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3 foreign investment projects in the running for the 2021 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy 2021

Flanders puts foreign investors in the spotlight

Press release – Brussels, 23 March 2021

Three recent foreign investment projects in Flanders, Belgium’s northern region, are competing for the 2021 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy presented by Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), the government agency for international business in Flanders. It concerns the projects of Swiss logistics service provider Kuehne+Nagel, French engineering company ECA GROUP and finally the jointly nominated British fitness apparel & accessories brand Gymshark and Belgian-Dutch logistics services provider Bleckmann.

With this trophy, FIT puts the spotlight on international companies with investment projects in Flanders for the ninth consecutive year. The winner will be chosen during the Foreign Investment Trophy ceremony. This year, the event will involve a restricted circle of participants – including Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon – on Thursday 22 April 2021 in Lier. Those who register at can attend the ceremony online.

In addition to the Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy, FIT will be presenting one more trophy during the Foreign Investment Trophy event. As such, the Lifetime Achievement Trophy will go to a foreign investor with a long track record in Flanders. The winner will be announced on the evening of the ceremony.

Three nominees for the 2021 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy

Bleckmann (Belgium/The Netherlands) and Gymshark (UK) establish an e-fulfillment center in Rieme

For its e-commerce distribution, British fitness apparel & accessories brand Gymshark works closely with Belgian-Dutch logistics provider Bleckmann. In 2020, this partnership led to a joint investment of EUR 10 million in the construction of a distribution center in the town of Rieme. The project allowed to create 225 jobs in the region. An additional investment of EUR 15 million is planned as well.

Building a new, scalable e-fulfilment site was required to support Gymshark’s ambitious growth plan. The company has targeted an annual doubling of the number of items processed per day at peak times such as Black Friday and summer sales: from 120,000 per day in 2018 to 240,000 in 2019 and 480,000 in 2020. There are also plans to use the distribution center as a center of e-fulfillment excellence for other Gymshark sites.

Discover more about the nomination of Bleckmann and Gymshark (video).


ECA GROUP (France) builds a drone factory in Ostend

ECA GROUP decided to channel EUR 10 million into the construction of a new 5,000-square-meter drone factory at the Port of Ostend. From there, the French engineering company will develop and produce maritime demining drones for the Belgian Navy and the Royal Netherlands Navy. The aim is to use these drones, remove mines and make the sea a safer environment. 

The new site will be operational by 2022. A 30-year concession agreement was signed with the Port of Ostend. In two to three years, ECA GROUP expects to hire over 70 people at the new plant. The company will also become part of the Blue Cluster, Flanders’ spearhead cluster for maritime innovation.

Learn more about the investment of ECA GROUP (video).


Kuehne+Nagel (Switzerland) opens distribution centers in Machelen and Tessenderlo 

In 2020, Kuehne+Nagel opened a new logistics center for pharmaceutical and medical products at Brucargo, the freight area of Brussels Airport, in Machelen. Moreover, in the same year, the Swiss logistics player started the construction of a European distribution center worth EUR 75 million in Tessenderlo. With this investment, the company will create 150 additional jobs in 2021 and another 350 in the following years.

At the European distribution center in Tessenderlo, Kuehne+Nagel will offer complex e-commerce and e-fulfillment solutions. Meanwhile, the logistics center in Machelen, which is located right next to the airport apron – is equipped with a particularly complex pharma cell featuring different temperature zones to handle new, increasingly temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical and medical products.

Get more details on both projects from Kuehne+Nagel (video).


Who will succeed Barry Callebaut after two rounds of voting?

The nominated company with the most votes after two rounds of voting – by the general public online and a professional jury – wins the Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy.

Whoever claims victory will follow in the footsteps of laureates such as:

  • Swiss chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut (2020);
  • Austrian chemical giant Borealis (2019);
  • Japanese technology company Kaneka (2018);
  • French biopharma firm Sanofi (2017);
  • Japanese chemical company Nippon Shokubai (2016).

Voting opens on 23 March 2021 at


In addition to Flanders’ local companies, foreign investors are an important source of economic prosperity, additional jobs and new knowledge in our region. In 2020, for example, foreign companies channeled EUR 2.39 billion into Flanders, spread over 224 projects. These efforts generated 4,717 new jobs, one in five of which was linked to R&D. With the Foreign Investment Trophy, we show our sincere appreciation for this positive impact. The fact that three European firms have been nominated for the Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy is in line with a recent trend: the share of European investments in Flanders was historically high last year.

- Claire Tillekaerts (CEO Flanders Investment & Trade)

To safeguard the resilience of Flanders’ economy and labor market, it’s essential to attract foreign investment in addition to stimulating exports and innovation. Getting Flanders on the shortlists of foreign companies with international growth plans is therefore crucial. With the Foreign Investment Trophy ceremony, we recognize the commitment of such companies.

- Jan Jambon (Minister-President of Flanders)

Press contact

Tine Van Valckenborgh, Flanders Investment & Trade spokesperson
M. +32 499 24 60 93

Websites – for more about the Foreign Investment Trophy; – for more info about FIT; – for more on foreign direct investment in Flanders.

About FIT

Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) promotes international entrepreneurship in Flanders in a sustainable way, as a key element in the region’s socio-economic development. FIT’s mission is twofold: to support Flanders-based companies in their international activities and to attract foreign investors to Flanders. Companies can call upon FIT’s network at home and abroad. Also, FIT provides financial support and information on financial incentives.

23 March 2021