The imec.icon research programme is a formula for demand-driven, cooperative research on hardware-, software- and combined hardware/software innovations.
Imec has a 5-year contract with the Flemish government, to stimulate both imec’s local and global leadership in digital technology. One of the tools to support Flemish companies is the imec-icon programme. Imec.icon is all about creating the ideal consortium of partners to solve a practical need. This consortium brings together companies (SMEs and large enterprises) and imec researchers, potentially complemented with stakeholders (governments, non-profit, social-profit) or international companies, other research groups or research institutes.
The imec.icon research programme helps to kick-start projects by offering:
• Collaboration and research tailored to the needs of the consortium partners
• Access to the expertise of academics and industry partners
• A route to valorisation through the industry partners
• Aligned procedure with VLAIO (the Flemish Agency for Innovation & Entrepreneurship)

The procedure mainly consists of two phases, an abstract submission and a full proposal submission.

Results at the end of the project:
• Proof-of-Concepts / demonstrators
o Minimum experimental setup needed to validate innovation goals
o Ranging from pure technical tests to real-life validation
o Not a pilot ready for commercialisation
• Added value of the project for the companies and for Flanders
o Economic: company results, qualitative employment
o Social/cultural: added value to target group
o Impact and anchoring in Flanders.

Resources needed

Funding is spread between different programmes and institutions: imec and VLAIO. Within imec 5-6 people follow up on the calls. About 10 projects are approved each year, where the resources within the program for each project approx €800.000 - €1.000.000

Evidence of success

The imec.icon programme has been up and running for over 5 years. 10 calls have been orginazed (243 project proposals) of which 96 projects were approved. Approved projects generally last two years. On average 42% of the partners within the projects are SME’s (approx. 60% ME).
For every € the government invests:
- 10 x € company turnover
- 5 x € investments in jobs at company level
- 1 x € investments in infrastructure

Difficulties encountered

Challenges were amongst others IPR and collaboration models.
One other important aspect to take into account is the difference in timing between corporates and SMEs: while corporates can run parallel tracks of productising and launching, SMEs generally follow a more linear route

Potential for learning or transfer

- Experience with/variety of possible models for IPR, ownership and access rights
- Model of ‘win-winnovation’: how to successfully form a relevant and efficient consortium, how to take into account different perspectives and expectations, how to make sure everyone collaborates towards a common goal?
-One of the strongholds of the icon-programme is the combination of ‘first-timers’ and returning partners within each call. This allows for an excellent ecosystem and helps the first-timers to ‘mature’ more quickly.

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Main institution
Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Région de Bruxelles-Capitale / Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest, Belgium (Belgique-België)
Start Date
January 2012
End Date


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