The Beacon, a success story after only one year
The innovation hub gets a powerful structure and adds additional office space
Last year, innovation hub The Beacon made international fame in the field of the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence applications, proving that technology can provide the answer to complex urban issues. Top technological talent from 22 nationalities is active there in 64 companies and research institutions, and during 106 events, a good 4,000 experts in digital innovation were reached at home and abroad. In order to respond even better to the rapid developments in the technological landscape, and to confirm their commitment, the founding partners have now joined forces in vzw The Beacon. This new structure allows them to further grow into a European reference point for the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence applications.
Partners the City of Antwerp, the Antwerp Port Authority, the University of Antwerp, Imec and Agoria founded the business and innovation hub at the end of September 2018 at the Sint-Pietersvliet. Recently, the developer of the Oosterweel connection, Lantis, also joined the ecosystem of partners. In addition, in 2020, the Lantis employees and the team of administrator Alexander D'Hooghe will move to new offices in The Beacon. Meanwhile, 90% of the available office space is filled with technological start-ups, scale-ups, large corporates and top researchers. Early next year, The Beacon will expand with an extra floor, allowing another 15 additional companies to move in.
Cross-pollination creates innovation
Promising Antwerp start-ups and internationally renowned companies sit side by side in The Beacon. The 'coffee machine effect', in which spontaneous encounters develop into smart 'future-proof' products, is bearing fruit. For example, a number of tangible applications have already been developed. Such as allowing an unmanned ship to sail; technology for transporting blood samples with a drone; analysis of anonymous mobility data to offer road users the fastest and safest route in real time; increasing safety in petrochemical companies via wireless sensors to control industrial valves; and the 'MensenMassaMeter’ (crowd density monitoring system), a project for crowd control.
Smart mobility is strongly represented; for example, the Mobilidata team, a project of the Flemish government in cooperation with Imec and other partners, operates from The Beacon. That wants to make a wide range of applications possible through smart technology in order to improve road safety and traffic flow and reduce CO2 emissions. Smart traffic lights are one of those applications, and an absolute first for Flanders.
The works on the Oosterweel connection also offer opportunities to innovative players. Intermodal route planners and customisable digital maps are already being developed in The Beacon, the impact management for planned roadworks and the effect on speed is examined, the cost and environmental impact of a chosen route is calculated.
Antwerp has the ambition to become an international reference in the field of the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. The Beacon is proof that after a year, we have been successful in preparing the way. And with result: 64 national and international companies joined The Beacon community. Top talent from 22 different nationalities is working on smart solutions for our economic engines. Moreover, a unique partnership has been realised for a dozen umbrella projects between the established companies and the wide network of The Beacon. The city remains convinced of this cross-pollination to further innovate Antwerp.
New structure for new opportunities
For the further development of The Beacon, the establishment of an independent and neutral organisation was important. To this end, along with the newly joined partner mobility company Lantis, the partners from the very beginning today signed the certificate of incorporation of The Beacon. With this important milestone, they reaffirm their ambitions: Positioning and further developing Antwerp and Flanders internationally into the spearhead for technological innovation.
Thanks to the non-profit structure (vzw), The Beacon will be able to respond faster and more effectively to opportunities and participate in national and international projects and innovation processes. The daily management will also be greatly simplified. With the founding of The Beacon vzw, the foundation has been laid for further growth and faith in this innovation hub. The Beacon proves that in terms of innovation, Antwerp can also compete internationally with other cities. The future starts here.
The six partners each delegate a director. For the new partner Lantis, this will become the CEO Luc Hellemans. The directors are complemented by three independent directors, including the CEO of the innovation hub Wim De Waele as executive chairman. ‘With the addition of Lantis as a partner, we now have a strong driving force for smart mobility, just as the Antwerp Port Authority is for smart ports and logistics. Such an economic basis is exceptional and will ensure that The Beacon becomes an innovation hub with products and businesses with high growth potential’, according to De Waele.