© Drone in Port of Antwerp Bruges

Drone in Port of Antwerp Bruges

Antwerp embraces innovation

"Innovation is not a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity," proclaims Peter Hinssen, the renowned Flemish innovation expert. In today's rapidly evolving world, the ability to adapt and embrace innovation is crucial for success and growth. Discover why Antwerp could be your business accelerator.

It’s no coincidence that the city of Antwerp has become a thriving hub for innovation, fostering a vibrant environment where ground-breaking ideas flourish. The driving force behind Antwerp's innovation ecosystem lies in its unique blend of environment and culture. The city and its port (the second biggest in Europe) serve as a testing ground, a living lab, where ideas are nurtured, tested, and refined. This experimental dynamic enables Antwerp to create an atmosphere conducive to innovation; an atmosphere that encapsulates the spirit, mood, and ambiance necessary for innovation to thrive. Antwerp offers an ideal environment for individuals and organisations to push the boundaries of innovation. Let’s start exploring! 

Thanks to our system, the barges can navigate semi-autonomously.

Louis-Robert Cool - Seafar

Your perfect launchpad 

Antwerp is the ideal launchpad for innovative companies in Europe. With its culture open to change, a strong industrial base and a major port, a solid consumer base and major ambitions, the city is developing dynamic ecosystems, bringing together small and large companies, knowledge institutions, government, venture capital, talent, and innovation hubs. The urge to excel, a nose for opportunities and an impressive enthusiasm make Antwerp the ideal breeding ground for creative ideas and innovation. Antwerp has always been a city with an open view on the world; a city where experimenting is encouraged. Innovation is ingrained in the city’s DNA. 

 An innovation powerhouse 

The numbers speak for themselves. When it comes to international corporate networks and inventiveness, Antwerp ranks 188th out of 500 cities worldwide in the Innovation Cities Index 2018, which measures performance in terms of innovation potential. According to the European Innovation Scoreboard 2022, Belgium is one of Europe’s top five innovators, after Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. In the latest Startup Genome report, Antwerp is described as an “early globalisation ecosystem”, with a value of €3.4 billion (Dealroom). That`s an increase of 77% in the last five years! According to Dealroom, Antwerp is currently home to 762 startups, two thirds of them founded in the last ten years. It also boasts 12 incubators/accelerators, 4 innovation hubs, 100+ investors and more than 11,000 creative entrepreneurs. 


Digital innovation, circularity and health 

Antwerp has a particularly strong track record in terms of innovation and trade. The city’s historical urge to innovate has made Antwerp a gateway to one of the world’s most prosperous regions. Antwerp is now home to highly-innovative businesses, over 170 nationalities and a thriving cultural scene. The city is now stepping up its game, with digital innovation, circularity and health forming the pillars of its future economy. 

IoT and AI for ports and industry 

Many industrial companies are entering a new era with IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) applications. Antwerp is becoming the leading Belgian hotspot in these areas. At The Beacon, a business and innovation hub, the city collaborates with the University of Antwerp, Port of Antwerp-Bruges, imec (the world-leading research and innovation hub in nano electronics and digital technologies), the technology federation Agoria, and Lantis. It’s a community of more than 100 companies and research institutions that collaborate in developing new digital solutions for ports, cities and industry. It connects multinational IT corporations, local startups and a variety of high-potential digital companies. There’s also Dunden, Antwerp’s flagship eHealth startup hub. Located in an historic building in the centre of the city, young startups, large companies, mentors and investors connect to kindle economic expansion both locally and abroad.  

We have a lot of collaborations. For example, for the IoT innovation we made contacts with some startups in the IoT innovation hub The Beacon. That was very instructive. We want to take additional steps in this regard. The Antwerp ecosystem can be a big help in our innovation drive.

Wouter Ceulemans - President airtec division at Atlas Copco

A sound digital innovation strategy  

Antwerp boasts pioneering entrepreneurs who are beating climate change, building the port of the future, achieving a sustainable transition for the chemical cluster, and making Antwerp a healthier city. In all of these priorities, digital innovation is key. The port of the future will be digital (and sustainable). eHealth will play a part in the route to a healthier city. Digital solutions will help the chemical cluster to achieve its low carbon goals. The digital platform ‘Smart ways to Antwerp’ provides a solid base for innovative mobility solutions which will lead to a better modal shift.

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innovation leaders

after Sweden, Finland, Denmark and The Netherlands

in Europe for R&D

spending relative to GPD

most innovative economy around the globe

Source: 2021 Bloomberg Innovation Index

for innovation linkages

SME's in Flanders have great in-house innovation capacities and excel in setting up effective joint projects.
Source: 2022 European Innovation Scoreboard
3rd best

innovative system in the world

Source: 2020 ZEW Innovation indikator

A thriving startup ecosystem 

Thanks to these initiatives, Antwerp has become one of the most attractive cities for innovative international startups and scale-ups. Famous creative minds from all over the world have settled in the city, often after completing one of the unique and internationally-focused educational courses on offer. Antwerp’s recipe for success? A unique blend of creative entrepreneurs, a highly-trained workforce and a consumer base that includes both early adopters and the tech-savvy. 

Is Antwerp the ideal launchpad for innovative companies in Europe? We certainly think so, but we’re happy to let you answer the question. Better yet, come see for yourself!