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Dutch tech start-ups take note: Europe’s number one business accelerator imec.istart is going international. In collaboration with Novel-T from Enschede and several solid fund and program partners, a fully-fledged program is being set up for the Dutch start-up ecosystem. “The fact that we are joining forces with Novel-T and the most entrepreneurial university in the Netherlands is what makes me incredibly enthusiastic,” says Sven De Cleyn, Program Director of imec.istart. The cooperation is called

The program, which so far has only been operating in Belgium, provides funding and support so that start-ups can develop and grow on a global scale. Today, Jaap Beernink, director of Novel-T and Sven De Cleyn signed the cooperation agreement in the presence of the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Stef Blok and Prince Constantijn, special envoy for, during the CES Unveiled in Amsterdam event in Amsterdam. This officially launches the program and means that start-ups from the Netherlands can register.

“We have managed to set up a very nice program in a relatively short time,” says Jaap Beernink. “We can’t wait to get started. It’s a great addition to the existing system in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, we are good at scouting opportunities for innovative entrepreneurship and perfectly capable of converting these opportunities into start-ups. However, there is a lot of profit to be gained when it comes to achieving real initial growth, which is what this program is geared towards.”

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Sven De Cleyn

That the program is now being rolled out in the Netherlands for the first time is a logical next step. De Cleyn: “We have been active in the Netherlands with the Holst Centre for more than fifteen years and in 2019 we have taken a new step with the launch of the OnePlanet Research Center. We have a lot of contacts here with Dutch parties from the tech world and in recent years we have also experienced the cooperation with Novel-T as very positive. So the expansion into the Netherlands is a great next step for us.” 

Financial support and coaching

At least 15 start-ups can take part in each year. Already every year in Belgium, about 30 start-ups are selected to participate in the 12 to 18-month accelerator program. “Compared to other similar programs that last several months, we consequently have more patience and time to help the companies move forward,” says De Cleyn. Start-ups are supported in a number of areas, such as with an initial financial injection ranging from €50,000 to €250,000, personal coaching and mentoring, access to (work) facilities, a broad international network of partners and investors and much more.

A wealth of knowledge and expertise

Since the launch of the Belgian program imec.istart in 2011, more than 250 tech start-ups have already taken part. Although only recently launched in the Netherlands, the Dutch start-ups can rely on many years of experience from both imec and Novel-T. The combination of different expertise and networks is an important part of the success formula. De Cleyn: “We are knowledgeable on the high-tech and deep-tech side, in developing software, chips and sensors, and in marketing them. Novel-T has a lot of experience in the development of start-ups.”

Novel-T has about 40 years of experience in driving and supporting innovative entrepreneurship, often from a solid technological base. During those years, numerous start-ups have emerged that include well-known names such as and, as well as less well-known names, such as Micronit, Lionix and Demcon. The knowledge that is developed by students and researchers at the University of Twente and Saxion often leads to successful start-up companies. Beernink also sees that both parties reinforce each other. “We bring together a wealth of experience. Novel-T has always focused heavily on developing a regional ecosystem and providing one-on-one support. It is only in the last few years that we have offered bootcamps and programs. Something that imec has many years of experience in and is proving to be among the best in the world.”

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Jaap Beernink

Finding partners

Over the coming period, the Dutch program will be rolled out further, and the obvious collaboration with other initiatives such as Mercator Launch or StartLife will be expanded further too. “The program is in place, but equally important, we are still looking for partners who want to join,” says Beernink. “We want to broaden the cooperation with parties from all over the Netherlands. These parties can, for example, play a role within the fund. We are also still looking for networking and expertise partners who can support the start-ups who are taking part.” is currently already supported by fund partners such as OostNL, VDL Group, Simac, The Cronos Group, University ofTwente and imec, and program partners such as Demcon and Pfizer.

Start-ups from all over the Netherlands are welcome

Entrepreneurs have until 15 November to apply. “Start-ups from all over the Netherlands are welcome,” says De Cleyn. “It would also be nice if we attract entrepreneurs from abroad. By orienting ourselves in a broad way, we want to raise the entire ecosystem in the Netherlands to a higher level. We are going to do our best for that.”

“I am hoping that the program will be completely full already this year,” Beernink adds. “At the end of the year, after we have made a selection, we hope to start supporting a group of enthusiastic entrepreneurs. And who knows, maybe we will scale up even further in the coming years so that we can help even more start-ups.”

Registration for is open. Click here to sign up for it.


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