icity.brussels : university-based expertise at the heart of innovation in Belgium

The icity.brussels project in Belgium has undertaken the challenge of introducing university-based digital talent to the business world. Pooling resources among several research centres in the Brussels-Capital Region has made it possible to strengthen the existing centres of excellence in the field of ICT, while the many collaborations established between various businesses provide great exposure.

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The icity.brussels project aims to promote university research on innovation. ©Université libre de Bruxelles/Konstantin Yuganov (2017) The icity.brussels project aims to promote university research on innovation. ©Université libre de Bruxelles/Konstantin Yuganov (2017)

" icity.brussels has made it possible to coordinate and pool Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) resources from the two main universities in Brussels, and more widely from the Brussels region, with a view to establishing a central hub dedicated to ICT. The aim is to maximise the transfer and use of such resources among the economic sectors, and particularly the business world. "

Claudio Truzzi, project coordinator

Thanks to the icity.brussels project, companies now consider the two main universities in Brussels — Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and its Flemish equivalent, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) — to be leading facilities in the digital field. Often limited to education and to training for the technological industry, the potential of these places of expertise had, until now, remained under-exploited. The project has helped them form closer links with businesses, particularly through collaborations, technological innovation awareness events and coaching sessions. 

Developing a unique identity

To help universities find their place within development-oriented political strategies in the Brussels-Capital Region, a coordination team involving members from both institutions (ULB and VUB) has been formed. This team is responsible for organising events, establishing partnerships with other key players in the digital ecosystem, and helping businesses develop new collaborations with university research labs. One of the major challenges was developing a unique and coherent identity for icity.brussels. Furthermore, a great deal of exposure and visibility was required to establish the project as one of the key players in Brussels’ ecosystem of digital innovation.

Bringing the worlds of academia and business together 

In the three years since its conception, icity.brussels has organised an average of two events per quarter and has helped launch 50 collaboration projects between businesses and universities, generating a total of EUR 25 million of funding for digital innovation. This entity has also established a dozen partnerships with other players in the Brussels region.

A website displaying all the ICT labs has been launched (https://icity.brussels), which also provides a link to the Smart Connected Innovation Lab's web page. The latter, run by the programme’s third partner, Sirris, the collective technological innovation research centre, provides access to resources and expertise on both campuses, as well as support services for collaborative projects offered by the coordination team.

Businesses now have easier access to university-based expertise and better support for implementing collaborations with universities in the field of ICT. The project has given universities enhanced research and innovation capabilities through applied research projects. icity.brussels is currently focusing on setting up a network platform — SmartCampus — to help develop projects on connected objects, smart sensors and even artificial intelligence. SmartCampus covers ULB and VUB and will be accessible to businesses from early 2020 as a testing ground for innovating services and products.

 

Total investment and European funding

Total investment for the ‘ICITY-RDI.BRU’ project is EUR 13 201 111; the European Regional Development Fund contribution is EUR 4 706 431 through the ‘Operational Programme of the Brussels-Capital Region’ cooperation programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the ‘Strengthening research, technological development and innovation’ priority.

Draft date

25/11/2019