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Having invested over €300 million in follow-up funding in 220+ start-ups, imec.istart is the #1 university-linked business accelerator in Europe.

Imec.istart, imec’s open accelerator program, provides tech start-ups with pre-seed funding and tailored support to succeed and grow on a global scale.

Investment Sectors

Imec.istart invests in tech product companies active in any sector. The only exclusions are products that target industries like military applications, gambling, or pornography.

“Start-ups have a great impact because they are drivers of economic growth and create many jobs. They also contribute to economic dynamism as they come up with innovations,” explains Sven De Cleyn, Program Director of imec.istart.

The significant value of the program is that it works as a growth enabler for the start-ups. When such early-stage companies participate in the imec.istart program, they receive an initial financial injection of €50,000 (and up to €150,000).

During the 12- to 18-month guidance process, imec.istart supports businesses in their search for follow-up funding, mainly via imec's extensive partner network. Thanks to this intensive support, every euro invested by imec.istart is followed by at least 25 euros in external financing.

Success Stories

There are many successful graduates from the imec.istart program, and their numbers grow every year. A few noteworthy examples are Datacamp, Twikit, Waylay, UgenTec, Deliverect, and Lightspeed (formerly POSiOS).

The imec.istart start-ups also increasingly get on the radar of international players in their field, resulting in a growing number of successful exits (Piesync by Hubspot and POSiOS by Lightspeed, for example).

Personal Leadership

Sven De Cleyn leads the imec.istart acceleration program at imec, and is a Managing Director of the imec.istart Fund. He also serves either on the Board of Directors or Advisory Board of various technology companies. Mr. De Cleyn won the prestigious award “Investor of the Year” in 2017.

“As a tech accelerator, imec.istart is different and unique because we are backed by imec, one of the world’s leading research institutes on new digital and nanotechnologies. That gives start-ups one-of-a-kind access to the know-how of no less than 4,000 researchers, proudly says Sven De Cleyn.

Imec.istart is not only a supporting partner of start-ups. It also invests in start-ups. “We believe in them, so we invest in them. This shows we are in it for the long run and the support doesn’t stop at the end of the program. Even as a graduate, they can count on us, and we will continuously support them.”

Biggest Achievements

In 2021, imec.istart celebrates 10 years since its foundation in 2011. Since then, the company has invested in and supported over 220 tech start-ups, a large portion of which consists of high-growth scale-ups (over 25%) with an above-average survival rate (85%). This vast experience ensures support practices with proven efficiency and a wide network of entrepreneurs to learn from.

The successful results of imec’s portfolio companies (and program) have also gained international recognition. In 2019, imec.istart was again granted a place in the top 5 in the University-Linked Business Accelerators ranking by UBI Global, a ranking in which it has also been recognised as Europe’s no. 1 university-business accelerator since 2017.

Connection with InvestHorizon

“We are committed to supporting our start-ups on the internationalization and the follow-up funding needed to take the next growth steps. InvestHorizon is a program that can help our start-ups that are looking for series A funding,” concludes Mr. De Cleyn.