The Antwerp Model will be our flagship in the world
Shaping and attracting new talent is deeply ingrained in imec's DNA thanks to its 3,000 researchers who boast 73 nationalities. "Imec is a global leader in the field of nanotechnology: our smart chips are two to three generations ahead of what's already on the market," says John Baekelmans, managing director and vice president of imec the Netherlands and advisor of the Antwerp City Council. "Chip makers such as Intel or Samsung are basing their products on our research. We also have our own software: everything around big data, analytics, privacy, … which allows us to work on very concrete solutions for mobility, safety or health. That's why we're so honoured to have been asked by the Flemish government as technology partner. We are supporting Smart Flanders by transforming Antwerp into a Living Lab for the City of Things - a testing ground for the entire Flemish region. The city of Antwerp is the ideal testing ground: it's large and diverse enough, with a wide range of subjects for which solutions are needed. There is also the combination with the Antwerp port, where we are now laying the foundations for a Harbor of Things."
Quite a few Smart Cities are being developed around the world. What makes Antwerp's approach different and what is its added value?
JOHN BAEKELMANS: "The involvement of the residents! We are building a smart city based on questions that the residents of Antwerp have provided themselves. Our Living Lab has a bottom-up approach that actively involves residents and allows them to decide in our co-creation approach. Smart bicycle paths are a great example: we are realising them based on specific questions with regards to traffic flow, air quality, traffic density, quality of the road surface, … all these parameters are collected through a test group who traverse the city with a sensor on their bikes."
How quickly or slowly does technology develop through the Living Lab approach?
JOHN BAEKELMANS: "By the end of 2017, a year after launch, we have started 10 projects already. Imec, in collaboration with IT partner Digipolis, has helped to develop the infrastructure to test and validate promising new solutions. Our goal is to have all Flemish cities rolling out relevant smart city solutions based on the successful validation of our Antwerp based innovations by 2020."
The next step from the Smart City is the Capital of Things: the total integration of IoT based solutions that will define the success of the city of the future.
JOHN BAEKELMANS: “An ambitious and internationally differentiating ecosystem around IoT is being built in Antwerp. A Capital of Things goes much further than a City of Things and encompasses more than 'what happens in the city'. It's about complementary partners who provide solutions together. A finely meshed innovation network that creates value through coherence between education, research, living labs, incubation / acceleration, digital and industrial growth companies, venture capital, corporates and international brands. Investing in new courses, such as the postgraduate IoT, to better align talent with tomorrow's labour market fits into this perfectly. Antwerp is firmly positioning itself on the global map with this integrated approach.”
Can imec easily export or share the Smart Cities research model?
JOHN BAEKELMANS: "Thanks to our global offices, we are close to our customers everywhere - semiconductor companies in Taiwan, Japan and Silicon Valley, companies like Panasonic, Qualcomm and Google – all important partners in the context of our research into the Internet of Things. The model we roll out in Antwerp and the best practices we acquire here will become our flagship. Antwerp doesn't just want to be a smart city, but also wants to be the best city for business. International start-ups or researchers with their own technology who want to participate in the Living Lab research model are welcomed with open arms. Any PhD or intern can collaborate in a real-life IoT project. Partners can co-create and integrate their solutions into our testing grounds to ultimately make Flanders one of the smartest regions in the world - and be ready to introduce that proven solution to the global market. "