imec.istart helps tech entrepreneurs kick-start their business

imec.istart is a business incubation / acceleration program that supports tech start-ups with coaching, facilities and funding. The program has been recognized by UBI Global as one of the world’s best University Business Accelerators. In eight industries, the program is looking for additional partners wishing to engage with some of the most promising start-ups in their industries and willing to contribute to their success.

imec is the world-leading R&D and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. As a trusted partner for companies, start-ups and academia, imec brings together brilliant minds from all over the world in a creative and stimulating environment. By leveraging a world-class infrastructure and local and global ecosystem of diverse partners across a multitude of industries, imec accelerates progress towards a connected, sustainable future.

As part of its activities, imec has created a leading business incubation program, imec.istart, to support young tech start-ups in developing their business. Getting a tech start-up off the ground requires skills, resources and the right technology. And turning it into a success is an even bigger challenge. The imec.istart program offers entrepreneurs and start-ups in-depth coaching, facilities and supporting services, as well as a safe and stimulating environment to develop and grow their business.

The imec.istart mission

The goal of an imec.istart incubation project is to assess the business feasibility of its first (technological) proof-of-concept, create a start-up to drive commercialization and prepare the (commercial) launch of its first product(s). The program is open to any entrepreneurs who wish to engage in the commercialization of a technology-driven innovation or project, as long as they have the ambition to bring innovative and scalable products to the international market.

The imec.istart program combines pre-seed funding, coaching and mentoring, and other types of support (e.g. housing, software deals, marketing & communications support). The coaching and mentoring aspect focuses on access to market, access to technology, access to finance and access to talent. Additionally, imec.istart (often together with industry partners) offers market-specific support, in eight different industries. For these so-called verticals, imec.istart is looking for additional partners, wishing to engage with some of the most promising start-ups in their industries and willing to contribute to their success.

What does imec.istart offer

The basic offering of imec.istart consists of pre-seed funding of 50,000 EUR (under certain conditions extendable up to 150,000 EUR), complemented with a substantial package of coaching and mentoring by experienced imec Innovation Managers and external industry experts. These coaches and mentors advise the start-ups for an intensive 12- to 18-month period on all aspects of their business. Industry experts are used to cover specific topics, such as B2B sales, branding, legal matters related to fundraising, or intellectual property rights in start-ups. Additionally, the start-ups can count on marketing and communications supports, housing, and additional perks and benefits provided by imec.istart partners (including software deals from amongst others Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Hubspot, Github, and many others).

Entrepreneurs from anywhere around the globe are welcome to join the growing community of 130 successful imec.istart start-ups, as long as they can demonstrate a strong link with the Belgian region of Flanders or Brussels or are committing to build such link. This can e.g. be their headquarters, an R&D / development office, a strategic collaboration with a research organisation in Belgium or a sales office for Western Europe. imec.istart has three application calls per year (in January, May and September). More information can be found on imec’s website (

Different reports and benchmarks (including the 2015 benchmark by UBI Global and the Europe Scale-Up Report 2016 by Omar Mohout) have positioned imec.istart as one of Europe’s most successful programs in terms of creating scale-ups (i.e. start-ups that attract at least 1 million EUR in follow-up funding). Twice a year, imec organizes an Investor Day to draw attention to some of its most promising start-ups. Some additional key realisations of imec.istart can be found in the figure depicted.


For certain industries, mainly those in which imec.istart already has a certain critical mass of start-ups in its portfolio, market-specific services have been developed by imec and its vertical partners. In eight industries, depicted below, imec.istart is setting up partnerships with players from these industries. Together with these partners, imec.istart is strengthening its offering towards the start-ups and enables the partner to engage with some of the most promising start-ups in their industries.


In the healthcare industry, for example, additional workshops and experts are available to cover CE certification and/or FDA approval of digital innovations. And in the media and entertainment industry, imec’s partners open up their production systems or provide datasets to experiment with. Additionally, in this vertical, imec’s partners can top imec’s pre-seed investment with another 50,000 EUR.

For all eight industries, imec.istart is willing to engage with additional partners. Would your company be interested to know more? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us (

Sven De Cleyn
Program Manager imec.istart
Tel: +32 474 29 76 94
Twitter: @imecincubation @imec_int @sdcleyn


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