The Beacon: epicenter for IoT in Antwerp

Thursday 27 September marked the official opening of The Beacon, a new hotspot for all things IoT in Antwerp. The city of Antwerp, the University of Antwerp, the Port of Antwerp a mix of corporates and startups will collaborate here to create Internet of Things applications for the city, industry and logistics. Wim De Waele, the initiative’s brand new manager, explains what The Beacon stands for.

“First and foremost: The Beacon is not just a physical place. More than a coworking space or an incubator, we want The Beacon to become a substantive project, an epicenter for brains and resources to work together on IoT. We’ll work in three areas: smart cities, logistics and industry.”

Why join forces around IoT in Antwerp?

“There are no borders when it comes to digital innovation: we’re operating in a global market. In Flanders, being a small region given this scale, we must collaborate in order to position ourselves as a player to be reckoned with. Antwerp is the ideal headquarters: the city is both a hub of logistics and industry and the largest city in Flanders. That gives us the critical mass to do ground-breaking work.”

Could you elaborate on what you mean by ‘critical mass’?

“The Beacon is our starting point for building a growing international network. By gathering complementary players, innovation is able to snowball. In such a network, you share knowledge and in turn gain knowledge yourself. That’s how new ideas come into being. And that is ultimately our intention: we want to develop real, usable applications for the city, industry and logistics that are globally marketable.”

How will The Beacon realise this ambition?

“Our permanent residents are here from the start, but we’re looking to expand to a broader network. The University of Antwerp, imec, Agoria and a number of IoT companies and start-ups will be based in The Beacon. That will set off a strong dynamic in this building and hopefully lead to unexpected collaborations. In the coming weeks we will talk with all those involved and find ways to involve many more players, large and small, in The Beacon. We’ll attract outside parties through IoT-related workshops, matchmaking, pilot projects, etc. This way, we’ll put The Beacon on the map locally, but also internationally. By the way, there is still room for companies and start-ups who want to establish themselves in The Beacon. The third open call runs until October 12.”

What are your expectations for The Beacon?

“I see so much potential to realise this global ambition from Antwerp. Here, we have a thriving port and a strong industrial sector; a large and lively city; and research institutions that provide the brains for innovation. All these ingredients together are promising and enrich each other. Now is the right time to turn this potential into concrete projects with international appeal.”

In 2018, Antwerp had twice as many start-ups and scale-ups than in 2012. This is a remarkable finding: in 2018, these innovative companies raised up to four times more capital for their business growth than six years earlier. With this, the city of Antwerp demonstrates a clear ambition: within six years, the city wants to occupy a place in the European top 10 scale-up cities.
On 14 and 15 May international experts and entrepreneurs are coming together at FutureSummits in Antwerp to discuss the future of Artificial Intelligence. FutureSummits is a technology event organised by the leading research and innovation centre imec. “Artificial Intelligence will make our way of working and living more efficient for entrepreneurs, residents and cities”, explains John Baekelmans, Vice President of imec. It’s no coincidence that FutureSummits is taking place in Antwerp. imec believes Antwerp has a pioneering role to play in AI as the smart city of Flanders.
Antwerp is a booming hub for digital innovation. The city was invited at SXSW (South by Southwest), a prestigious conference about music, film and technology in March 2019 to present the role of Antwerp as startup city.