Hangar K: 'In our ecosystem, we all learn from one another'
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Inspiration & collaboration

Hangar K: 'In our ecosystem, we all learn from one another'

Since springtime, Kortrijk has a new knowledge centre /co-creation hub called Hangar K. On Kortrijk Weide, the cohabitation of more…

Since springtime, Kortrijk has a new knowledge centre /co-creation hub called Hangar K. On Kortrijk Weide, the cohabitation of more than one hundred starters, growing companies and established companies raises each one of them to a higher level. CEO Piet Verhoeve: ‘Even global players need an ecosystem in order to remain relevant in their region.’

A creative lab in an old railway warehouse where young starters, strong growers and established values support each other as partners and above all make each other stronger. Hangar K is much more than a 2.100 square metre workspace: it is a digital platform, an incubator, an accelerator, an innovator and a brain centre all put together.

CEO Piet Verhoeve: ‘Hangar K mixes starters with local established companies, often global players in their niche. We want to bring our starters as efficiently as possible in contact with established values. A giant in technology like Barco can bring mentoring or knowledge about foreign markets. But reciprocally, the start-ups’ new way of working can also inspire large companies. We live in a time of network economies and ecosystems. Even global players need an ecosystem in order to remain relevant in their region. It may even make them stay longer with us.’

Everybody is equal before the law

Hangar K is a joint initiative of Barco, Cronos, Howest, The Catholic University of Leuven, the City of Kortrijk, Start it@KBC, the University of Ghent, Unilin and Vives. Thanks to the open ecosystem, other partners can also join the community.  ‘The private companies do not merely participate because of their corporate social responsibility. Look at Barco. Their teams build future-oriented products. But if they want to get them quickly on the market, they can learn from the dynamics and the new agile methodology typically applied by starters. Hangar K brings both together.’

Our co-creation hub has a constant interaction between starters, growers and established players.

Piet Verhoeve, CEO

Barco brings part of its technology to Hangar K: screens, projectors and the latest meeting and presentation technology. But like any participant, they pay for their work place, stresses Piet Verhoeve. The workplaces at Hangar K are neatly distributed among teams of starters, growing companies and large corporations. That mix inspires everyone. ‘There is a constant interaction. Our knowledge centre tends to lower thresholds. If as a start-up, you want to talk to a General Manager of a large company, you first have to get past the reception desk. In our system, you get to meet the right person much faster.’

Theory meets practice

Not every company can join in. Hangar K aims at companies with healthy growth ambitions and an open mind-set. The focus is on the manufacturing industry (smart factory), med-tech, edu-tech and entertainment/visualization. Each of these sectors has its own localized ecosystem. ‘Freelancers without staff, for example, are not welcome. There must be opportunities for collaborations with the local ecosystem. People who prefer to do business on an island, do not fit in.’

Finally, the co-creation hub also wants to rapidly develop techniques for solid entrepreneurship. ‘That is an additional advantage. Thanks to our mix of partners from the academic and the business world we can offer both theoretical business models and pragmatic knowledge.’

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