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‘Flanders Accelerates’ steps up a gear: FIT launches 5 new projects to help Flanders internationalize even more

Internationalization is in the DNA of Flanders’ economy. If Flanders-based companies – large and small – want to grow further, it’s key to promote their ideas, products and services abroad. But in a world that’s digitalizing and innovating at an ever-faster pace, that’s no easy task. This is why Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) is launching five new projects as part of ‘Flanders Accelerates’, the internationalization strategy for the economy of Flanders. Just so we’re clear: from 2020 to 2022, we are going to speed things up even more.

“The aim is to assist companies with international ambitions even better than before and, at the same time, to further strengthen the competitiveness of Flanders as a region,” explains Claire Tillekaerts, CEO of FIT. “With EUR 800,000 of support from ERDF, the European Regional Development Fund, as well as EUR 900,000 from the Hermes Fund, we are pulling out all the stops for digitalization and optimal service provision. We are doing this, among other things, to detect the needs of the business world more easily, to develop new forms of support and to speed up the commercialization of Flanders’ innovative strengths abroad.”

5 sky-high ambitions

In order to realize these objectives in a structured way, we focus on projects within 5 major themes. Find out what these mean for Flanders’ entrepreneurial and innovative spirit:

1. Data management: from integrated data to smart choices

“Big data has become a crucial source of business knowledge,” says Data Project Manager Yves Ruland. “But to provide companies with useful market and sector insights, you need a data system that collects, manages, shares and reports data in a thoughtful way. FIT has already made great efforts in this area, but we want to take this further. The intention is to expand our business intelligence systems and big data applications to include integration with even more parties. In this way, we can deliver high-quality insights that companies of Flanders can use to make smart business choices.”

2. Customer journey: richer customer knowledge for customized services

“The business world and the needs of companies are changing faster than ever,” asserts Kristof Lowyck, account manager Invest at FIT. “And the same goes for their customer journey, or how they find their way to FIT. We are already responding to this by digitalizing our services and tailoring them to specific target groups. Think, for example, of our Welcome Teams for foreign investors in domains such as ICT, chemistry and life sciences. In the coming years, we want to raise these efforts even higher. By getting to know our customers better, segmenting them more precisely and digitalizing this process, we will be able to detect and even predict their needs more quickly – for optimal, tailor-made services.”

3. Start-ups: from guidance to international promotion

“Many start-ups are born globals,” says Janne Kindt, project manager for Starters & Scale-ups. “Nonetheless, our analyses show that start-ups often need additional support for their international go-to-market strategies. ‘How do I best approach certain markets?’ ‘How do I build up market share abroad?’ ‘How do I get the most out of a trade fair participation?’ These and other questions will all be answered by new tools that FIT will develop. Moreover, we will digitally map Flanders’ start-up landscape. In this way, we will be able to offer more proactive guidance and support. As a result, we will put Flanders on the map even more as a thriving ecosystem of strong start-ups, scale-ups, incubators, accelerators, consultants, supported service providers and more.”

4. Digital commerce: building and sharing knowledge for further growth

“Digital is the new normal – that's no different in international business. As an important export region, Flanders must not lag behind in this area,” says Francis Baert, strategy planning manager at FIT. “Digitalization is about much more than e-commerce, for example, and has an immense impact on how companies manage their goods, services and information. There are enormous opportunities in this area and Flanders must also lead the way here. At the same time, companies are clashing with new forms of digital protectionism. To guide our companies optimally, FIT closely follows this rapidly changing context.”

5. Clusters: innovative expertise from Flanders goes international

“There is no doubt that Flanders’ innovation clusters are doing well,” says Project Manager Sam Abosi. “An increasing number of companies, research centers, universities and more are joining forces in these large-scale partnerships with governmental support. Together, they develop innovations that benefit cluster members as well as the business world and our society. However, there are still many opportunities to internationalize these developments more strongly and more broadly. That is why FIT is working on a methodology that supports clusters in launching and commercializing their innovative projects abroad. After all, if Flanders’ innovation is highly regarded internationally, we also reap the benefits locally.”

To be continued

With these 5 projects, the ‘Flanders Accelerates’ strategy shifts up a gear. FIT will communicate regularly about the individual themes and the corresponding results. For more information, contact Project Coordinator Sam Abosi at

3 April 2020