Leuven (Belgium) – March 16, 2017. Imec, the world-leading research and innovation hub in nano-electronics and digital technologies, today announced its new partnership with the Flemish Government, ING, BNP Paribas, Telenet and Cronos in the creation of a new imec.istart investment fund. Committed to supporting digital innovation and entrepreneurship in Flanders, the fund is the largest of its kind in Belgium for pre-seed investment, amounting to a total of 12,5 million euro for the coming five years.
The fund offers Flemish tech entrepreneurs an initial investment of 50,000 euro to help them start their business. High-promising start-ups will also have a chance to receive further financial support from the fund. These companies will receive additional pre-seed funding ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 euro and deeper support to help them further develop their business with Living Labs trajectories, rapid prototyping and C-level leadership coaching.
The imec.istart incubation program was launched in the Summer of 2011. Today, it supports more than 120 Flemish tech start-ups. In 2015, the program was ranked as a Top University Business Accelerator by UBI Global. The new imec.istart fund will run over the next five years (2017-2022).
Sven De Cleyn, imec.istart program manager, lists the complete offer: “We provide a complete package that includes day-to-day coaching, workshops and guidance by domain experts, shared workspaces and facilities in the major cities in Flanders and in Brussels, and access to our constantly growing network. Our support may last up to 18 months, until the business is able to attract follow-up funding from external investors.”
“The imec.istart program helps Flemish tech start-ups in their initial start-up phase. Flanders commits to supporting successful initiatives that generate jobs and revenue, boost technological innovation, and bring international recognition to our region”, states Philippe Muyters, Flemish Minister for Work, Economy, Innovation and Sports.
Focus on specific business domains
The imec.istart incubation program holds four specialized tracks, set up for start-ups active in a specific domain: ‘Blue Health’ for health start-ups and ‘Logistics & Mobility’ are two tracks that were launched in 2015; ‘Media, Telecom and Entertainment’ was kick-off early 2017; and in March 2017 ‘BlueSpace’ for start-ups in (aero)space followed. Luc Van den hove, president and CEO of imec, highlights the importance of introducing specialized tracks in the imec.istart program: “These special business tracks ensure that our entrepreneurs have access to the best coaching and mentoring they can get. By putting them in direct contact with industry experts that are interested in their idea, it will guide them in the right direction to ensure they foster a successful business.”
Max Jadot, CEO of BNP Paribas Fortis, explains: “As the bank for a changing world, we are convinced that we should be in the epicenter of this changing world. BNP Paribas Fortis aims to be a catalyst for innovation. Innovative businesses are the seeds of our future; we want to support them and be a real partner to them. That is why collaboration with imec was a logic decision for us.”
Dieter Nieuwdorp, Senior Vice-President Strategy & Corporate Development Telenet: “Thanks to the imec.istart program, we see exciting exchange between promising start-ups with innovative ideas, and companies that excel in their domains of expertise. It is a real win-win for both parties. We are very pleased to be able to guide tech start-ups in building sustainable businesses, thanks to our collaboration in imec.istart.”
Bert Van Wassenhove, Managing Partner at The CoFoundry: “We are very excited about the collaboration with imec, as it is the perfect continuation of our long-term collaboration with innovative entrepreneurs. We look forward to sharing our knowhow and experiences with the start-ups in the imec.istart program.”
Erik Van Den Eynden CEO, ING Belgium: “Our strategy puts a strong focus on innovation. For a bank like ours, it is crucial to respond quickly and effectively to our clients’ expectations. Being part of an expert network helps us with this, as it enables us to adapt our banking services to important technological evolutions in our society. This partnership with imec is another proof point that innovation is a key driver in ING Belgium’s strategy and it underlines our commitment to our client base.”