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Kaneka (JP), Pfizer (US) and Brolis (LT) emerge victorious at the Foreign Investment Trophy 2018

Brussels, Tuesday, February 27th – Three foreign investors have been recognized for their dedication to Flanders, the northern region of Belgium, at the 6th consecutive Foreign Investment Trophy. This prestigious ceremony is organized by government agency Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) to highlight the importance of foreign investment in the region.

Minister-President of Flanders Geert Bourgeois presented the Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy 2018 to Jean Vandael, plant general manager, and Katsutoshi Shichijo, president of Kaneka Belgium. The Japanese chemical firm was recognized for the recent expansion of its production facility in Westerlo. “Kaneka’s investment highlights Flanders’ strategic location and other strengths such as interesting tax incentives and a top-class, multilingual workforce,” the Minister-President commented.

Kaneka emerged victorious from a pool of five nominees after three rounds of voting by a professional jury, the public and the audience. The other nominees for the Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy 2018 were: Boortmalt and French parent company Axereal, South Korean Hyundai Construction Equipment, Swiss pharma firm Novartis and South African paper and pulp producer Sappi.

Furthermore, American pharma giant Pfizer won the Lifetime Achievement Trophy 2018. Luc Van Steenwinkel, managing director of Pfizer in Puurs, received the trophy from Flanders’ Minister-President Geert Bourgeois, who commented: “This victory highlights Pfizer’s decades-spanning track record of growth with more than 2,250 employees in Flanders, and acknowledges the American company’s dedication to our region.”

Finally, Lithuanian photonics firm Brolis Semiconductors was presented with the Newcomer of the Year Trophy 2018 for setting up its first base in Flanders: a new R&D center in Ghent. Founders Kristijonas, Dominykas and Augustinas Vizbaras received the trophy from Marc Van Gastel, Head of Department Invest at FIT. Claire Tillekaerts, CEO of FIT, commented: “Brolis’ R&D investment in Flanders indicates our region’s successful approach of providing support and incentives to innovative businesses. In 2017, foreign firms like Brolis invested EUR 2.08 billion and created 5,377 additional jobs in Flanders, illustrating just how crucial foreign investors are to our economy, workforce and reputation as an excellent place for business.”

Get the full scoop on the winners

Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy 2018: Kaneka (Japan)

In Westerlo (Flanders), Kaneka is investing EUR 34 million to build an additional modified silicone polymer production line at its plant. The Japanese firm will also enhance its raw materials storage and ship loading facilities. When construction is completed, the Flanders-based site will be Kaneka’s largest global production plant. “Not only will we boost output by 50% to meet growing demand and enter new markets, we will also keep 900 ADR trucks off the road in favor of ecologically-friendly water transport,” explains Jean Vandael, plant general manager of Kaneka Belgium.

More information and a video interview with Jean Vandael, plant general manager at Kaneka Belgium, and Katsutoshi Shichijo, president of Kaneka Belgium.

Lifetime Achievement Trophy 2018: Pfizer (US)

Pharma giant Pfizer operates four sites in Belgium. Two are located in the region of Flanders, where the American firm employs over 2,250 people. The facility in Puurs, for example, is the company’s biggest manufacturing site in Europe and one of its largest worldwide. It has been fabricating injectable medicines, vaccines and ophthalmic products since 1963—operating under Upjohn at the time. The site, which Pfizer obtained in 2003, has been the scene of numerous investments. In the past six years, for example, Pfizer funneled EUR 500+ million into supporting growth in Puurs.

“These investments are a clear indicator of our parent company’s vision of Flanders as an attractive location for high-tech production,” says Luc Van Steenwinkel, managing director of Pfizer Puurs. “It’s great to see that the appreciation goes both ways. Winning the Lifetime Achievement Trophy recognizes the hard work of our employees.”

More information and a video interview with Luc Van Steenwinkel, managing director of Pfizer Puurs.

Newcomer of the Year Trophy 2018: Brolis Semiconductors (Lithuania)

Founded by three brothers, Brolis Semiconductors specializes in infrared light sources for various applications—from night vision goggles to devices for the detection of gases in grain silos, for example. In 2017, the Lithuanian firm chose Ghent as the home for a new R&D office, after carrying out innovative photonics research with Ghent University—one of Flanders’ main universities. At its first base in Flanders, Brolis plans to hire 5 to 10 local engineers in the next 3 years.

The Lithuanian company will rely on its new R&D division in Ghent to make its photonics technology as tiny as possible and integrate it into miniscule silicon-based chips. “Winning the Newcomer of the Year Trophy 2018 only adds to the warm welcome we have received in Flanders,” says co-founder Augustinas Vizbaras. “It’s both an honor and a recognition of the hard work of our motivated workforce back home. We couldn’t have made it here without them.”

More information and a video interview with Augustinas Vizbaras, one of Brolis Semiconductors’ founding brothers.

About FIT and Flanders

International firms reap diverse rewards when deciding to invest in Flanders. As a major logistics crossroads at the heart of Europe’s purchasing power, Flanders is the place to be for companies with pan-European ambitions. The region is also known for the close collaboration between its private, public and academic sectors—making it fertile ground for innovative research and development activities in some of the most advanced technological niches. To help international players find their places in Flanders and take advantage of the region’s financial incentives, Flanders Investment & Trade guides these businesses through their investment trajectories on an individual basis.

Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) actively promotes sustainable international business in Flanders as a key element of the region’s socio-economic development. FIT accomplishes this by supporting Flanders-based companies in their international business ventures and by attracting foreign investors. FIT assists businesses across Flanders in their international endeavors and provides custom advice and support. Companies can call on the agency’s local and international networks of contacts, while FIT also offers financial support and information about the financial incentives available.

Press contact

Tine Van Valckenborgh, spokesperson Flanders Investment & Trade
M. +32 499 24 60 93
@InvestFlanders (#FITtrophy2018)

Websites – for more on the ceremony, nominees and former laureates; – for more on international business and investing in Flanders; – for more on FIT.

27 February 2018