Driving towards a more competitive car industry
With a workforce of roughly 81 661 in 2008 and a turnover of €15.9 billion in 2008, the automobile industry in Flanders is without doubt of great importance to the region’s economy. To safeguard and boost the competitiveness of the industry in the north of Belgium, Flanders’ DRIVE was founded.
“The Daissy project has enabled us to improve the efficiency and quality level of our final assembly process. The consortium, driven by Flanders’ DRIVE, created the necessary leverage to start the pilot. Now we are considering the complete roll-out in the final assembly area. Flanders’ DRIVE, together with the other industrial partners, has acted as the necessary enabler for this project.”
Dereck Jessiman, CEO Volvo Cars Gent
Bekaert, Bosal, LMS International, Tenneco Automotive and Sirris set up the organisation in 1996 with support of Agoria Flanders (Belgium’s largest employers' organisation and trade association). In 2001 the activities started with the full support of the Flemish Government and the EU.
Sharing problems and solutions
Flanders’ DRIVE plays an active role in stimulating innovation and encouraging collaboration between companies in the automobile industry. It initiates research projects according to industry needs and manages the projects together with its partner companies.
The organisation offers high tech infrastructure and know-how for the development, engineering and testing of vehicle components, systems and even complete vehicles. Special hardware and software for integrated mechanical design and vehicle engineering, as well as dedicated testing and measuring equipment are also available.
One such testing device is a four-wheel, full vehicle shaker with six actuators for cars and vans up to 5 500 kg. Tests can be performed in a climate chamber with temperature ranges from -40 to +70°C and controlled humidity, with the possibility of sunlight simulation.
Building on success
Active in an industry subject to fierce global competition and economic fluctuation, Flanders’ DRIVE has proved successful. And, as of 1 January 2008, Flanders’ DRIVE II was established and concluded a multi-annual management agreement with the Flemish government.
Currently Flanders’ DRIVE specialises in 4 research domains which have been strategically chosen in consultation with the industry. These domains are Lightweight Materials, Clean Powertrains, Active Safety and Manufacturing. Within these domains 8 innovative projects are being developed in cooperation with 65 partner-companies to face the challenges of the automotive industry.