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Vesalius meets Mercator in international image campaign about Flanders’ life sciences & health industry

FIT puts pioneering Flanders in the spotlight

Press release – Leuven, 1 June 2021. Flanders is a hub for research, innovation and technology – particularly in the fields of life sciences, healthcare and medical applications. To share that message around the globe, Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) is launching an international image campaign that will be rolled out digitally in 7 countries starting from June 2021 using and as its online bases.

Tonight at 10 p.m., Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon officially unveiled and kicked off FIT’s campaign during a visual projection on the Provinciehuis (Province House) in Leuven. Earlier, FIT highlighted the marketing initiative with similar visual projections on structures located in the other four provincial capitals of Flanders.

Marketing initiative at home and abroad

Flanders is home to numerous companies, knowledge institutions, research centers and other organizations that innovate together. This research and business ecosystem puts the region on the map in two directions. On the one hand, Flanders’ ecosystem is the origin of numerous innovations that are applied worldwide. On the other hand, it encourages foreign investors to set up activities in Flanders as a breeding ground for their pioneering ambitions.

To boost this double dynamic, FIT is launching a large-scale marketing initiative both at home and abroad. The ambition is to put the spotlight on Flanders’ many strengths and brainpower in the field of life sciences & health. To this end, FIT is kicking off an image campaign and rolling out the ‘Virtual Tours’ digital platform. Both are visualized through the images of two well-known past pioneers from Flanders: anatomist Vesalius and cartographer Mercator.

The emphasis on life sciences & health is no coincidence. Both the sector’s international potential and its economic importance as a pillar for prosperity and job creation cannot be underestimated.

The timing is also appropriate. Because of COVID-19, business trips, trade fairs and trade missions are on the back burner, while the business world is digitizing faster than ever. This new reality requires other methods to help Flanders-based players grow abroad and attract international players to Flanders – hence FIT’s choice to set up a digital lead-generation platform like Virtual Tours. Furthermore, the Brexit is also triggering economic and business shifts. With this campaign, FIT therefore wants to promote Flanders as a reliable and indispensable investment location in post-Brexit times.

Vesalius as the familiar face of a new image campaign

Andreas Vesalius is known the world over as the founder of modern anatomy. This makes the 16th-century scientist from Brabant the face of choice for a campaign to put the track record of Flanders’ life science & health industry in the spotlight. At the same time, the image campaign seeks to make every inhabitant of Flanders aware of sector’s local strengths.

The initiative’s metaphorical signboard is a contemporary re-creation of the iconic cover page of ‘De humani corporis fabrica’, Vesalius’ groundbreaking anatomy book which shows the scientist amid his students, in action during a dissection. The modern version – by Musketon, a visual artist from Flanders – reprises the historical setting and adds a more recent series of references. Among other visionaries from Flanders, the canvas features Paul Janssen, Paul Stoffels, Peter Piot, Rudi Pauwels, Christine Van Broeckhoven, Catherine Verfaillie and Annie Vereecken. 

The visionaries from Flanders:

Alexandre Mottrie, André Van Steirteghem, Annie Van Broekhoven, Bart Destrooper, Catherine Verfaillie, Chris De Jonghe, Christian De Duve, Christine Van Broekhoven, Danaë Delbeke, Desiré Collen, Dirk Inzé, Dirk Reyn, Edwin Moses, Els Beirnaert, Eric Van Cutsem, Erik De Clercq, Gil Beyen, Hans Constandt, Herman Goossens, Hilde Windels, Hugo Van Heuverswyn, Jo Bury, Johan Cardoen, Johan Neyts, Jos Peeters, Liesbet Lagae, Luk Vandenberghe, Marc Van Ranst, Marianne De Backer, Mark Vaeck, Marleen Temmerman, Onno Van de Stolpe, Patrick Van Beneden, Patrik De Haes, Paul Janssen, Paul Stoffels, Peter Carmeliet, Pierre Van Damme, Pieter de Somer, Piet Wigerinck, Rudi Mariën, Rudi Pauwels, Rudy Dekeyser, Tim Van Hauwermeiren, Walter Fiers, Annie Vereecken, Bruno Goldhof, Luc Debruyne, Marc Van Montagu, Peter Piot, Damya Laoui, Liesbet Geris, Inge Van herreweghe, Isabel Leroux-Roels, Karina Van Doninck, Nadia Zakaria, Veerle Visser -vandewalle, Lama Winter, Vesalius.

