Get to know Johan Merlevede, Smart Cities in Smart Regions 2018 Keynote

Johan Merlevede
Johan Merlevede is the Managing Director of the Leuven MindGate organisation. Leuven MindGate is a joint initiative of different partners of the ecosystem of Leuven, situated near Brussels in Belgium. Leuven MindGate bundles the forces of companies, knowledge institutes and local government to fuel the economic and societal development of the region, with high tech, health and creativity as pillars. One of the important programs aims to convert Leuven into a “smart health city”.

I am very curious to get to know the merits of this city and the region.

How do you interpret (or describe) the concept of Smart City from your perspective?

"It’s all about applying technology to improve the life of the citizens and visitors of the city."


What habits you have in your everyday life that are especially “Smart”?

"Using my smartphone and my smartwatch as a productivity tool."
"Going for a run, using my smartwatch to track my performance."
"Drinking a glass of good wine, putting aside all productivity tools."


What aspects are missing from the discussion concerning smart city or smart region?

"What’s the best organization to be set up to make the city smarter, involving all stakeholders."
"What about tech-free zones in smart cities?"
"Who owns the data? Do we need new business models or cooperative organisations?"
"Big data, open-data? Which government datasets will become open-data?"


How does your research support developing smarter solutions?

"We don’t do research ourselves, but some of our biggest members are research institutes. As Leuven MindGate, representing the Leuven ecosystem, our role is to make sure we maximise the involvement of the companies and research institutes in order to realise the best smart solutions."


How familiar are you with Lahti? Is there something special you wish to do in Lahti?

"I’ve been quite often in Helsinki and have even been in Lapland more than once. But this will be my first time in Lahti. I am very curious to get to know the merits of this city and the region. I had great food in Helsinki and wonder if I’ll have the same experience in Lahti. I’ll take my running shoes and hope to find time in my schedule to run, a great way to discover a city."


Would you like to share some funny story from your career?

"Twenty years ago, I attended a big international conference in Cannes, France on mobile GSM. I had just started in the mobile telecom industry. Upon arrival, I received a voting machine and had to answer immediately the question 'How do you want the 3G license to be granted: by auction or via beauty contest'. I did not understand any component of the question. But 'beauty contest' sounded not bad to me, so I voted for the beauty contest. The day after, a technology section of a newspaper had a headline 'Top telecom executives prefer beauty contest to grant UMTS licenses'. Since then, I am quite sceptic against published poll results…"