> VOKA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ANTWERP

ONE HUNDRED PERCENT DEMAND DRIVEN

With over 1,500 locations spread across the entire globe, Chamber of Commerce is one of the most powerful brands in the world. It is a name that opens doors and connects entrepreneurs from all over the world. For over two centuries the Antwerp Chamber of Commerce and Industry holds a unique position as one of the few non-subsidised organisations within that network. With its 60 members of staff and 3000 plus active member companies, the Antwerp Chamber has grown to be one of the country’s largest multisectoral employer’s organisations. Since membership to our Chamber is non-compulsory this could only be achieved through constant questioning of our relevance and through adapting our service range to ever changing needs, as any other commercial company would. Hence our business model is 100% demand-driven, dictated by the needs of our entrepreneurs. With our start-up-coaching, growth accelerator and peer learning-networks we reach more than 250 companies every year. We connect them with successful peers and leading innovators. We inspire them with tech conferences. And we guide them in their digital transformation.

OUR STORY
It all starts with a plan! Under the guidance of McKinsey & Co, we created Roadmap 2025: an outline of how we work and what we fight for. McKinsey has been helping us identify our region’s Unique Selling Points (USPs) as well as its most important economic stakeholders, through an international benchmarking exercise. They also shed a light on any potential lack of knowledge or expertise as well as international trends that could pose a threat to the region.

10 years ago, fiscal matters and labour costs would have been at the top of the agenda. But today, our main concerns have shifted towards digitalisation, an ageing population and energy transition. The 30 plus project proposals and ideas that emanated from Roadmap 2025 are the result of a reunion of stakeholders in which solely CEOs, experts and academics from our broad network took part: a very select party of 100 people whose daily job is to manage international companies such as Johnson & Johnson or BASF, cultural organisations such as the Royal Ballet of Flanders, and renowned knowledge institutions such as IMEC or the University of Antwerp. Roadmap 2025 is, in this regard, the compass that guides the way we work; it is a strategic meditation instrument that helps us streamline the services we offer our members.

Over the years we have developed several programs for young and fast-growing entrepreneurs to participate in. These programs business model. In the following life stage, we offer a program for start-ups in which we guide them in their first steps in the market. We draw up the trajectory together with the participants to meet their current needs. However, we find that the following topics often recur in this phase: finding the right sales channels, pitching for stakeholders, drawing up a financial plan and branding.

Growing businesses
When a business is still young, but has already had a steady launch, they are able to join our program for scale-ups. In this program we put the emphasis on the first steps to growing a business. The participants are guided through a well-defined trajectory that is built up with the support of experts who share their experience about expanding their business. In addition to that program, which already focuses on growth, we have another one that focuses on the specific challenges associated with rapid growth. This growth accelerator consists of sessions that highlight topics such as sustainable business development, forming organizational structures and internationalization.

All of our programs incorporate learning on multiple levels. Depending on whether the fixed workshops of that program cover all of the individual needs of the participant, we have coaches assigned to them who are ready to provide additional individual guidance in between group sessions. These individual sessions become more intense for each advanced stage of the businesses’ life.

We strongly believe in peer-to-peer learning and sharing experiences. This is another way in which we guide entrepreneurs, by bringing them together so they can connect and have a network that they can turn to. As well as connecting young entrepreneurs with each other, we also connect them with experienced entrepreneurs. They can share their entrepreneurial experience with those who are just now entering the world of entrepreneurship. As such we provide our participants with multiple possible sparring partners with whom they can challenge their ideas.

By providing these different programs with multiple levels of guidance for young entrepreneurs, we want to give them the opportunity to develop their innovative ideas and technologies and introduce them to the Antwerp eco- system of entrepreneurship.

Innovation and digital transformation
Our city possesses great expertise on innovation and digital transformation and our goal is to locate where it is and define how to use it to the fullest. We aim to put companies that want to innovate or digitize in touch with the parties that can make this happen on different levels.

Through different trajectories and activities, the Chamber wants to guide organizations to taking their first steps towards digital transformation. This can be done on a small scale with experts guiding you individually or through events on a large scale where you are immersed in a bath of knowledge about the movements and trends in the industry and the possibilities of technology. A dedicated coordinator takes it upon themselves to accomplish this.

In our Roadmap 2025 we also emphasize our role as a liaison between knowledge institutions and corporate life. A few years ago, together with the University of Antwerp, we set up the collaboration platform Antwerp Smart Region Link. It is our mission to link academic researchers to more than 3000 companies, represented by the Chamber, in order to boost innovation in the region and beyond. We collaborate in jointly set priority domains by the University of Antwerp and the Roadmap 2025, such as blue chemistry, smart logistics and health innovation.

In line with these initiatives, we organize a number of large events each year to stimulate collaboration and trigger new ideas. The Tech Summit, hosted by the Antwerp Chamber of Commerce and Industry each year wants to put various topics linked to technology and innovation in the spotlight one by one. We give space to academia and experts to come and speak on these topics. In this way, we want to encourage companies to keep up with today’s technologies both to relieve themselves of tasks that can be automated as well as to protect themselves against the dangers posed by new innovations.

Last but not least we launched a new flagship event hosted by Antwerp SRL: the Antwerp Innovation Night. In the first edition, Antwerp.SRL gathered all the innovative players in the region for a fascinating evening with keynote Paul Stoffels (Vice Chair of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson). The evening was concluded with the presentation of the first AHA! award, a prize for innovative researchers and companies from the University of Antwerp and the Antwerp colleges on one side and the business community on the other side.

Testimonials
“Entrepreneurship is a process of constant learning and adaptions. We’ve found a perfect environment in Antwerp and its supporting ecosystem. The Chamber has guided us through stages like idea generation and getting a first client, to supporting HR challenges once the company started to grow. The power of their network had a great impact.” – Michiel Valee, Dockflow

“The start-up program established the foundation of entrepreneurship for me, which is why I recommend every company within Road21 to participate in the trajectories. For a company to successfully go from 0 to 1, participating is a must.” – Filip Smet, Road21

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE-ANTWERP

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