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Minister-President Jan Jambon kicks off virtual Exportbeurs with an expanded team of tech diplomats for Flanders

PRESS RELEASE – Kortrijk, 8 February 2021

To give Flanders’ exporting community a boost and support the economic relaunch, Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) is organizing the Exportbeurs 2021 from 9 to 11 February. This year, the fair’s 3rd edition takes place virtually and welcomes over 1300 firms with international plans and projects. The Exportbeurs is the ideal opportunity for Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon and FIT CEO Claire Tillekaerts to introduce FIT’s expanded team of Science & Technology Counselors. In the fight against COVID-19, science and technology are evolving at an unprecedented speed. More than ever, FIT is now investing in the international marketing of innovation from Flanders by sending tech diplomats out to 10 innovative hotspots worldwide.

FIT brings strong Science & Technology team on board

During a virtual meeting organized at the Virtual Classroom op de Barco Campus in Kortrijk, FIT’s expanded Science & Technology team discussed their mission with Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon and FIT CEO Claire Tillekaerts.

FIT has 10 Science & Technology offices: in New York, Palo Alto, Paris, London, Copenhagen, Munich, Mumbai, Singapore, Guangzhou and Tokyo. There, Science & Technology Counselors and Tech Deputies strengthen economic diplomacy and focus on one or more of the following 3 domains: Digital Tech, Health Tech and Climate Tech. On 1 February, FIT brought 4 new Science & Technology (S&T) Counselors on board:

  • John Baekelmans, the former CEO of Rombit, joined on 1 February and will soon leave for New York (Health Tech with link to Digital);
  • Kim Demeyer, former Director of Thermal & Renewable Energy at Tractebel Engie, will start on 1 March in Singapore (Climate & Digital Tech);
  • Maarten Lambert, former Investment Manager at Capricorn Partners, started on 1 February and is preparing to leave for Copenhagen (Health & Climate Tech);
  • Peter Tanghe, former China Business Development Consultant at imec.istart, began working at FIT on 1 February in Guangzhou (Digital Tech).

These professionals are joining S&T Counselors Ralph Moreau (Climate Tech) and Wim Sohier (Digital Tech) in Palo Alto, and Jan Wauters in Paris (Digital & Health Tech), who together boast several years of experience as tech diplomats for Flanders. The S&T Counselors for Munich (Digital & Health Tech) and Tokyo (Digital & Health Tech) – as well as the Tech Deputies for London (Digital & Health Tech) and Mumbai (Climate & Digital Tech) – will start working in their Science & Technology Office by the summer of 2021 at the latest.

> Discover more about FIT’s tech mission and meet the team of tech diplomats.

Flanders’ exports on a cautious recovery path

During the Exportbeurs 2021 opening session – viewable at – Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon and FIT CEO Claire Tillekaerts also announced the latest export figures. In the first 10 months of 2020, Flanders’ goods exports declined by 10.10% compared to the same period in 2019. This result is in line with the EU average (-10.97%) and well below the historical export loss of 21.4% in the second quarter of 2020.

To what extent the global resurfacing of COVID-19 will affect Flanders’ export results in the last quarter remains to be seen. Especially in Europe, which accounts for 35% of global trade in goods and 75% of Flanders’ total goods exports, the COVID-19 impact grew again.

Additional subsidies in the face of COVID-19 and Brexit

The export figures also show that Flanders’ export business community remained operational even at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. Export companies showed initiative, dared to take calculated risks and demonstrated an innovative mindset. These are all characteristics that are doing them a world of good now that global trade is slowly picking up.

To give Flanders-based companies extra incentives to export and diversify their markets, FIT is launching additional support measures today, in the face of COVID-19 and Brexit. These measures are part of the EUR 30 million allocated to FIT as part of ‘Vlaamse Veerkracht’ (‘Flanders’ Resilience’), the relaunch plan of the Government of Flanders.

The Exportbeurs as a catalyst for internationalizing Flanders  

It’s no coincidence that FIT is launching its expanded team of Science & Technology Counselors on the eve of the Exportbeurs. Just like FIT’s Economic Representatives (VLEVs) and International Business Advisors (AIOs), all of whom will be present at the Exportbeurs, the Science & Technology Counselors also help support the international ambitions of Flanders-based companies and foreign businesses looking for a location in the EU.

During the virtual Exportbeurs 2021, export companies and potential exporters have the opportunity to visit 42 exhibition stands of relevant service providers. They can also discuss their export plans one-on-one with 100 foreign representatives, network in a chat environment and participate in 43 different seminars. From 9 to 11 February 2021, the place to be is a completely digitally reconstructed exhibition hall at

There’s great interest from Flanders’ exporting community. The day before the start of the Exportbeurs, 1532 companies already registered. 


Even in its virtual form, the Exportbeurs is a catalyst for internationalization – an essential one, especially in times of COVID-19. While business trips are currently not easy because of the often-strict restrictions, exporters go to great lengths for their prospecting efforts not to be interrupted. They also need to maintain their existing contacts with foreign customers and partners. Here, FIT’s economic and diplomatic network plays a crucial role. From their foreign posts, these teams are closing the gap between supply and demand which COVID-19 is creating.”

- Claire Tillekaerts (CEO Flanders Investment & Trade)

Accounting for 1 in 3 jobs in Flanders, export is an important lifeline of Flanders’ economy and a basic pillar of the economic relaunch. More than ever, science and technology are driving this recovery. To get and keep innovative products and services from Flanders on the radars of foreign markets, Flanders’ economic diplomacy has been structurally reinforced with 10 Science & Technology Offices. Both during and after the Exportbeurs, they provide an extra form of support for Flanders-based tech companies who literally want to make it far in the world.”

- Jan Jambon (Flanders’ Minister-President)

Press contact

Tine Van Valckenborgh, spokesperson Flanders Investment & Trade

  M. +32 499 24 60 93

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. In addition, FIT provides financial support and information on financial incentives.

7 February 2021