Cluster development investigated during TCI 2019 Conference in Antwerp
Antwerp was the host city for the TCI Network Global Conference, the world’s largest cluster conference. More than 400 visitors got to know the city as a metropolis on a human scale during the three-day conference. During the fully booked “Antwerp Smart City Tour” with a visit at The Beacon, the participants discovered the smart society present in Antwerp.
Once a year business leaders, academics and representatives from various governments share their knowledge about cluster policies. Antwerp, as a host, could showcase expertise in cluster development.
In Antwerp, growing and vibrant ecosystems for innovation are present. Participants at the congress became acquainted with three innovation clusters, established in Antwerp. These clusters are: digital innovation (including cooperation between IoT and AI), sustainable chemistry and product design.
For digital innovation, the main location in Antwerp is the innovation hub The Beacon. Applying innovative technologies related to the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make cities and societies smarter: that is the mission of The Beacon in Antwerp. General manager of The Beacon, Wim De Waele, was invited as one of the 55 (inter)national speakers on TCI. He inspired the visitors with the story of The Beacon, as a good practice in cluster development: “We help start-ups grow by, for example, connecting them with potential customers and partners as well as research opportunities and capital at home and abroad”. Briefly said, this is the ‘Yes, together we can’ attitude at The Beacon:
- Together we can help companies grow – we spot opportunities and link them with research, talent and capital;
- Together we can create a smart society of the future – economically healthy, sustainable and livable;
- Together we can develop a district of smart technologies – by bringing together all initiatives related to AI and IoT.”
During the smart city cluster tour from the conference, 50 participants were introduced into the main companies present at The Beacon. As a nice extra, the city of Antwerp gave them the opportunity to visit Antwerp by a 360° VR experience.
“Antwerp is a medium-sized European city, but also an international port with an extensive industrial cluster surrounding it and an oversaturated traffic junction. In other words: diverse urban challenges collide here. We want to use this complex environment as a testing ground for new technological solutions that could also help other cities. What we do want is to build knowledge, test it locally, and then grow.” confirms Mr. De Waele.
The Beacon resides in the former toll house of the port city, along the river the Scheldt. About half of its 50 members have offices in the building. The founding partners of the innovation hub are the City of Antwerp, the Antwerp mobility company, the Port Authority, the University of Antwerp, knowledge institute imec and technology federation Agoria. All these partners collaborate and therefore Antwerp can be considered as a city of opportunities.