For the seventh edition of LEADERSMEETING@PARIS, we have chosen “polarization” as our central theme. Already, 2015 is a year rife with tensions. More than ever, all political, economic, technological, religious, and scientific policy areas are faced with internal and external contradictions. These contradictions are often fuelled by traditional and social media.
Since 2013, Rik Torfs has been rector of KU Leuven, where he began his career teaching canon law. In 1996, he was promoted to full professor in canon law. Rik Torfs published over 300 articles and taught as a guest lecturer at several universities abroad. Several years ago, he was active as politician and senator in the federal parliament. In 2013, Rik Torfs left politics to take part in the KU Leuven rectorial election. In addition to his professional activities, he plays a prominent role in Belgian media and often provides commentary on the relationship between the Church and society.
Baptiste van Outryve (34) is director PR & Corporate Communication at Carrefour, after having been spokesperson for Thomas Cook for 5 years. Nominated as “best spokesperson in Belgium”, he was one of the first in his field to take to social media to use the corresponding exposure communicatively and commercially. Daring, they called it then. Even though he’s available to the media 24/7, he still tries to spend enough time with his wife, young daughter, and dog, and share his passion for gin with others.
Isabelle Kocher is a graduate from the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Corps des Mines Engineering School and she holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Physics. In 1999 she became Industrial Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister of France. In 2002 she started working at SUEZ in the Strategic and Development department. In 2005 she became Senior Vice President in charge of the Performance and Organization programs of SUEZ. Before becoming Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer of Engie (formerly known as GDF Suez) in 2014, she was Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of GDF SUEZ. She is on track to succeed Gérard Mestrallet in 2016 and become CEO of Engie.
Having started out as a consultant for KPMG, Bart Verhaeghe soon became an entrepreneur in his own right. He began working for real estate group Verelst and then founded logistical real estate group Eurinpro. When that group was sold, Bart Verhaeghe saw the need for an “all-in-one” experience destination in Belgium, and in 2007, he founded Uplace.
In addition, he is president of Club Brugge, of value investment fund Noorhof Fund and of think tank Itinera Institute. Bart Verhaeghe is also active in other non-profit organizations, inter alia as founder and president of the Uplace Pro Triathlon Team and as director at the Vlerick Business School.
Steven Laureys studied Medicine and Neurology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Since 1997 he has been working at the Liège University Hospital Centre, where he specializes in the study of consciousness and brain function during and after a coma, anaesthesia, sleep, and hypnosis. Steven Laureys is at the helm of the world-renowned “Coma Science Group”. From all over Europe, patients come to Liège for medical clarifications and Laureys has been asked for advice on famous patients such as Terri Schiavo and by the Vatican and the United States Congress. He has published over 300 articles and five scientific books. His last book is a storybook for the general public, “Ons Briljante Brein” (Our Brilliant Brain). The book was also translated into French.
In September 2015, Jonkheer Vincent Mertens de Wilmars became the all-new Ambassador of Belgium in Paris. During his law studies, he was a member of the prestigious Royal Olivaint Conference of Belgium, where he prepared for his career in diplomacy. He began his diplomatic career in 1980 in Madrid. Subsequently, he was given important postings in Tokyo, Lisbon, for the European Union and NATO in Brussels, Moscow, and Rome.
Dirk Achten studied communication sciences and law at KU Leuven and then obtained a postgraduate degree from the J.F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University).
Starting in 1983, he worked for newspaper De Standaard, first as a political journalist, and as of 1993, as editor-in-chief. In 1999, he became a publisher.
In 2002, he became the political director of the Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten (VLD – Flemish Liberals and Democrats).
In 2004, he took on the post of chief of staff of Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel De Gucht, as the first-ever non-diplomat. Since 2008, he has been the Chairman of the Management Committee of the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs.
Since 2009, Jean-Claude Marcourt has been the vice president of the Walloon Government and the Federation Wallonia-Brussels. In 2004, he was appointed Minister of Economy and Work in the Walloon Government, where he launched the Marshall Plan. Now, he is Minister of Economy, SMEs, Innovation, and New Technologies in the Walloon Government, and responsible for Higher Education, Research, and Media. He co-founded Creative Wallonia, which helped put Wallonia on the map as an innovative and creative region.
After the 2014 elections, popular CD&V politician Hilde Crevits was named Vice Minister-President of the Flemish government and Flemish Minister for Education. In previous governments, she was responsible for, among other things, Mobility and Public Works, Energy, Environment, and Nature. Early on in her career as an assistant at the University of Ghent and as a lawyer, she devoted herself to politics, as an alderman in her home town Torhout and as a member of the Flemish Parliament. Hilde Crevits is a running aficionado.
Prof. dr. ir. Bram Vanderborght was born in 1980. In spite of his young age, he is already known internationally for his research in robotics. He is developing a new generation of robots that can assist humanity both physically and socially. Examples are prostheses, rehabilitation robots, walking assistants and social robots for children with autism.
In 2007, he became a PhD in robotics. As a postdoctoral researcher, he worked at the Italian Institute of Technology. Since 2009, he is a professor at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Furthermore, he is a research director at Universitatea Babes-Bolyai, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. Vanderborght received an ERC Starting Grant on Series-Parallel Elastic Actuation for Robotics (SPEAR). He is also a member of the Young Academy of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. He is the author of two books.
Bent Van Looy is a Belgian musician, singer, and composer who lives in Paris. He’s the frontman of Das Pop, an internationally renowned band. In 2013, he released his first solo album, Round the Bend.
But Bent Van Looy is a jack-of-all-trades. He took part in TV quiz De Slimste Mens ter Wereld and had an exposition at BOZAR in 2008. In 2010, he presented his own Sunday afternoon show on Studio Brussel. This spring, he took Klara listeners on a trip through Paris in the show “The Original Soundtrack, the French Edition”. In 2012 he designed the label for a French wine, Cuvée B.V.L.