Digital innovation

Antwerp is brimming with innovative entrepreneurial talent and has become a real hotspot for startups and growth companies. For instance, the City has more than 350 startups, dozens of growth companies netting 500,000 euros in capital, many incubators, accelerators and other startup initiatives. The City supports such private initiatives and even gives startups a bit of a boost. With StartupVillage for example, where startups, large companies, mentors and investors meet together to discuss business, in the heart of the city. 

Eager to develop this ecosystem for digital innovation, the City of Antwerp offers funding, business locations, individual coaching and matchmaking to technological start-ups and creative entrepreneurs. The City acts in constant synergy with the private sector.

Join The Beacon

The centrepiece for digital innovation in Antwerp is The Beacon. The innovation hub focuses on strong Internet of Things and artificial intelligence products for the port, industry, and smart city (including smart mobility). Around 60 companies have now established themselves around the University of Antwerp and the knowledge institute imec. Briefly said, at The Beacon companies and institutes build knowledge, test it locally and then grow.

Download The Beacon brochure (.pdf)




available space in StartupVillage



Belgium is the absolute leader in the shift to IPv6, the new internet protocol with which computers, tablets and smartphones link up with one another and with the internet. More than 37% of internet traffic in Belgium already runs via IPv6.

Incubation and acceleration

The city is home to several incubators, accelerators and other startup initiatives: Start it @kbc, Telenet Kickstart, imec.iStart, The CoFoundry, Netwerk Ondernemen, VOKA Bryo, De Winkelhaak, The Birdhouse, Idealabs, LOGIN,  and soon also De Stookplaats by Duval Union. Brand new entrepreneurs can approach these initiatives to give shape to their ideas, mould them into a marketable product and establish their own startup.

In addition, the City is also involved in the operation of BlueHealth Antwerp and BlueChem incubators.

Testing and commercialization

In addition to the start and incubation stage, Antwerp makes sure that startups can test and bring their products to market.

City of Things

The City of Antwerp, Flanders and imec have joined forces to turn Antwerp into a Living Lab. The whole city has become a real-life experimenting ground where companies, researchers and people are testing out smart technologies together.

An intricate network of smart sensors and wireless gateways has been incorporated into structures all over Antwerp under the City of Things project.  The data collected in that way will enable enterprises and residents to develop and test innovative applications. These smart applications will make the city more digital, more mobile, more sustainable and safer. 

Read more

Smart city

City of Things is important on two levels: for startups, which are able to optimize their products and services before they bring them to market, and for Antwerp residents, whose urban environment is improved. This fits in with Antwerp’s ambition to become a true smart city: a city which tackles urban challenges in a smart way, in collaboration with citizens and enterprises. The Internet of Things and real-time open data play a key role in this respect. The City is focusing on five priorities: smart mobility, smart security, smart materials and energy management, smart management and smart citizens. 

With City of Things, Antwerp is Europe’s largest Living Lab where Internet of Things technologies can be tested. This definitely puts the City on the map as the reference for new smart city applications.

Open data

Antwerp aims to evolve into a ‘smart city’, which provides solutions to urban challenges in areas such as mobility, healthcare and security. But, without open data, a city’s ambition to become a true smart city cannot become a reality. Especially in the context of projects such as Apps from Antwerp and City of Things, which provide startups with a unique open test environment, it is important for entrepreneurs to be able to use real-time open data. 

The City is also strongly committed to a new digital strategy. In cooperation with Digipolis, the data collected and recorded in the city is disclosed in accordance with the legislation on privacy. Anyone can freely use this data to develop, test and optimize innovative digital products and services.

Buy from Startups

What better way for a city to support startups than by purchasing their products or services? With ‘Buy from startups’, the City of Antwerp and IT partner Digipolis are giving the local economy and startups a boost. 

Peter Crombecq, CEO of Digipolis, is wildly enthusiastic about the initial results. “Until recently, we were working mainly with larger companies in the ICT world. Before we bought a product, whether software, an app or a complete platform, we would draft tender documents. Usually, the contract was awarded to the same major suppliers. Now, our procurement process is totally different. Instead of the traditional specifications, we organise challenges and pitch sessions. That means we can look for flexible startups with a fresh look on things.”

SELECT for Cities

The City and Digipolis have also joined forces with Helsinki and Copenhagen for the SELECT for Cities project funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. European companies competing under SELECT for Cities can hope to get grants to develop an open, data-driven platform to enable large-scale testing and linking of Internet-of-Things applications. This platform further strengthens the bonds between citizens, companies and public authorities.

Configured as a competition, SELECT for Cities is based on a three-phase tender process: concept, prototype and larger-scale living lab. Participants will have to get through the selection to develop their solution. The winning platform will be rolled out in all three smart cities: Antwerp, Helsinki and Copenhagen.

Growth and internationalization



The City of Antwerp firmly believes startups should get enough oxygen to grow and internationalize. That’s why it decided to set up StartupVillage: an innovative hub where startups can rent affordable office space in the centre of the city, near major incubators, accelerators and research institutions. There, startups get the necessary breathing space to expand their business and later internationalize. 
Startups meet their clients and investors, or can organise their own events in De Serre (i.e. “the greenhouse”), the innovative business and event lounge of StartupVillage.

Looking for a location for your startup?

StartupVillage is currently full. But don’t panic, The City of Antwerp is doing all it can to find a second location. If you are interested, you can click on this link to ask to be kept informed. In the meantime, Antwerp has an extensive range of interesting locations for your startup. Contact Investdesk for some assistance in this respect. 

Search here for an ideal business location in the city  


You’ve got international ambitions? The City of Antwerp offers financial support to startups planning to participate in the international programme of or Flanders Cleantech Association. This is the ideal opportunity to meet foreign investors and prospects. 


Thanks to a unique partnership between the City of Antwerp and B-DNA, a Belgian association of architects, designers and engineers, five Antwerp startups are able use offices in Singapore for 20 days a year at no cost. And this for a period of 3 years. 
For the startups, this is the ideal way to explore the Southeast Asian market from Singapore.

Strong Digital Economy

Belgium is a strong performer and front-runner in creating a digital economy and society. We rank fifth (before the UK, Germany and France) in a survey among EU member states and attain top marks in:

  • Quality of broadband connectivity
  • Digital proficiency of population
  • Use of internet by citizens
  • Integration of digital technology by businesses
  • Digital public services
Source: Digital Economy and Society Index (2016)


14.2 Mbps

Average speed internet connection


of internet connections has a speed > 10 Mbps

Mobile speed

The average mobile connection speed is 10.9 Mbps


The amount of households with broadband internet

From 22-24 October, BlueHealth Innovation Center organizes Hack4Health: a healthcare hackathon to rethink our current healthcare practice from the ground up. is where HR tech solutions, innovations and insights come together with the aim to take a leap forward to HR tech integration. A place where all relevant businesses meet and showcase. Get inspired, get connected and be empowered.
Antwerp acts as a living laboratory for innovative digital and technological applications, products and services.
FDI Intelligence, the Financial Times magazine, noticed Antwerp as a European hub for digital innovation.