The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), an organization of programs and initiatives that promote entrepreneurial growth, honored Mayor Bart De Wever of Antwerp, Belgium, with the 2015 Startup Nations Award for Local Policy Leadership.

De Wever was recognized for his public sector achievement at the local level in championing policies or programs that advance new and young firm formation. He and his team introduced the Antwerp Startup City Program in 2014, as an ambitious and all-encompassing response to the absence of a startup scene or city-wide program. “Antwerp’s digital infrastructure is a sound foundation for entrepreneurial growth in the community,” said Jonathan Ortmans, president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network. “Mayor De Wever’s leadership is an example of how policymakers can positively impact the growth of their local startup ecosystem.”

The Belgian city’s initiative has four main goals – to stimulate entrepreneurship, provide a premium incubator network, have virtual incubation and see growth and internationalization. The program has improved Antwerp’s digital infrastructure by installing wireless Internet connections, LoRa and open-sensor networks.

Vice-mayor Philip Heylen, charged with economy and innovation, added: “the city breathes digital, and digitalisation encourages people to be entrepreneurial” An aspect of the program, the City of Things project, improves Antwerp’s “user experience,” and involves local startups in continuously improving the digital infrastructure.“I firmly believe that a city government should not try to own and control every aspect of economic development,” De Wever said, “but instead provide a hospitable and friendly environment for all entrepreneurs, in new and established sectors.”

The selection committee based its decision in part on the program’s innovativeness, personal

commitment to shifting local government thinking on entrepreneurship policy and ability to replicate the initiative or adapt it to other communities or policy areas. There will be nearly 100 delegates from 56 countries attending the Startup Nations Summit in Monterey, Mexico, where De Wever will be recognized.

The Local Policy Leadership Award is one of a series of three Startup Nations awards recognized during the Summit on Nov. 21. The event is also part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrations held in more than 160 countries

By Gabriela Fernández Scala