Corona crisis speeds up business innovation

The city of Antwerp invests € 1 million in smart solutions

From a unique shop concept on the Meir, technologically equipped bracelets for cultural or sporting events to an online monitoring system for discharged hospital patients: the city of Antwerp is giving 7 companies in total 1 million euro combined to turn their smart solutions into useful products. These innovative entrepreneurs were selected from over 100 entries.

Open call for innovative solutions

The city of Antwerp is focusing more than ever to make its economy future proof. The Corona crisis urges companies to be more flexible and develop new insights. Luckily, the city of Antwerp supports its entrepreneurs: last summer it launched an open call to all businesses. 110 candidates were eager to show their smart solutions to positively impact our changing society and economy.

1 million euro for project development

7 entrepreneurs were selected by the jury and to achieve their innovation, they each received from € 25,000 to € 200,000, depending on their proposal. This total budget of € 1 million is provided by the urban compensation fund for the Corona crisis, which the city uses to assist companies. In addition to the 7 winners, an 8th project will receive financial support by the economy programme from the city of Antwerp.

7 selections

The jury, consisting of experts from the city of Antwerp, BlueHealth Innovation Center, Digipolis, The Beacon and Vlaanderen Circulair, chose the following digital and durable solutions:

1 Unique shop concept on de Meir
The Future of shopping is Retailhub’s unique shopping experience in Antwerp’s Stadsfeestzaal. Entrepreneurs can test cutting-edge digital applications such as computer vision, virtual reality, biometry and robotisation in Stores of the future. Smart data capture collects feedback from the shop visitors, which provides insightful feedback for the retailer and, with further expansion, the sector. Successful concepts may then be deployed in other stores in Antwerp and even grow further (inter)nationally.
Contact: Retailhub | Jorg Snoeck | | 0475 460 384

2 Makerspace in The Beacon
IO Lab will set up a makerspace in Antwerp’s innovation hub The Beacon. Here, companies, organisations, knowledge institutions and civilians will meet and cooperate on smart city solutions. This project strengthens the local manufacturing industry by offering innovative digital production techniques to companies and artists, such as laser cutting, milling machines and 3D printers. Like this, IO Lab fills the void in The Beacon and completes its whole idea where businesses can test proof of concepts and participate in design sprints.
ontact: IO Lab bv | Anthony Liekens | | 0495 389 439

3 Machine for the production of mouth mask materials
Talenco will develop an innovative machine to produce filter materials for high-end health care mouth masks. The company wants to develop these in a customised assembly line and distribute them to Belgian producers of mouth masks. Moreover, Talenco will sell their machine to other countries, in order to boost local production.
Contact: Talenco – Topolina BVBA | Jens Hendrickx | | +32 3 369 43 00

4 Researching low-cost contact tracing bracelet for the event sector
Rombit already scored on the international market with bracelets that guaranteed social distancing. The company is now researching another technology to develop low-cost bracelets, which then can be used in large, dense masses to enable contact tracing.
Contact: Rombit NV | Charlotte Sterkens |

5 Online monitoring to follow-up hospital patients at home
Remote medical surveillance is the project Byteflies is working on. This Antwerp scale-up develops sensor technology for the health care sector. Like this, Covid-19 patients can leave the hospital more quickly, whilst staying under remote medical supervision. For their telemonitoring, Byteflies is developing a kit containing basic equipment to measure breathing, temperature, oxygen saturation and heart rate. As a result, about six hundred patients from Antwerp hospitals will be able to be followed up at home, which reduces the pressure on hospital staff. Initially aimed at Covid-19 patients, this innovation can be extended to monitoring other chronically ill patients. Moreover, Byteflies will enter the export market with their sensor technology.
Contact: Byteflies | Hans Danneels | | 0460 948 349

6 Unique sustainable cleaning product
YOKUU is a revolutionary circular cleaning product by the Antwerp startup Probibel. In this detergent, benign microbes will dissolve stubborn dirt and bad microbes. As a consumer, you must buy the pearls -the active product- separately, and invest in the accompanying bottle once. Like this, the usage of water, plastic and transport is kept limited. Probibel will further refine the product development of this circular concept into a complete product line.
Contact: Probibel | Joris Jansen | | 0472 659 806

7 Innovate software for cheaper sorting and better recycling
‘PolyPerception, an innovation in recycling plastic packaging waste’, is what young engineer Rafaël Hautekiet will develop in an analysis tool. For this, he will use visual identification, AI analysis and high-end digital techniques. Rafaël is developing a model that can quickly identify the individual components of residual waste. Like this, waste processing companies are able to sort more cheaper and efficiently and bring a lot more reusable material back into circulation. This model can also be used for the entertainment sector, local governments and companies with mixed waste streams.
Contact: PolyPerception | Rafaël Hautekiet | | 0478 339 404

All of the selected projects will be realised within 6 months. The city of Antwerp coordinates the development of these innovative solutions and will ensure matchmaking with other partners when necessary.

8th project focuses on fashion
The 8th and separately supported project is designed by the innovators at Yeswecan, in order to improve the sustainability and image of Antwerp’s fashion sector.

Studio Yeswecan cooperates with Mooi (organiser of Mooi Festival for tomorrow’s fashion) and Luca School of Arts to present a living lab for circular fashion. In this lab, an innovative production programme for an Antwerp sneaker will take place, with local materials, expertise and infrastructure of Antwerp players from various disciplines. The living lab should also kickstart a circular ecosystem for Antwerp fashion. From there, a local group of experts and ambassadors can grow and participate in sustainable design, innovation, communication, content and business modeling.
Contact: Studio Yeswecan | Mathias De Winter | | 0475 742 094

Read more about digital innovation in Antwerp