"Discovery and leadership are in Antwerp's DNA"
Antwerp’s ability to build a circular and a digital economy is thanks to a diversified industry, active investments and support from a progressive city government and a dynamic population. But there is also a historic component that provides Antwerp with a unique natural advantage.
PROF. GREG CLARK “Antwerp has three important strengths on which to build its circular economy,” says Prof Greg Clark.
“Firstly, the presence of a world class port that has the ambition to create a zerowaste economy with cleantech, sustainable development and chemical processing. Processing waste and producing energy at the same time is the core. There’s also a scale of local purchasing power from the oil and petrochemical cluster that drives and localises this innovation. Customer, supplier and innovator are all present in Antwerp, which means you have all the building blocks
for a true transformation.
Secondly, Antwerp has both a strong digital industry and a growing creative sector, with a solid base of entrepreneurs who are excited about the circular economy and actively want to innovate. A conscious and forwardthinking population is highly supportive of new ways of managing energy, lighting, recycling and more. The entrepreneurial class
in Antwerp has the right mindset.
Thirdly, an important cycle of infrastructure investments is being made in Antwerp. I’m thinking of the Deurganckdock, the new freight lines and the extension of the tram network. This cycle of investments offers a unique window of opportunity for the circular economy to take hold and flourish in Antwerp.
Then there is the city council which is actively committing to the transition to a circular economy. The zero-waste approach has found solid support here with cleantech and sustainable development high on the agenda.”
What is it that allows Antwerp to differentiate itself in the digital economy?
PROF. GREG CLARK “The strong demographic curve, with increasing numbers of highly educated youngsters, offers an outstanding skills base. Add to that a high level of citizen satisfaction thanks to the quality of life within the city. Urban services with smart systems, artificial intelligence and machine learning will further increase this and are the basis of a well-managed ‘future city’ with a good governance approach. But the most important thing is that design and creativity are deeply ingrained in Antwerp’s historic DNA. The city is a testing ground for creative expressions such as audio-visual screen industries, smart applications and digital incubators as it can count on public private partnerships and support from two sides. The number of small companies that create jobs also gives the digital economy a boost. Link all this with demographics and a smart city strategy and you have a fertile digital feeding ground.”
What are the most effective IoT applications for urban development? Is Antwerp catching up or setting a trend?
PROF. GREG CLARK “Instead let’s talk about The Internet of Cities (IoC). We are heading towards a future where everything interacts. Flood defences interact with weather forecast systems, traffic lights interact with traffic flows or emergency services, buildings talk to one another to counteract energy shortages, schools can talk to households about what time the kids will be coming home. The Internet of Cities is not far away. It means interaction of intelligence information. Antwerp is currently looking to develop the IoC with the private sector and the scientific community. This should not happen randomly but must be based on the specific DNA of the city. It’s why Antwerp’s identity is important when aligning the IoC with the future, in creating an attractive destiny.”
Where do you think Antwerp can make a difference on a European and global scale?
PROF. GREG CLARK "Antwerp has historically been a city that is open to the world, technologically innovative, a gateway to a continent, as well as specialising in high value objects such as art and diamonds. It’s interested, open,
smart and clean, beautiful and precious. That’s a unique mix a proposition can be built on. When I first visited Antwerp
25 years ago I had a great time with local friends. We had a wonderful time eating the most delicious food. Antwerp has a local feel and a global reach. There's something about that combination in customs and culture that appealed – and still is highly appealing to me.”