Ghent, Belgian city on top of innovation

3 February 2011

In an independent benchmark (www.innovation-cities.com) amongst European cities Ghent has been listed in the top 60 of most innovative cities. It is considered as an ideal place to work and live and has regional industry influence on innovation. Direct cooperation on research and development between university departments or spin-offs and vested industrial players have tremendously contributed to such positive results. Just think about all the effort the IBBT (Interdisciplinary Institute for Broadband Technology) (www.ibbt.be) has invested over the years in bringing together companies, authorities and non-profit organizations in the ICT sector. Or count the number of entrepreneurial Vlerick students (www.vlerick.be) that have conducted in-company research.

These findings align with the results as published in the first “Innovation Union Scoreboard 2010” (http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/index_en.cfm). In this report Belgium is considered as an innovation follower performing above average. It is valued for its strengths in human resources, its open research systems and linkages to entrepreneurship. Belgium scores unfortunately relatively low for turning innovation into real sales, thus having a low economic effect. Turning ideas into real marketable business models is therefore a true challenge for everyone.

It is astonishing to see that Belgian companies believe in brand value (and trademark registrations), whereas at the same time and in comparison to their European competitors they fail to protect their assets by filing patent applications or registering designs. IP HILLS takes up its responsibility in this respect, tries to create awareness on the importance of intellectual property (IP) and steers its customers towards qualitative IP strategies with a clear return on investment.

Let us hope that Belgian politicians also take up their responsibility in turning the economy into a competitive one. “No time to waste”, the well-known Greenpeace slogan, is more than ever relevant, with Asian tigers and BRIC bears emerging at the borders of Europe.

Although due to the political crisis the perception on Belgium in the international press is pessimistic, Ghent succeeded to position itself marvelously in the tourist market. “Europe’s best kept secret” according to the renowned Lonely Planet (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/belgium/flanders/ghent), Ghent is the place to be in 2011.

IP HILLS, currently renovating its offices in Ghent South, can only underline such statement. With new cultural sites such as the Bijloke Museum (http://www.stamgent.be), niche fashion boutiques as Café Costume (www.cafecostume.com), fashion initiatives as Mis-en-plis (http://mis-en-plis.be), new restaurants such as Volta (www.volta-gent.be), innovative companies as in the Pocket (check out their Peak Performance application!) (www.inthepocket.mobi), Netlash (that recently merged with B-seen) (www.netlash.com), Caliopa (www.caliopa.com) and many more, Ghent turns into the innovative hotspot it should be!

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