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Caeleste (Mechelen) and FAM (Kontich) win Export Lion Awards 2020

Ghent, 23 September 2020 – Image sensor developer Caeleste (Mechelen) and machine manufacturer FAM (Kontich) have been recognized as Export Lions of 2020 - #LvdE20. Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) presented this prestigious award to successful Flanders-based export companies for 19 consecutive years. During an exciting online awards ceremony – streamed live from Ghent and the premises of the 6 nominees – CTO Bart Dierickx of Caeleste and CEO Mark Van Hemelrijk of FAM received their export trophies from Minister-President of the Government of Flanders Jan Jambon and Claire Tillekaerts, managing director of FIT.

In the category ‘Companies with up to 49 employees’, home automation firm Basalte (Merelbeke) and organo-mineral fertilizers producer Fertikal (Beveren) gracefully gave the virtual stage to image sensor developer Caeleste (Mechelen).  

Machine manufacturer FAM (Kontich) gave two exporters from East-Flanders a run for their money in the category ‘Companies with 50 or more employees’: software developer Lansweeper (Dendermonde) and artificial turf innovator Sports & Leisure Group (Sint-Niklaas).

Caeleste: Export Lion 2020 in the category ‘Companies with up to 49 employees’

Caeleste’s specialized image sensors find their way into medical imaging technologies, aerospace and industrial applications. The technology company from Mechelen is at the absolute top of its niche when it comes to high-impact innovation.

Since it was founded in 2006, Caeleste’s mission has been to work with the customer to devise solutions that are superior to the standard range of major players. The company’s earliest customers were space industry players, mainly from within Europe. Through word-of-mouth, the customer portfolio then expanded rapidly, both geographically – into distant export markets such as China, Japan, Russia and the US – and in terms of applications.

The fact that Caeleste put Flanders on the international technological map was a decider for the jury. What’s more, the company’s ability to hold its own as a small player in the international arena is inspiring. To accomplish this, Caeleste employs in-depth know-how and prioritizes the development of novel technologies and materials.

ID Caeleste (2020)
  • Location: Mechelen
  • Number of employees: 30 full-time equivalents
  • Turnover: € 6.304.500
  • Export share of turnover: 97%
  • Non-EU countries’ share of export: 45%
Meet Export Lion Caeleste: 

FAM: Export Lion 2020 in the category ‘Companies with 50 or more employees’

This machine manufacturer has been building the road to international success for over 6 decades. In its early days, FAM – Fabricatie & Advies voor Machinebouw (translated as ‘fabrication and advise for machine building’) in full – manufactured mainly harvesting and filling machines as well as slicers. But the share of turnover generated by the sale of slicers grew year after year, thanks to the increasing popularity of comfort foods, including frozen products, pre-cut fresh vegetables and ready-made meals.

Today, more than 6,000 slicers for potatoes, vegetables, fruit, meat and cheese, among others, are used by industrial food processors on all continents. The company manages a network of sales and service offices, while an innovation team at home focuses on continuously improving its machines. These are built at FAM, in collaboration with its sister company Stumabo, a specialist in precision knives.

Among other factors, FAM’s diversified export strategy and innovative spirit convinced the jury. The company’s local anchoring also played a role, as most of the technology and components used in its machines are also from Flanders.

ID FAM (2020)
  • Location: Kontich
  • Number of employees: 58 full-time equivalents
  • Turnover: € 29.680.090
  • Export share in turnover: 91%
  • Non-EU countries’ share of export: 34%
Meet Export Lion FAM: 

The Export Lion as an ambassador of Flanders’ export success

Two brand-new ambassadors of Flanders’ export community show once again that we can conquer the world from our region with specialized know-how and excellent craftsmanship. But above all, this annual award ceremony is a boost for the entire Flanders exporting domain, and more than ever in these uncertain times.”

Claire Tillekaerts, CEO of FIT

With the Export Lion, we pay tribute to all Flanders-based companies, large and small, that tirelessly explore new markets and strengthen their positions in their existing export countries. Flanders Investment & Trade puts a few top exporters in the spotlight every year. After all, Flanders is home to so many world players that all too often operate behind the scenes or in very specific niches. We can be proud of them and of their contribution to prosperity and job creation in our region."

Minister-President of the Government of Flanders Jan Jambon

The contest proceedings of the Export Lion

For the 19th year in a row, Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) awards companies from Flanders that excel in exportation with the Export Lion Awards. In doing so, Flanders’ Agency for International Entrepreneurship stresses the importance of international trade for the economy of Flanders. The award ensures national recognition, and thanks to FIT’s foreign network, it also opens many international doors.

Former winners include Skyline Communications, MediaGeniX, DEME, Duvel-Moortgat, HTMS, BOPLAN, Biobest Group and Sioen Industries. Their success stories are both exemplars as well as stimuli for other companies from Flanders with international ambitions. For this edition, BNP Paribas Fortis, Credendo, DHL Express, North Sea Port, Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen and Stad Gent sponsored the competition.

Companies with up to 49 employees and those with 50 or more can compete for the prestigious award. On 11 June, 3 nominees per category were selected from among 26 applicants. Among other factors, the jury based its assessment on export turnover figures, geographical diversification efforts, export policy lines, corporate social responsibility and innovative strength. These 6 nominees then presented their competition files to a jury on 14 September. The final decision was also made at that moment.

In addition to chairpersons Claire Tillekaerts (managing director of FIT) and Sonja Willems (chairman of the board of directors of FIT), Dirk Van Steerteghem (head of International Trade at FIT), Peter Lauwers (head of Advisory at KPMG Belgium), Frank Haak (head of sales at Global Trade Solutions BNP Paribas Fortis), Manfred Van Vlierberghe (CEO of ArelorMittal Belgium) and Luc Huysmans (senior writer at Trends) sat at the jury table. With Jan Mortier (commercial director at Sioen Industries) and Bart Swinnen (CEO of Luminex Network Intelligence), the Export Lions of 2019 were also represented in the final jury.

About Flanders Investment & Trade

Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) is an agency of the government of Flanders responsible for promoting the region as a business location for foreign companies and supports local businesses in their international business ambitions. These companies can fully rely on FIT’s expertise and local and international network. The Export Lion Award fits within the general mission of Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT): to raise awareness among companies of Flanders and to encourage them to do business internationally.

Press contacts

Tine Van Valckenborgh, spokesperson for Flanders Investment & Trade

23 September 2020