Disruptive innovations within the health domain can be related to a diversity of technological developments (apps/mobile, automation, cloud technology, Internet-of-Things, etc.) and structural changes in healthcare operations (extramural care paths, patient empowerment, clinical analytics, etc.). In a partnership between BlueHealth Innovation Center, In4Care, UCB, University Hospital Antwerp (UZA), Cronos Group, Roche Diagnostics, IQVIA & Pfizer, this consortium wishes to support technological startups within this field with their expertise ranging from clinical research to market entry.

Next to this partnership, an extra fund has been created – BlueHealth Innovation Fund powered by imec.istart – that possibly could invest another 50,000 € in the startup at the beginning of the imec.istart program with a 3% stake in return. This fund consists of UCB, Cronos and UZA. They already have invested in more than 10 healthcare companies who have been part of the imec.istart program.

The partners in this imec.istart track are experts in each of these domains.

  • BlueHealth Innovation Center is a consortium of actors with extensive experience and networks in developing new health and care innovation and supporting startups. The partnership consists of Cronos, UCB, imec, University Hospital Antwerp (UZA), University Hospital Gent, Ziekenhuis Oost Limburg (ZOL), Roche Diagnostics, etc. BlueHealth wants to support new startups in the pre-incubation phase with innovative health applications.
  • In4Care is a community of care providers (having direct interactions with care users), partners and companies (start-ups, scale-ups and enterprises) providing products or services linked to the Healthcare community  
  • UCB is the Belgian multinational company who is an expert in neurology & auto immune disease.
  • University Hospital Antwerp (UZA) will through its Clinical Research Center Antwerp act as central point of contact to unlock the large potential of its clinical setting as testing facility for new health applications.
  • Roche Diagnostics focuses on increasing the value of diagnostic techniques within the healthcare sector ranging from medical analysis, diabetes to histopathology.
  • Cronos Group hosts BlueHealth Innovation Center at StartUp Village, and provides coaching based on state-of-the-art technological knowledge from its group of organizations, as well as through its extensive experience within the industry.
  • Pfizer is a world leader in different healthcare sectors from generic medicines to consumer healthcare products.
  • IQVIA is a world leader in using data, technology, advanced analytics and expertise to help customers drive healthcare - and human health - forward.


Even though a minimal support towards further technology development can be given as well, the main focus lies on business development (developing, validating and implementing a business plan, clarifying the intellectual property situation, market analysis, customer contacts through fairs, marketing and sales activities …). 

“The final purpose is to help develop a business idea up to the point where it is ready to attract financial support in the market, and to continue developing independently.”

In order to be eligible, some form of proof-of-concept or prototype of the core product/technology is a necessity. At submission, your start-up does not need to be established yet (if you’re selected, we expect you to establish a kind of legal entity however).

The imec.istart manual (look for it here) includes all details on the program, the conditions that apply (e.g. for the imec.istart support, imec receives 6% of the equity in your start-ups and an additional 3% for BlueHealth), the support offered by imec.istart and the different BlueHealth partners and e.g. the evaluation criteria.

The imec.istart program was named the world’s number 4 in the 2019 UBI Global’s ranking of ‘Top University Business Accelerators’.

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