New cross-border startup network connects Netherlands, Germany and Belgium

With the global mobility of talent, highly skilled internationals go to where the opportunities are. Now, a new startup network is encouraging entrepreneurs to stop thinking in terms of borders and start expanding innovation and opportunity regionally.

EMR START-UP Project is a new regional innovation effort powered by INTERREG EMR. EMR stands for Euregio  Meuse–Rhine, and INTERREG EMR will create a platform for innovators in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium to collaborate across borders.


The EMR Startup Project, which began in March, brings together eight organizations – startup incubators, accelerators and business support organizations – from the region where Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany come together.

The partners are:


GreenVille , CleanTech (Lead partner) accelerator

LeanSquare, Liege, finance and investment

IncubaThor, Genk, science and research park/incubator

City of Verviers 

Corda Inc, tech startup campus/accelerator

WFG East-Belgium, Economic development


Grün Software, Green software


HighTechXL, High-tech hardware accelerator

EMR Start-Up project is about “broadening your horizons,” said Bjorn Koopmans, the Belgium-based project leader and lead partner for GreenVille, the accelerator that’s the lead partner.

“In Belgium, too often we think the horizon stops at the border. In fact, the world is beginning just across that border.”

Meuse-Rhine Euregio is one of the oldest Euroregions in the European Union, an alliance between three countries and five partner regions dating back to 1976.

The goal of the new project is cross-pollination – to create a regional startup program that ultimately will link as many as 200 startups from the three countries, said Koopmans, project leader and lead partner for Greenville, based in Houthalen-Helchteren near Hasselt, Belgium.

Being part of a network of incubators will enable members to participate in the effort to align and professionalize start-up programs to create a more innovative Euregional ecosystem.

“The incubators have the startups. What we’re trying to is build a network to give more support … a network you can leverage to create this cross-border cooperation” said Christina Cordova, HighTechXL corporate program manager.

The pilot phase starts at end of this year. The official program launches in January 2019.

By the end of 2019, at least 150 international start-ups are projected to participate in a joint program

One of the main goals is to enlarge the partnerships. “The more incubators we have, the more critical mass we have, Koopsmans said. “The more critical mass, the more we can offer startups … more possibilities, more investors.”

EMR Startup Project will assist startups in:

• starting a business

• doing business with other start-ups

• reaching out to consumers

• attracting investors across borders.

The project has 3.53 million euros in funding, of which 1.62 million euros is co-financed by INTERREG EMR. INTERREG EMR in turn is funded by the European Union.

At this foundational stage, the focus is on exchanging talent and expertise, Koopmans said. The goal is for the other incubators to learn from HTXL and the established accelerators to established and organize programs.

The Interreg EMR project START-UP Program runs from Feb. 2018 to Jan. 2021. By that time, the startup program will be required to have developed a blueprint implemented in a self-sustaining model.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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