The full list can be found at

To launch the campaign across Flanders, FIT set up a marketing action in five cities. On May 30 and 31 at 10 p.m., locals could see the campaign image projected on the old grain silo at the Asia Dock in Antwerp (see picture), the Concert Hall in Bruges (see picture), the Virginie Loveling building (VAC) in Ghent (see picture) and the towers of the TT center in Hasselt (see picture). Furthermore, marking the official climax of the marketing action on 1 June, the image appeared on the Provinciehuis (Province House) in Leuven, the city where Vesalius began his university career in 1528. The projection took place in the presence of Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon and FIT CEO Claire Tillekaerts. In the coming months, the campaign will mainly play out digitally on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter with as its online base. 

“Since the COVID-19 crisis, Flanders stands out more than ever as a top location for life sciences & health,” comments Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon. “Over the past year, our region has proven that it plays a key role in the development and production of vaccines and the fight against the coronavirus. Just think of the crucial contributions of players like VIB, Brussels Airport and the Pfizer site in Puurs. With this campaign, we want to make every person in Flanders aware of this track record while encouraging a confident mentality. The message for the international business world is also clear: Flanders is the place to be for foreign companies and investors in life sciences and other high-tech fields.”

Encouraging potential investors with Virtual Tours and Mercator

In conjunction with the image campaign, FIT is also rolling out a digital platform called ‘Virtual Tours’. At, online visitors discover an interactive 3D map, packed with top players from the research and business ecosystem of Flanders’ life sciences & health industry. This clever piece of mapmaking could not have existed without the pioneering, cartographic insights of Gerardus Mercator. The 16th-century cartographer will therefore play a key role in the marketing actions used to promote Virtual Tours internationally.

In addition to the 3D map, the Virtual Tours platform contains insightful and inspiring videos, profile texts, stories and extensive 360° tours – at Brussels Airport, imec and VIB, among other organizations. With lead generation as one of the main objectives, the platform also enables online visitors to request a remote guided tour and engage directly with FIT experts who know the ins and outs of Flanders’ research and business ecosystems.

“With Virtual Tours and the accompanying digital promotion actions, we are advancing Flanders to a broad but relevant international audience,” comments Claire Tillekaerts, CEO of FIT. “This audience includes potential foreign investors and buyers, knowledge and research centers, incubators and accelerators, innovation clusters, capital providers and talent from all over the world. In this way, we are positioning Flanders ever more strongly as a major hub in crucial domains such as biotech, medtech, pharma and e-health.”

Extensive international promotion on the agenda

FIT's digital life sciences & health campaign will run from 1 June to 5 July 2021 in collaboration with marketing agency Bridgeneers and digital production house B.U.T. among other partners. Furthermore, in 2022, FIT will continue to promote the Virtual Tours platform at important international sector events, trade fairs, trade missions and so on.

The scope of the campaign is international and focuses on the US, UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and the Netherlands. These are all top regions for life sciences. In most of these markets, FIT also has a Science & Technology Office where its Science & Technology Counselors spot opportunities in niche domains such as health tech.

The fact that the campaign focuses on the UK, among other countries, is also related to Brexit. The UK’s departure from the EU creates not only challenges, but also opportunities to attract innovative companies from across the Channel. However, the target group also includes companies from other markets – such as the US, Japan and Canada – that currently have operations in the UK and are considering a move to the EU.

In the coming months and years, once the life sciences & health campaign is successfully launched, FIT plans similar campaigns for Flanders’ other top industries: food, smart logistics, solution-driven engineering & technology and sustainable resources, materials & chemistry. These are the main focus domains of “Flanders Accelerates!”, the internationalization strategy for Flanders’ economy, which is coordinated by FIT. 

Press contact

Tine Van Valckenborgh, woordvoerder 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 companies to Flanders. Companies can call upon FIT’s network at home and abroad. Also, FIT provides financial support and information on financial incentives.

1 June 2021