The European Commission named Antwerp as one of the six innovation capitals of Europe. The iCapital Award offers European recognition for cities that are committed to creating an innovation culture. In particular, the prize is aimed at cities that develop and offer a testing ground for experimenting with local societal challenges.
The Big Link
The Antwerp candidature describes “The Big Link”, a unique and innovative process that resulted in a supported future project for the existing Antwerp ring road R1. In recent years, the city and its citizens, the Port of Antwerp, citizen movements, Lantis, and other Flemish partners, together with the intendant for the Oosterweel Connection, have put meat on the bones of the plans.
With The Big Link, Antwerp and Flanders are building their international reputation as a great city and region to live, work, do business and visit. The Oosterweel Connection will make the Antwerp Ring Road surround the entire city, and it will be covered so traffic will be driving underground. This ensures better mobility for Flanders, and makes the city whole again with more green spaces and cleaner air.
However, The Big Link is more than just an infrastructure project. It is also the title of the administrative agreement for 2019-2024, which has the ambition to continue in the same direction and develop solutions by tapping talent and knowledge available locally.
While the works for the Oosterweel Connection are being carried out, as much local talent is put to work as possible. And as part of the development of the projects, the city also wants to improve quality by involving its extensive innovative ecosystem. The University of Antwerp and imec are housed with Lantis and the intendant in The Beacon, a project in which the city of Antwerp, Port of Antwerp, and Agoria are also structurally involved.
This is the place where startups, scaleups, corporations, and researchers come together to, among other things, give a digital innovation injection to The Big Link. This builds on the current efforts that make Antwerp one of the largest innovation testing grounds in Europe: involving the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence in The Beacon, ehealth in the BlueHealth Innovation Center, sustainability in Stadslab2050, smart city projects in the Smart Zone, and smart mobility in ‘Slim naar Antwerpen’ [Smart ways to Antwerp].
International networking was a logical result of my profession during my long career mainly in the Pharma and Medical World. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to start B19 Antwerp, a selective business club in this city, allowing me to get in touch with many visionary enablers, entrepreneurs, politicians, and other key opinion leaders. My objective now is to consolidate their experience into thought-provoking “innovate” books about our region.