The ability to network with major international companies is a huge benefit.

© Marco Mertens

Pauline Van Ostaeyen
Situated in the heart of Antwerp's historic city centre, adjacent to the Scheldt River, lies The Beacon—a dynamic consortium comprising 100 enterprises united by their commitment to cutting-edge digital technology. Founded in December 2019, this independent non-profit initiative emerged through the collaborative efforts of six prominent entities: the City of Antwerp, the Port of Antwerp, Lantis, University of Antwerp, Agoria, and Imec. We gather the insights of a valued member of The Beacon, shedding light on their perspective and contributions to this transformative ecosystem.

The Beacon has evolved into a thriving community of visionary digital enterprises, all driven by the common goal of tackling the intricate challenges confronting urban environments, ports, and industries. Their shared ambition revolves around the development of a hub that nurtures innovation within the collective, fosters closer ties with tech firms, and establishes a prominent physical presence in Antwerp. For The Beacon, community is important, which is one of the reasons why it is making such a difference in the area of digital innovation.  

The 100 active members of The Beacon are engaged in continuous digital innovation, supported by the community who is attentive to their needs. More than just a building with a view over the Scheldt, The Beacon organises events and manages office space, serving as a hub for our communities, a place where like-minded people can meet and discuss all sorts of topics, and rent meeting rooms.  

One of its members is Dockflow, a digital logistics enablement platform. Co-founder Pauline Van Ostaeyen: “The ability to network with major international companies in such an easy and approachable way is a huge benefit for us, whether it’s multinationals like Orange or startups and scale-ups who find themselves at a similar life stage. We can learn a lot from each other. The love for technology connects us.” 

The Beacon innovates not by serving up tired, well-worn recipes; not by simply acting as a communicator of information, but by taking a demand-driven approach, always responding to the needs of the community. Pauline Van Ostaeyen: “The same goes for software development. It’s of great importance to listen and co-operate with your users. There must be an added value for the user.” 

Antwerp, the obvious choice 

Dockflow, with its tagline 'Making maritime forwarders' lives better, knows about online order tracking systems. The Dockflow software platform enables better and more accurate monitoring of seagoing containers. “Sometimes it goes well and sometimes not”, says Pauline Van Ostaeyen. “Can you imagine placing 100 orders a day and tracking all of them? That’s a hell of a job. That’s why we came up with a solution. With our platform, forwarders get a very clear idea of the location of their containers.” 

Antwerp with its international seems like an obvious choice, but we would like to let this enthusiastic member of the Beacon community explain why it chose the city. Pauline Van Ostaeyen: “Antwerp is home to the second biggest petrochemical cluster in the world, which is an incredible market for us. Antwerp’s position in the supply chain is as good as it gets globally. Our location is simply perfect.” The proximity of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges to Dockflow and The Beacon works like a flywheel. The industry attracts startups and new innovations, which makes the industry grow. They can then reinvest in new developments. The reason why most startups that fail do so is because it costs more to sell their products than they are able to make from the sale. However, Antwerp has a big market, which is why startups from all over the country come to The Beacon.   

Since The Beacon was founded, it has focused mainly on Flanders, but the hub is now ready to look further afield. An example is Dashdoc, a French company that has developed a transportation management system. There is a lot of international interest in The Beacon concept. Pauline Van Ostaeyen: “In The Beacon we speak English. A lot of international founders and employees work here. As an international company, you couldn’t be located in a better place, I think. In the Beacon you spontaneously meet people who are busy working on similar things. It’s very easy to find advice here, which is quite important for people who don’t know Belgium very well.” 

You could say that The Beacon offers a perfect blend of northern European efficiency and southern European vibrancy. While things are certainly progressing well here, the human side has not been forgotten. And that seems like a winning formula. 

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