Ten-Year Anniversary Of iMinds: A Decade Of Digital Innovation In Flanders

Ghent – 16 October 2014. On 22 April 2004, iMinds, the digital research center of Flanders (Belgium), was created. Its mission is twofold: firstly, encourage companies to invest (together with the Flemish government and universities) in results-oriented digital research, and secondly accelerate the successful market introduction of promising start-ups. Today, iMinds looks back on its ten-year impact on the innovation landscape in Flanders.

140+ cooperative research projects: 320 million euro invested in digital research

iMinds has always focused on close collaboration between its academic researchers and the industry, creating a number of instruments shortly after its founding in order to fulfill that mission. In 2005, this was the start of iMinds’ first so-called ‘cooperative research projects’: 22 projects between companies and iMinds researchers – with a total investment of 52 million euro, shared between iMinds and its research partners. To date, iMinds has set up more than 140 cooperative digital research projects, representing 320 million euro in investments by iMinds and the industry.

“When we look back on the past years, we see that our cooperative research model works: the funds that iMinds makes available to conduct digital research have in fact been more than matched by investments from our industry partners, typically a 40 – 60 split,” says Wim De Waele, CEO of iMinds. “As such, innovation in Flanders is boosted: companies that otherwise would most likely not invest in digital innovation, are now doing so. The impact of this on the Flemish economy, financially but also in terms of level of innovation and competitive advantage, cannot be underestimated."

iMinds' cooperative research constitutes an important instrument for product development

A survey that iMinds uses to measure the impact of its cooperative research effort shows a number of impressive findings -

  • Nearly 95% of the surveyed companies indicate that iMinds’ instruments enable them to conduct research on a larger scale, broaden their networks and develop new products; 
  • More than 70% claim to be able to improve existing products, plan follow-up investments and increase revenues; 
  • In a quarter of the cases, companies highlighted the potential to create a spin-off based on the research results.

Examples of projects that have made a difference in recent years include, among others: TRACK (which enabled Flemish technology company Televic to win an important contract with Eurostar); Telesurgery (the results of which were integrated into Barco’s Nexxis product for digital operating rooms, and which has already been implemented in more than 100 ORs in the Benelux); or ASCIT (which laid the basis for Bednet, a platform that has been enabling online education for long-term sick children for ten years).

70+ start-up projects since 2011; 200+ full-time jobs created and 10+ million euro in revenues

As part of its entrepreneurship program, iMinds trains and guides promising entrepreneurs to convert their digital ideas into new, successful businesses. This mission led to the launch of the iMinds iStart program, which has already supported more than 70 start-up projects since its official launch in 2011, resulting in the creation of more than 200 full-time jobs and total revenue of more than 10 million euro annually (in 2013, not including twenty pre-revenue starters). In addition to initial investments by partners such as iMinds, the iMinds starters have also obtained more than 25 million euro in follow-up financing already.

On the basis of these results, iMinds has been selected one of the 25 best university business incubators in the world. Furthermore, thanks to the iMinds Go Global program (which was also initiated in 2011) nearly 50 Flemish companies have been supported in their internationalization efforts, with more than 70% of them now having an office abroad.

“Flemish companies clearly benefit from the presence of a strong local digital research institute such as iMinds,” concludes Wim De Waele. “Also in the future, we will continue to focus on the technologies – such as the Internet of Things and high-tech visualization – that will shape Flanders in the coming decades. Those who pay a visit to next week’s iMinds The Conference will notice that we are already laying the foundation for that ambition."

                   10 Years iMinds

About iMinds

iMinds – the digital research center of Flanders, Belgium – combines the strength of its 850+ researchers at five Flemish universities to conduct strategic and applied research in areas such as ICT, Media and Health. Together with its research partners (companies, governments and non-profit organizations), iMinds translates digital know-how into concrete products and services. In addition, iMinds supports researchers, young entrepreneurs and start-ups in the successful market introduction of their ideas. More information: www.iminds.be (Twitter: @iMinds).