Microsoft is investing $45m for a minority stake in the Belgian company Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products NV in a bid to accelerate development of the next generation of voice-enabled computing for Windows. Specific terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, but it is understood Lernout & Hauspie will develop applications for Microsoft’s Speech Application Programming Interface and the companies say they will be sharing their respective technologies. The companies will form a joint venture in Europe to enable them to collect and analyze speech and linguistic data which is an important component in building future speech recognition products. Microsoft believes its agreement with Lernout & Hauspie will take speech recognition technology into the next generation. Microsoft European chairman Bernard Vergnes is joining the Lernout & Hauspie board of directors. Coinciding with the agreement, Microsoft has said it plans to invest $3m in a Belgium-based international technology center, the Flanders Language Valley Fund, which helps companies develop speech-based technologies and applications.