The Beacon connects technology companies with knowledge institutions, governments and end users. Wim De Waele, general manager: “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.
The ‘Yes, together we can’ attitude at The Beacon
“Together, we can:
Wim: “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. Moving Antwerp itself higher in the global smart cities ranking is not the priority. What we do want is to build knowledge, test it locally, and then grow.”
Diverse urban challenges collide in Antwerp.
At The Beacon, they use AI and IoT to make cities, ports and industry smarter. ‘Smart’ can therefore assume a wide range of forms, from economically profitable and efficient to sustainable and liveable. So, in addition to being an economic driver, The Beacon also has an important social ambition.
Wim: “Today, 80% of our freight transport is by road. But if we made better use of inland waterways, we’d be able to resolve some of the traffic congestion around our cities. One of the member companies of The Beacon is currently involved in a project concerning self-propelled barges managed by a central control room. Within our community, we were able to quickly adapt to this innovative technology. At the moment, plenty of testing is underway in the field.”
The Beacon resides in the former toll house of the port city, just a stone’s throw from the Scheldt river. About half of its 50 members – and the community is growing rapidly – have offices in the building. The founding partners also occupy places here: the City of Antwerp, the Antwerp mobility company, the Port Authority, the University of Antwerp, imec and Agoria.
Even in the digital age, a physical hub offers key added value. Wim: “Informal human interaction fosters trust and promotes creativity. More, The Beacon is the face of the cluster and a great meeting place.”
Informal human interaction fosters trust and promotes creativity.
Almost every day, The Beacon receives both local and international delegations. Technology players as well as city and port authorities are gradually finding their ways to the community. Wim: “With sister cities like Singapore, Montreal and New York, we exchange knowledge and organize hackathons.”
A year after its launch, the former toll house has almost reached maximum capacity. Wim: “At the end of this year, we will probably have to establish a waiting list. Clearly, we are laying the foundations for a much larger tech hub. Perhaps in the long run we can unite the many initiatives in Flanders that have to do with AI and IoT within one smart technologies district.”
With sister cities like Singapore, Montreal and New York, we exchange knowledge and organize hackathons.
ID The Beacon
The Beacon members in the spotlight