You are here

2017 sees upswing in foreign investment in Flanders

In 2017, foreign companies funneled EUR 2.08 billion into business activities in Flanders, Belgium’s autonomous northern region. In doing so, foreign investors kicked off 215 new projects and created an estimated 5,377 jobs in the region. These figures—released by Flanders Investment & Trade, the government agency responsible for attracting foreign investment to Flanders—once again highlight the region as an attractive location for foreign investors.

After a short-lived dip in 2016 due to socio-economic and geopolitical conditions, foreign investment in Flanders is back on track in 2017. Not only did the total investment amount rise by 11.41% compared to the year before (from EUR 1.87 to 2.08 billion), the number of new projects also grew by 8.59% (from 198 to 215). Foreign investments in the region also created the highest number of jobs in 15 years, recording an increase of 26.22% in 2017 (from 4,260 to 5,377).

Investment sources: familiar faces among Flanders’ top 10 investors

Roughly four-fifths of all foreign investment projects in Flanders can be traced back to 10 countries. As in previous years, the United States takes the lead. In 2017, the US accounted for over one-fifth of foreign investment in Flanders, with the number of new projects climbing from 34 to 46.

2017 also confirms another trend: Flanders’ neighbors are among its biggest investors. The Netherlands, Germany and France land in 2nd, 3rd and 4th place respectively, and the United Kingdom claims 8th place. Furthermore, two European newcomers make their appearance in Flanders’ list of top investors: Sweden (#7) and Italy (#10). Completing the list of European countries in the ranking is Switzerland (#9).

Approximately one-fifth of all foreign investment projects in Flanders come from companies located in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, two of which claim a spot in the top 10. As such, China holds 5th place in the ranking, while Japan follows in 6th position.

Types of investment: greenfield still in the lead, expansions on the rise

In 2017, greenfield projects were once again the most popular form of investment in Flanders. Last year, 40.93% of all foreign investors set up their operations in Flanders from scratch.

This does, however, represent a decline compared to the 43.43% share in 2016. The reason is the growing popularity of expansion projects, which represent a share of 33.49% in 2017 versus 26.26% the year before. Mergers and acquisitions also declined in popularity as a form of investment, going from a 30.30% share in 2016 to 25.58% in 2017.

Types of activities: manufacturing, logistics and R&D in pole position

Based on the number of investment projects and new jobs created, foreign companies mainly invested in the following top 3 business activities in Flanders:

  1. manufacturing – 71 projects (33.02%), creating 1,832 additional jobs (34.07%) in Flanders;
  2. logistics – 53 projects (24.65%), resulting in 1,686 new jobs (31.36%);
  3. research and development – 43 projects (20%), creating 1,367 new jobs (25.42%).

The number of R&D jobs created in particular represents a major increase compared to previous years—highlighting Flanders’ attractive tax incentives for employing researchers. 

Furthermore, Flanders also proved to be a popular destination for foreign investments in sales and marketing activities, totaling 35 new projects (16.28%) in 2017.

Compared to previous years, there has been remarkable increase in the number of R&D jobs created by foreign investors in Flanders. Various factors contribute to this trend, including Flanders’ attractive tax regime for the employment of researchers and our policy to focus intensely on Industry 4.0. Both the government of Flanders and the federal government go to great lengths to create the most favorable investment climate possible.”

Geert Bourgeois, Minister-President of Flanders

2017 reconfirms Flanders’ reputation as an attractive location for foreign investors. That’s great news. Furthermore, foreign businesses also created the highest number of new jobs since 2003. This goes to show just how important foreign investments, in addition to Flanders’ export activities, are in driving our economy forward.”

Claire Tillekaerts (CEO Flanders Investment & Trade)

23 January 2018