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Industry 4.0

The perspective of start-ups and scale-ups in Belgium

Seeing both sides of the picture

Following our investigation into the maturity of Industry 4.0 in Flanders by questioning industrial companies about their Industry 4.0 expectations, strategies and progress - Industry 4.0: hype or reality? -, for this 2018 study, we looked at another important stakeholder in the Belgian ecosystem: the start-ups and scale-ups offering solutions to help industrial companies embrace the benefits of their digital transformation.

By understanding their challenges to scale up, as well as their needs within an effective ecosystem, we want to bridge the gap between larger industrial companies and smaller solution providers.

Start-ups see Belgium as a springboard

Start-ups are ambitious and generally view Belgium as an exploration market within which to test their products and strategies before breaking into larger markets.

Industries overemphasise operational performance

Operational performance is only a subpart of Industry 4.0 and won’t singlehandedly bring companies to full ‘digital champion’ maturity.

Proof of concept (PoC) brings solutions to life

PoCs provide the client with a real-world view of a product’s application and are therefore an important step in building a business relationship with a company.

The Industry 4.0 ecosystem enables start-ups

Respondents feel the ecosystem needs to place more emphasis on scaling. Areas for improvement also include deeper industrial expertise and input.

Next steps: the ecosystem must rethink its objectives

Start-ups and industrial companies need to intensify collaboration and rethink existing processes with a new approach. Belgian manufacturing can only prosper when both parties work together to achieve a common objective.

Picture of people looking at tablet

Awareness and expectations within the ecosystem

Different players are active within the ecosystem. More than three out of five companies show high awareness of the different organisations with which they can eventually collaborate to expand their business. Incubators remain the best known in terms of awareness, along with universities and governmental initiatives.

However, collaboration with incubators is not as high as the awareness of them. In terms of collaboration, preferred organisations from which our respondents seek support remain universities and initiatives provided by the government, followed closely by communities and partnerships.


Relying on a strong network with the right partnerships Having the right knowledge, expertise and infrastructureHaving a good marketing strategyHaving customers acting like brand ambassadorsClearly defined purpose, mission and visionHaving a good product/ideaHaving clients willing to pay for the product/serviceHaving enough financial supportHaving enough working capitalBeing disruptive 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 50% 33% 30% 30% 27% 23% 23% 17% 17% 13% Internal External

Image : Key success factors for scaling-up



“We need to keep on educating our clients on the ‘think big’ mindset to be able to scale our own company.”

Johan SmeyersCEO Arkite


Image : What are common misunderstandings (e.g. from clients) when it comes to the adoption of Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0: the need for trust

While respondents indicate that many companies are still cautious in adopting Industry 4.0 - of those surveyed, 43% feel that the industry does not yet fully understand the (added value of the) technology that’s offered - there’s a positive sign in that they also believe that industrial companies understand that investments are required and that immediate results are unlikely.

Showcasing offerings via proofs of concept enable industry players to explore the added value of a solution and help build trust in technology.

Contact us

Peter Vermeire

Peter Vermeire

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 493 51 87 28

Jochen Vincke

Jochen Vincke

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 477 61 12 22

Johan Van der Straeten

Johan Van der Straeten

Director, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 474 48 47 55

Connect with PwC Belgium