While China’s 100 million euro investment in a technology incubator at Louvain-la-Neuve is still fresh in the memory, the Biopark Incubator 2 at Charleroi Aéropôle opened its doors on 24 April.
This 4800m² building, which was constructed by Igretec with financial support from Wallonia Region, is intended to function as a springboard for companies’ life-sciences and engineering projects. Offices, laboratories, empty rooms and even a “smart work center”: there’s ample room to accommodate fifteen companies.
According to Catherine Blondiau (acting managing director of the incubator), the target is to achieve 80% occupancy by the end of 2013: we reckon this target should be broadly met, and maybe even exceeded, as five companies are set to move in over the coming weeks, and a further ten companies have shown interest.
The incubator, in close collaboration with ULB, has the task of becoming home to young companies, as well as providing them with financial advice and support for their projects. On this point, Catherine Blondiau explains that the sums raised through spin-offs can range between 20,000 and several million euros – thanks to funding from Sambrinvest, Theodorus and Wallonia Biotech Coaching, of course.
The basis on which Whibi set up at Louvain-la-Neuve is quite similar, but aimed more towards the outside world: the Chinese group is providing an excellent framework to enable start-ups and small firms to expand around a university. The Wuhan Hi-tech International Business Incubator has reached agreement with UCL, reserving a 8.5 hectare site for them progressively to deploy 100,000m² of technology incubators and to create a thousand jobs in three years. At least, that’s what Whibi intends, on the back of its 25-years’ experience, which witnessed the growth of some 1,200 Chinese companies. They plainly believe in it strongly enough to make their first investment outside China, and not least because 100 million euros will be made available by ICBC (a Chinese bank which has already tested the ground in Brussels) and a Taiwanese financial partner.
This forms a perfect complement to the Welcome Office at Mons, intended for Chinese firms that might be setting up here in the future, while being guided and supported fully and professionally. The other incubators present in Wallonia should also benefit from Whibi group’s experience, since the local authorities aim to operate as a network, especially with UCL researchers.