governments to develop innovative solutions for a sustainable future.

open thor living lab

The backbone of the Open Thor Living Lab: innovative technologies

A wide array of innovative technologies form the backbone of the Open Thor Living Lab.

  • 5th generation low-temperature district heating network
  • smart charging infrastructure for electric vehicles
  • DC-grid
  • intelligent data platforms
  • batteries on district level
  • multiple energy hubs
  • a unique renovation showcase of a former mining site into nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEB)
  • renewable energy generation by means of solar panels, thermal installations, concentrated solar thermal energy, ...
  • integrated plug & play modular boxes for technical installations
  • ...

Our offer

Interested in developing your service or product within this ecosystem?
Then we can offer you:

  • an “easy-access” to innovation:

    you become part of a unique ecosystem with a high innovation ambition
  • access to interconnected research labs:

    services or technologies can be extensively tested at both material and system level in our research labs. This can be done within a regulatory sandbox, which makes it possible to perform tests that deviate from current regulations.
  • high-quality technical support:

    our skilled researchers assist you from A to Z.
  • an international foundation of knowledge:

    the Open Thor Living Lab can count on the knowledge and expertise of more than 400 international researchers. Through an extensive network of industrial partners, governments and research associates, we always obtain the latest insights.
  • a “safe” and real innovation environment with real residents and end users:

    the Open Thor living lab offers a safe test environment across the entire quadruple helix (research, society, industry and government). Not only does this give you the opportunity to extensively test your products and services, it also gives you unique insights into the validation process of your product or service.
  • access to our network of researchers and participating companies.

    by becoming part of the Open Thor Living Lab you will get access to an inspiring and innovative network.
  • the possibility to use data for own analyses, testing and simulations.

    you gain insight into relevant data and statistics that help optimize and valorize your services or products.

Projects embedded into the
Open Thor Living Lab

SmarThor EFRO

Expansion of Digital Services in Open Thor Living Lab.

To test new software solutions and services, solutions are needed for access to context-rich datasets and a secure interface between experimental software and the safety and comfort in the test environment.

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SmarThor is a performant central cloud data platform built on MS Azure that collects and stores relevant data related to the Open Thor Living Lab environment. It is developed & maintained by VITO & KU Leuven. 

The goal of SmarThor is to support research and innovation by making the data of the Open Thor Living Lab available in a secured way (API's, dashboards) for different kinds of stakeholders: Researchers, Policy Makers, Facility Managers, Industry.

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In Europe, and more specifically in Flanders, new and existing building stock must evolve to be climate neutral by 2050. Over the next 26 years, the challenge for owners, the building sector and governments will be enormous. Not only technical questions arise to meet this challenge, but also economic and legal ones.

To accelerate this transition process and address these questions early on, a new climate-neutral large-scale testing infrastructure is being built at the OpenThor Living Lab at the Thor Park in Genk: ConstrucThor.

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EDIH-EBE, European Digital Innovation Hub Energy in the Build Environment, is the digital and physical access point or ‘one-stop-hub’ for start-ups, SMEs and public sector organizations that are working on energy applications in the built environment. The EDIH-EBE has been set up to eliminate digital disparities of enterprises. It is a one-stop hub providing several services to improve the digital knowledge, skills and experiences of enterprises in the EU and Flanders. This will give them a competitive edge.

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oPEN Lab

oPEN Lab is a large-scale European project. Under the coordination of VITO and EnergyVille, 33 partners from 7 countries are working together to revitalise urban areas across Europe to lead the transition to Positive Energy Neighbourhoods. In addition to Pamplona (Spain) and Tartu (Estonia), Genk was chosen as a unique test site within the project. In a co-creation process, the local residents, together with researchers, industrial partners and government institutions, are looking for the most suitable innovative concepts to achieve a positive energy neighbourhood in Genk, thus forming a unique testing ground within the Open Thor Living Lab.

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Heat and cold are important energy carriers in the transition towards a fully renewable energy supply. After all, a large part of the primary energy we use today is used to heat and cool buildings. CollecThor, the 5th generation district heating network within the Open Thor Living Lab, aims to explore the maximum potential of thermal networks. The existing buildings on the site (Thor Central, IncubaThor, EnergyVille 1 and 2) and the buildings yet to be built (8 lots in total) will be connected to this network.

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THOREAQ (Testbed HOme Renovations, Energy solutions, and AirQuality) is a unique test infrastructure made possible with the support of ERDF React EU and the Flemish Fund for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. THOREAQ consists of two identical test dwellings, a technical workspace and an outdoor test lab, and will be used to test, validate and demonstrate innovative renovation solutions, solutions for improving indoor air quality, the integration of energy systems in the built environment, and innovations in industrialized fabricated envelope components and automated construction methods in construction.

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The ConnectSME project supported SMEs in testing their sustainable energy technologies. In this Interreg Flanders-Netherlands project, five Dutch small or medium-sized companies (SMEs) received vouchers to assess the feasibility of implementing their technology in the Open Thor Living Lab. Three of these companies also received a second voucher, enabling them to effectively demonstrate the technology in the Open Thor Living Lab.

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Rolling Solar

Integrating thin-film PV in road surfaces and road infrastructure. That is the aim of the Interreg Rolling Solar project. Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands are internally connected by a total of 1 million kilometers of roads. This represents a huge area of built environment that can be used for renewable energy generation. This potential is being investigated in the Open Thor Living Lab in Genk as the Belgian partners within this project are working on a 13-metre-long test set-up of noise barriers with integrated solar cells.

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The ROLECS project is a FLUX50 VLAIO-funded research project to transform the energy landscape following the position of the European Commission: more sustainable and active participation of the end consumer. The concept aimed at is developing Local Energy Communities (LEC).

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Electric vehicles or other e-mobility solutions such as e-car sharing, e-buses, e-cargo bikes, etc. will become a significant part of our everyday lives. Providing sufficient collective parking and charging infrastructure in our cities for a wide variety of e-mobility services, powered by renewable energy sources, will be a huge challenge. In the HUME project, a smart concept is developed for e-mobility hubs for urban environments. The algorithms required for smart charging within such nodes are extensively tested within the Open Thor Living Lab.

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