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From big data innovations and Internet of Things applications to smart city initiatives and smart tech development: companies looking for the next big innovation should keep a close eye on Flanders, Belgium’s northern region. Connecting world-class research and innovation, leading business initiatives, a strong digital ecosystem and enticing government support, the region is a compelling choice for any ‘smart’ company looking for its next big step.   

An ecosystem that drives smart innovations forward

As a frontrunner in the realization of the digital society, Flanders has forged a strong ecosystem that unites key public and private organizations, businesses and academic research centers. Together, they are tackling the challenges surrounding IoT, big data and smart city and plotting a course for success. 

By setting up your business in Flanders, you can gain access to a network of leading innovators, including the key organizations mentioned below. 

Imec for smart digital technologies

Flanders’ strategic research center for nanotechnology and digital innovationimec – is at the forefront of Flanders’ efforts to shape digital society. Its efforts in smart city, smart device and IoT technology range from the development of smart sensors, connected devices and communication networks to collecting data and converting it into ground-breaking insights. In this way, imec moves cities, business and healthcare forward.

VITO for a smart society that’s sustainable and clean

As a multidisciplinary research and technology hub and one of Flanders’ strategic research centers, VITO explores the role of the Internet of Things in solving cleantech and sustainable development challenges. The center invests in numerous projects that examine the lever effect that IoT can have on society. 

VIB for smart health

One of the key areas of expertise of VIB, Flanders’ strategic research center for life sciences and biotechnology, is bioinformatics. To enable smart health, VIB’s international researchers use big data to gain insights into genomics and genetics, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer growth and tumor environments, embryonic development and stem cells, and more. 

Flanders Make for a smart industry

Flanders Make is Flanders’ strategic research center for innovation in manufacturing and industrial sectors. Closely associated with the region’s universities, the center enables the advent of intelligent systems by focusing its research on clean, energy-efficient motion systems, smart monitoring devices, agile and human-centered production and robotics systems, and more. 

Sirris for industrial IoT applications

A research group, network driver and incubator covering various fields of ICT, Sirris explores the applications of new networking solutions to enable smart cities, intelligent transport and IoT applications. Its highly specialized co-creation environments include a Data & AI Competence Lab, a Smart Connected Innovation Lab and a Smart & Digital Factory. 

The Beacon for the smart society of tomorrow

Located near the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, The Beacon brings together a wide range of experts and businesses specializing in IoT and AI. As an R&D Hub, The Beacon facilitates the development of new products and innovations for industry, logistics and smart cities. 

Agoria, technological industry federation

Sector federation Agoria paves the way for all technologically inspired companies in Belgium and Flanders as a region that strives for progress through the development and application of high-tech innovations.

VLAIO for smart innovation support

Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) provides funding, advice, support and networking services to innovative tech companies. 

The Internet of Water: streamlining Flanders’ water quality 

By 2023, more than 2,500 small, energy-efficient sensors will be deployed across Flanders to monitor drinking water, wastewater, surface water and other water sources. Together, they will form the Internet of Water. The real-time data gathered by this network of sensors will create opportunities for new applications and services, as well as guidelines for future policy. 

The Internet of Water is an initiative from imec, VITO, Vlakwa, VMM, De Watergroep and Aquafin, supported by VLAIO. 

Academic research institutes and departments

Several research institutes in Flanders focus on data science and analytics in various domains, from life sciences and computer science to economics and business. 

For example, UGent’s Data Science Lab boasts top expertise in machine learning, data mining, data modeling and many other aspects of big data along the entire data value chain. Meanwhile, Sizing Servers Lab is part of the university college of Howest in Kortrijk and provides training and concrete recommendations for ICT administrators and managers. In doing so, it primarily conducts research on new media and novel communication technologies. 

However, the list goes on and on, as virtually all of Flanders’ universities boast innovative departments dedicated to data science, IoT, etc. Think of SMIT (VUB), IDLab (UGent and UAntwerpen), MICT (UGent) and many more. 

Higher education institutes: developing the smart talent of tomorrow

Virtually all universities and university colleges in Flanders offer courses related to IoT and smart technology, educating a wide range of highly trained professionals. These are often delivered as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) co-created by research centers such as imec and EIT Digital. Examples include: 

  • Bachelor of IT Electronics at Odissee, VUB and Thomas More – a three-year program that focuses on the development of both interactive media and hardware and infrastructure. 
  • Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (Communication and Information Technology) at UGent – a two-year program training engineers to develop state-of-the-art hardware for smart devices and the Internet of Things. 
  • Master of Computer Science Engineering at KU Leuven and Ghent University – a one-year master’s degree that’s focused on the creation, testing and maintenance of advanced software systems. 
  • Postgraduate in IoT at UAntwerpen, UGent and VUB – a one-year program training students to implement comprehensive IoT solutions. 
  • Architecture for the IoT – trains engineers how to develop products and systems that are compatible with IoT. 
  • Introduction to Architecting Smart IoT Devices – explains the inner workings of and provides frameworks for the development of successful EmS devices. 
  • Architecting IoT Devices – teaches engineers how to use the necessary hardware and software components to develop embedded systems devices.

Financing your IoT/smart business in Flanders

When deciding to establish activities or headquarters in Flanders, your IoT or smart tech business can reap the rewards of: 

Request a free copy of our brochure to discover more about government support in Flanders

Tax incentives for innovative activities

Flanders offers access to several tax incentives that are particularly relevant to innovative domains like IoT and smart city development. Examples include: