Antwerp is brimming with innovative entrepreneurial talent and has become a real hotspot for startups and growth companies. For instance, the City has more than 500 startups, dozens of growth companies netting 500,000 euros in capital, many incubators, accelerators and other startup initiatives. The City supports such private initiatives and even gives startups a bit of a boost. With Dunden for example, where startups, large companies, mentors and investors meet together to discuss business, in the heart of the city. 

Eager to develop this ecosystem for digital innovation, the City of Antwerp offers funding, business locations, individual coaching and matchmaking to technological start-ups and creative entrepreneurs. The City acts in constant synergy with the private sector.

The Beacon: join the community

The Beacon brings together companies working on digital innovation. Today, it is a community of more than 100 large and small companies and research institutions. The Beacon fosters collaboration between these companies by providing 9.300m² meeting and working space and by organizing events, activities, matchmaking and by facilitating joint innovation projects. The result is a fertile setting in which tech pioneers are inspired, where they can learn from each other and where collaboration is heavily stimulated.

The Beacon is an independent organization, founded by Agoria, Imec, Lantis, Port of Antwerp-Bruges, City of Antwerp and University of Antwerp. 

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Incubation and acceleration

The city is home to several incubators, accelerators and other startup initiatives: Start it @kbc, The Circular Kickstart, APBC, Plug & Play, imec.iStart, The CoFoundry, Netwerk Ondernemen, VOKA Bryo, De Winkelhaak, The Birdhouse, Idealabs and De Stookplaats by Duval Union. Brand new entrepreneurs can approach these initiatives to give shape to their ideas, mould them into a marketable product and establish their own startup.

In addition, the City is also involved in the operation of BlueHealth Innovation Antwerp and BlueChem incubators.

Testing and commercialization

In addition to the start and incubation stage, Antwerp makes sure that startups can test and bring their products to market.

City of Things

The City of Antwerp, Flanders and imec have joined forces to turn Antwerp into a Living Lab. The whole city has become a real-life experimenting ground where companies, researchers and people are testing out smart technologies together.

An intricate network of smart sensors and wireless gateways has been incorporated into structures all over Antwerp under the City of Things project.  The data collected in that way will enable enterprises and residents to develop and test innovative applications. These smart applications will make the city more digital, more mobile, more sustainable and safer. 

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Smart city

City of Things is important on two levels: for startups, which are able to optimize their products and services before they bring them to market, and for Antwerp residents, whose urban environment is improved. This fits in with Antwerp’s ambition to become a true smart city: a city which tackles urban challenges in a smart way, in collaboration with citizens and enterprises. The Internet of Things and real-time open data play a key role in this respect. The City is focusing on five priorities: smart mobility, smart security, smart materials and energy management, smart management and smart citizens. 

With City of Things, Antwerp is Europe’s largest Living Lab where Internet of Things technologies can be tested. This definitely puts the City on the map as the reference for new smart city applications.

Open data

Antwerp aims to evolve into a ‘smart city’, which provides solutions to urban challenges in areas such as mobility, healthcare and security. But, without open data, a city’s ambition to become a true smart city cannot become a reality. Especially in the context of projects such as Apps from Antwerp and City of Things, which provide startups with a unique open test environment, it is important for entrepreneurs to be able to use real-time open data. 

The City is also strongly committed to a new digital strategy. In cooperation with Digipolis, the data collected and recorded in the city is disclosed in accordance with the legislation on privacy. Anyone can freely use this data to develop, test and optimize innovative digital products and services.

Buy from Startups

What better way for a city to support startups than by purchasing their products or services? With ‘Buy from startups’, the City of Antwerp and IT partner Digipolis are giving the local economy and startups a boost. 

Peter Crombecq, CEO of Digipolis, is wildly enthusiastic about the initial results. “Until recently, we were working mainly with larger companies in the ICT world. Before we bought a product, whether software, an app or a complete platform, we would draft tender documents. Usually, the contract was awarded to the same major suppliers. Now, our procurement process is totally different. Instead of the traditional specifications, we organise challenges and pitch sessions. That means we can look for flexible startups with a fresh look on things.”

SELECT for Cities

The City and Digipolis have also joined forces with Helsinki and Copenhagen for the SELECT for Cities project funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. European companies competing under SELECT for Cities can hope to get grants to develop an open, data-driven platform to enable large-scale testing and linking of Internet-of-Things applications. This platform further strengthens the bonds between citizens, companies and public authorities.

Configured as a competition, SELECT for Cities is based on a three-phase tender process: concept, prototype and larger-scale living lab. Participants will have to get through the selection to develop their solution. The winning platform will be rolled out in all three smart cities: Antwerp, Helsinki and Copenhagen.

Growth and internationalization



Dunden is an innovation hub where start-ups and scale-ups have every opportunity to start, grow and internationalize. Next to offering affordable office space, Dunden also focuses on building a strong community by organizing events and workshops. Thanks to its location, close to research institutions, incubators and investors, Dunden is the epicenter of Antwerp’s start-up and scale-up landscape.

Looking for a location for your startup?

Antwerp has an extensive range of interesting locations for your startup. Contact Investdesk for some assistance in this respect. 

Search here for an ideal business location in the city  


You’ve got international ambitions? The City of Antwerp offers financial support to startups planning to participate in the international programme of or Flanders Cleantech Association. This is the ideal opportunity to meet foreign investors and prospects. 

Supported innovation projects in diamond sector

Antwerp’s diamond companies have put the city on the world map as a diamond capital. A status that Antwerp wants to maintain and strengthen. That is why the city launched the five-year innovation programme “Antwerp Diamond Innovation Opportunities” in 2020.
In 2022, together with the agency Verhaert | Masters in Innovation the city supervised 4 innovative projects.

Support for reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions

Hysopt is a partner of “Samen Klimaatactief”, the initiative of the City of Antwerp to inspire and support entrepreneurs to undertake carbon-neutral activities together. Samen Klimaatactief supports the business world with a public website for each business segment.
By contacting Jan Jaeken, the head of Samen Klimaatactief, entrepreneurs are already getting their first free guiding advice on the energy-saving measures they can take. Companies also receive a quick and objective overview of providers that offer concrete solutions. Hysopt is one of them.

Antwerp: popular testbed for digital innovation and entrepreneurship

FDI Intelligence, the Financial Times magazine, noticed Antwerp as a European hub for digital innovation. Thanks to projects such as The Beacon, the Antwerp smartzone, TakeOffAntwerp, StartupVillage and more, our city possesses many valuable assets. Because of the multilingual and international talent, Antwerp is in a unique position to develop itself further in this field. “With organisations across Antwerp committed to digital innovation that can ensure it is a liveable, sustainable and smart city, together with the requisite start-up infrastructure and a strong talent pool, the city’s reputation for innovation seems to be in safe hands,” fDi concludes in their article. Read their full report on Antwerp’s valuable assets and the strong growth of our ecosystem for digital innovation in the article below.