Antwerp: where imagination and ambition go hand in hand. This is precisely why the city of the Scheldt is the ideal place to innovate. For centuries, knowledge, capital and companies have come together here. Here you will find pioneers in mobility, health and safety. Around the world, Antwerp is helping to set the course for sustainable chemistry. In addition to being a world port and a well-known breeding ground for creativity, Antwerp is now also a European pole of growth for digital innovation.
Antwerp residents are digital entrepreneurs. The city is an international reference in artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). With the regularity of the clock, start-ups are born. These, in turn, grow into scale-ups. Some figures? In 2020 Antwerp had around 500 start-ups or scale-ups.
These innovative companies raised an enormous amount of capital in 2020: 200 million euros, an increase of 50% compared to 2018.
Antwerp is the second largest port in Europe. A port, that means different industries coming together. With numerous partners, the city works on innovation in typical port sectors such as industry, logistics and safety. Moreover, it also thinks about its citizens. Antwerp also innovates on mobility and health. With the website www.slimnaarantwerpen.be and the ‘Smart Highways’ project, it provides better transport for both citizens and entrepreneurs. Digital innovation is also helping to develop the major infrastructure project ‘The Major Connection’. And the BlueHealth Innovation Center (BHIC) is responsible for digital progress in the health sector.
The Beacon is Antwerp’s anchor point for digital innovation. Start-ups, scale-ups, researchers and technology companies: they are all housed in the 10-storey building on Sint-Pietersvliet. They are working on innovative cross-fertilisation in the fields of industry, logistics and smart cities.
The Beacon now has 37 residents, including the founders imec, Lantis and the University of Antwerp. Most of them are specialists in cutting-edge technology, especially in artificial intelligence (AI) or the Internet of Things (IoT). The Beacon community consists of more than 80 members, who are brought together in various ways to work on solutions for the city, port and industry of the future. That network – The Beacon Community – is still growing every day.
Antwerp stands for innovation. Digital, but also sustainable innovation. Of every 3 companies that focus on clean technology in Flanders, one is based in Antwerp. Above all, the city is a leader in sustainable chemistry. Local government, research institutes and large chemical companies work closely together on sustainable innovation. Their results are echoed worldwide.
Antwerp masters chemistry down to the finest atoms. Technical contractors, specialists in process optimisation, safety companies: everything is in place so that chemical companies can process their raw materials into finished products. And even then it doesn’t stop. Because the companies in the port of Antwerp have also built up years of expertise in waste processing. The sustainable waste management company Indaver grew from Antwerp company to European multinational. Moreover, Antwerp is a pioneer in hydrogen technology. And another fascinating project: the turbine of the Kallo lock extracts all its energy from the water. A pilot project that is followed closely by the whole world.
To the south of Antwerp lies the Blue Gate Antwerp, a site exclusively for eco-effective businesses. There you’ll find BlueChem, an incubator for start-ups working on sustainable innovations in chemistry. BlueChem also helps them to develop that technology on an industrial scale.
Through the BlueChem Kickstart Fund, the city of Antwerp also gives a grant to companies that rent lab space in BlueChem. The University of Antwerp is also present at Blue Gate Antwerp. Together with industrial partners, they set up BlueApp. They invest in applied research into sustainable (bio)chemical processes.
Creativity is in Antwerp’s DNA. Antwerp also enjoys a longstanding reputation as a design centre. From the most progressive artists and cultural entrepreneurs of the 16th century to the avant-garde fashion designers and other creative businesses of today. 1 in 10 Antwerp businesses have creativity as their raw material. The city is the ideal breeding ground for creative businesses to flourish and grow internationally.
Creative industry: when it comes to Antwerp, those two words fit together perfectly. The atmosphere of innovation stimulates creative companies to redesign their products. To reinvent themselves time and again. An attitude that benefits the entire economy. This creative vision is also reflected in Antwerp’s fashion and jewellery designers. With the Antwerp Six in your 80s, with every new fashion direction at the Antwerp Academy, and with the talented jewellery designers that Antwerp has to offer.
Antwerp as a matchmaker. The platform ANTWERP. POWERED BY CREATIVES (APBC) connects the creative industry with other sectors. APBC motivates creative entrepreneurs to innovate and grow. The same entrepreneurs you might come across on Us by Night. This is one of the many Antwerp networking events that link creativity to digital entrepreneurship. Us by Night attracts artists from all over the world. The city of Antwerp is investigating the possibilities of connecting talented fashion designers and companies in a fashion hub. With partners such as the Fashion Academy and MoMu, the Fashion Hub fits this city like a glove.
The world of media and entertainment is also looking more and more in the direction of Antwerp. A large number of media companies and their investors have their headquarters here. The city is developing the Mediaplein near the Central Station in order to boost its ambition even further.
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.