Since October 2015, Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) has brought together more than 150 Flanders-based companies, civil society partners, knowledge institutions and government actors to reflect on the following crucial questions:
- How do we position Flanders in the international market more effectively?
- What do Flanders-based companies need most?
- How can different actors in Flanders work together even better?
The result of this cocreation process is ‘Flanders Accelerates!’ (2017-2021). This strategy determines which efforts all actors together will make to accelerate the internationalization of Flanders’ economy, in addition to FIT’s standard activities.
On 25 November 2016, the internationalization strategy was adopted by the government of Flanders. Following the Council of Ministers on 5 April 2019, Minister-President Geert Bourgeois presented a status update for ‘Flanders Accelerates’. Furthermore, as part of Flanders’ government agreement for 2019-2024, the strategy was extended until 2024, and includes the use of a newly developed branding toolkit.
Objectives for 2020-22: five projects with support from EFRO and Hermes Fund
In a rapidly digitizing and innovating world, it can be a challenge to introduce and promote new ideas, products and services abroad. That’s why, in February 2020, FIT launched five new projects that focus entirely on digitization and transformation of services. These projects enable us to detect the needs of companies more easily, develop new forms of support and sharpen the competitiveness of Flanders.
The five projects are:
Data management for smart knowhow
Big data has become a crucial source of business intelligence. However, to provide enterprises with useful market and sector insights, a data system is required that collects, manages, shares and reports on data in the most optimal way. FIT continues to grow in this area. The aim is to further expand our business intelligence systems and big data applications. Among other things, we anticipate integrating with even more parties to provide even better insights that Flanders-based companies can use.
Mapping out the customer journey
Our customer journey – the way in which companies find their way to FIT – is changing ever more quickly as more (digital) possibilities become available. FIT is already responding to this trend by digitizing our services and tailoring them to specific target groups. In the coming years, we will take these efforts even further by getting to know and segmenting our customers better, while digitizing the entire process.
Helping start-ups internationalize
Analyses show that start-ups can use some additional support for their international go-to-market strategy. “How do I best approach a certain market?” “How do I build up market share abroad?” “How do I get the most out of my trade show participation?” These are all questions that FIT can respond to using new tools. We are also digitally mapping Flanders’ start-up landscape in order to offer more proactive guidance.
As an important export region, Flanders needs to stay at the top of the digital trade game. After all, digital trade has an immense impact on how companies produce, sell and manage their goods, services and information. At the same time, many businesses are increasingly encountering new forms of digital protectionism. In order to optimally guide companies, FIT closely follows up on this rapidly changing context.
Internationalization of Flanders’ clusters
Cluster organizations stimulate cooperation within a sector to strengthen innovation. There is no doubt that Flanders’ clusters are very successful in this respect. However, there are still opportunities to further internationalize their innovative achievement. That’s why FIT is working on a methodology that supports clusters and gives them direction in developing and carrying out their internationalization plans.
Verover de Wereld (Conquer the World)
In April 2019, FIT and its partner organizations launched www.veroverdewereld.be: a one-stop digital calendar for Flanders-based companies that wish to participate in international business events worldwide.
But it also offers a unique web platform for event organizers who focus on internationally active companies from Flanders and who are looking for additional cooperation, synergy and extra promotion opportunities.
> Discover www.veroverdewereld.be.
Together with stakeholders, partners and companies, FIT has co-created a branding toolkit that focuses on 5 economic domains:
- Life sciences & health;
- Solution-driven engineering & technology;
- Smart logistics;
- Sustainable resources, materials & chemistry.
The toolkit offers photos, videos, useful texts and facts & figures that make Flanders ‘recognizable’ abroad, emphasize our solution-oriented approach and help entrepreneurs expand their international activities.
Flanders International Economic Summit
During the Flanders International Economic Summit (FIES) on 7 May 2019, Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) presented the preliminary results of the internationalization strategy ‘Flanders Accelerates!’ (2017-2021).
In addition, FIT inspired the attendees with speakers such as European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, the minister-president of Flanders Geert Bourgeois, Heidi Rakels, Sonja Willems, Wim De Waele and Jan Vander Stichele.
From 2017 to 2021, FIT coordinates the execution of the ‘Flanders Accelerates!’ strategy, working together with a variety of partner organizations. These include structural partners, Flanders’ spearhead clusters and the region’s strategic research centers.
During the implementation of the strategy, dialogue with civil society partners remains open in order to constantly respond to their changing needs.
In order for FIT to successfully implement ‘Flanders Accelerates!’, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) granted EUR 800,020 in support between 2017 and 2019, while the Hermes Fund earmarked EUR 900,022 in the same period. For 2019-2022, ERDF is providing EUR 800,000, while the Hermes Fund provides EUR 900,000.