Profiles of main tech parks, accelerators, hackathons
In September 2012, the Beirut Digital District (BDD) was officially launched and in mid-2018 it was eventually opened. It is located in Bashura, an area geographically adjacent to Beirut’s Central District, Lebanon’s business hub. The BDD is a pioneer national initiative, aiming at creating a tech-hub for the digital industry in Lebanon and the region. It was conceived to attract foreign digital endeavours and boost opportunities for local entrepreneurs. The project is a joint effort by the private and public sectors, established by the Ministry of Telecommunications and real estate developer ZRE and Berytech, a Lebanese incubator accelerator for the development of startups in the ICT field.
Berytech was initiated in 2002 by the Saint-Joseph University and designed to be the first technological pole in Lebanon to promote the creation and development of startups, focusing on innovation and technology. Its first premises were established next to the Faculty of Engineering of Saint-Joseph University to nurture high-tech companies and help them commercialise innovative ideas and technologies. It hosts dozens of companies in the IT sector. In addition, this site is the official host to the first Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Lebanon allowing local Internet traffic from different Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to move through a local bandwidth, at faster speed and at a lower cost for the service providers.
After developing another centre to support startups and SMEs innovating the health sector, in 2013 Berytech initiated its third Business Development Centre, the Berytech Digital Park. The Digital Park is hosted in Beirut Digital District and was designed to host ICT startups and commercially established ICT companies. In 2019, Berytech launched the ACT Smart Innovation Hub aimed at strengthening business advancement, economic growth and job creation in the Agri-food and Cleantech sectors in Lebanon, with an expected duration of 36 months. However, due to the current situation of instability the works and projects have slowed down. Leading tech publisher TechCrunch has scheduled its first flagship startup competition for entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa in BDD in October 2018.
These types of hubs usually attract elite circles of urbanised young and middle-aged people with formal education, besides expats and foreigners, but also NGOs, INGOs, international organisations, embassies, etc.