The city of Antwerp, home to Europe’s second largest port, is one of Europe’s frontrunner cities when it comes to digitisation, the Internet of Things and smart city projects.

Antwerp is also one of eight reference cities in the SynchroniCity project, which means that your IoT-enabled solution could be piloted there.

We talked to Emilie Couwenberg, project manager at the city’s urban development department. One advice she has to share with applicants is clear: Get to know the city and it’s projects, because it might be that Antwerp is already piloting this solution.

Interview questions

Who attended the first clinic in the City of Antwerp? 

We’ve organised two clinics so far. During the two clinics we talked to several interested SMEs. But we are also constantly receiving e-mails from other companies that are interested to implement their solutions in the city of Antwerp.

The clinic allows for an in-depth conversation: Each SME had around 20 minutes to present their project. Then we talked about the questions they had.

We had a good impression of the participants: The solutions of the SMEs were spread over the all open call challenges – from mobility, environment and waste management, to data platforms.

The SynchroniCity open call has gained a lot of interest in the last weeks: What’s your first impression of the potential applicants who joined the clinics?

About half of the solutions from the SMEs have the potential to be implemented in the city of Antwerp but of course we need a bit more information. The other solutions were already implemented, recently awarded or the award is still running. For the SMEs as well as for the city it is difficult to define the right problems and the right solutions. Therefore the conversations during the clinics conversations were helpful for both sides.

From what I’ve noticed it seems not to be easy for SMEs to provide a solution that can be implemented and/or be useful for several cities. That has different reasons: Sometimes it has to do with the geographical location, local problems, or local politics. There are always some small details in the solutions that need another approach. But I’m sure that they’ll come up with a good answer to these challenges.

Is there a question that all potential applicants had in common?

A question we’ve received several times is, if the databank of Antwerp (https://stadincijfers.antwerpen.be/databank/) is also available in English. But unfortunately the databank is only available in Dutch.

Many companies also expected that with the grants of the project, they could buy hardware like sensors and cameras. This is not possible as the grants can only be used for software.

Is there any advice you can share with potential applicants from SMEs and large businesses?

Inform yourself well about the what is going on in the city of Antwerp. Sometimes projects related to your solutions are already running or implemented in the city. Coming up with a solution we already have shows us that you didn’t do any research about Antwerp and also don’t have any concrete interest in the city.

There are also cities interested in joining SynchroniCity via the open call. What would you recommend them to do to become a vital part?

The different themes of Synchronicity are divided over several departments in the City of Antwerp. Therefore it is good to inform all the different colleagues also in other departments and get them on board as well. Also a good data project leader can be of great value.

There will be more open call clinics in the City of Antwerp, how and where can interested SMEs, businesses, and other cities sign up?

After two successful clinics, SME’s can sign up on the SynchroniCity website (following link https://synchronicity-iot.eu/open-call/support/clinics/.) If there is the need for it, we have a clinic planned on 13 September.

More about Emilie Couwenberg

Emilie is working for the City of Antwerp at the department of urban development. She is part of the city’s mobility unit. As mobility is one of the three challenges in the open call, Emilie is deeply involved in the SynchroniCity project – support technical development and the open call for the City of Antwerp.