FIT’s Science & Technology team
Research and technology are big in Flanders. Our companies, research centers and knowledge institutions spawn groundbreaking innovations. When Flanders-based players have an international breakthrough with their innovations, they create growth, jobs and prosperity. Together with foreign technology players who establish themselves in Flanders, they are responsible for a healthy economic fabric. Consequently, it’s crucial to boost the international reputation of innovation from Flanders and to support local innovation players in their international endeavors.
This fits in perfectly with Flanders’ ambition to be among the most innovative regions in Europe. To help achieve this ambition, FIT strengthens Flanders’ economic diplomacy by establishing Science & Technology Offices in various innovation hotspots worldwide. There, our Science & Technology (S&T) Counselors, among others, play an essential role and focus on 3 technological domains: Digital Tech, Health Tech and Climate Tech.
Science & Technology Offices as innovative beacons
There are 10 Science & Technology Offices worldwide: in New York, Palo Alto, Paris, London, Copenhagen, Munich, Mumbai, Singapore, Guangzhou and Tokyo. In collaboration with our partner organizations, they seek to achieve 4 goals:
To give technology-driven companies from Flanders a competitive edge in international markets by putting them in touch with the right partners.
To attract technology-driven players from abroad to Flanders – especially ‘missing links’. These are players that complement and strengthen Flanders’ innovative and economic fabric while further developing the region into a world hub for innovation together with top talent from Flanders.
To connect Flanders-based companies, research centers, innovation clusters, entrepreneurial organizations, incubators and accelerators with foreign players. These include industry peers, prospects, partners, distributors, potential investors, capital providers and talent.
You put Flanders even more strongly on the worldwide map as a tech region.
Each Science & Technology Office is responsible for a geographic focus area and emphasizes one or more of these 3 focus domains: Digital Tech, Health Tech and Climate Tech. Each of these technological themes contributes to solutions for today’s social and socio-economic challenges.
Strong tech team
Together with our Science & Technology Coordinator, our Science & Technology Counselors play a crucial role in FIT's tech mission. Abroad, they build an extensive network of tech companies, venture capitalists, knowledge and research centers, clusters, incubators, accelerators and so on, while creating connections to Flanders’ ecosystem.
The team also reinforces FIT’s own tech expertise and operations. Part of an extensive foreign network of economic representatives, the team members work closely with the colleagues within their own focus region and in Flanders. In this way they enrich FIT, both in Flanders and abroad, with knowledge and expertise, strengthening our organization to provide even better assistance to businesses.
Meet the global team:
:: Filip De Weerdt, Science & Technology Coordinator in Brussels
Filip De Weerdt gained experience not only at Flanders-based and foreign companies in various sectors but also at Flanders’ research centers and universities. He was CTO at the Dubai Multi Commodity Center and, among other roles, coach and business architect for spin-offs of the University of Antwerp. Filip has expertise in all steps of technology development: from fundamental research to commercialization and intellectual property protection. He also has a consulting background in innovation and business ecosystems.
Flanders is home to numerous large and small technological companies. Moreover, the region boasts a strongly developed R&D ecosystem that can compete with top regions worldwide in many technology domains. However, we are sometimes too modest, which means that the rest of the world does not always see us in the same way. With a few exceptions (such as the Pfizer site in Puurs and its now world-famous logistics efforts in the fight against COVID-19), top talent from Flanders often receives too little international exposure. We are changing that!”
:: Els Verhulst, Science & Technology Counselor in Tokyo
Focus domain: Health Tech & Digital Tech
Bioengineer Els Verhulst has more than 17 years of practical experience in international business. As Senior Liaison Officer for the Green EU Gateway to Japan Program of the European Commission, she supervised the export plans of at least 400 Asian SMEs. This gave her a solid insight into Japanese business culture. Like no other, she knows the needs of local SMEs as well as the cultural differences and common pitfalls. Els was active for many years as director of the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Japan, was part of the board of the European Business Council and received expert status from the EU-Japan Center for Industrial Cooperation. She holds a master's degree in business administration and is the founder and CEO of E.L. Consulting and Trading Co. Ltd.
Japan is the third-largest economy in the world and a major player in most technology sectors. Hence, it’s not a country to be overlooked. The Japanese market is challenging, but rewarding as well. You get the chance to work with loyal partners. You could call it a benchmark market for the development of new products and concepts –the right partners are a crucial part of it. The combination of my experience and the talent and vision of our companies in Flanders puts Flanders even more strongly on the map in Japan as an innovative region.”
:: John Baekelmans, Science & Technology Counselor in New York
Focus domain: Health Tech & Digital Tech
Not only is John Baekelmans the former CEO of Flanders-based scale-up Rombit, but he also used to be Vice President at strategic research center imec and CTO for IoT at technology giant Cisco. In this way, John gained a wealth of experience with a deep technology focus. Typical of him are a relentless drive for innovation and broad business insights in an extensive professional network.
North America is the global driving force when it comes to technological innovation. Flanders’ knowledge economy can be an excellent feeding ground for the entire American ecosystem. As Science & Technology Counselor for Digital & Health Tech, I have the pleasure of bringing innovations from Flanders to the Americas as a win-win for both regions.”
:: Kim Demeyer, Science & Technology Counselor in Singapore
Focus domain: Digital Tech & Climate Tech
As a renewable energy engineer, Kim Demeyer has worked in the energy sector (Tractebel Engie) for many years, with a focus on low-carbon power generation. Before joining FIT, Kim also worked abroad during much of his career. For example, he spent extended periods working in India, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries in Southeast and East Asia, where he connected Flanders’ know-how to local knowledge.
Making relevant connections abroad with a positive impact for Flanders-based companies to tackle global environmental and climate challenges: that’s what it’s all about for me. In these fields, Flanders-based companies and research institutions are developing groundbreaking innovations, and I’m determined to help make this technology the reference. The ultimate goal: to have technology from Flanders set the tone for the rest of the world.”
:: Maarten Lambert, Science & Technology Counselor in Copenhagen
Focus domain: Health Tech & Climate Tech
Maarten Lambert has a background as an investor in technology companies at Leuven-based venture capital fund Capricorn Partners. Besides being a board member of several start-ups and scale-ups, he was involved in identifying international investment opportunities in areas such as Digital Health, Industry 4.0 and Smart Energy. He also worked as a sales director for DataCamp, as a management consultant at consulting firm Bain & Company and as a marketing manager at Procter & Gamble.
As a tech investor, I discovered the enormous potential of Flanders, especially for health and climate technology. I consider myself a bridge-builder between the technological and the commercial. This is also true in my role as Science & Technology Counselor in Copenhagen. The innovative Scandinavian landscape is the perfect place to highlight Flanders’ know-how and build synergies between both ecosystems.”
:: Peter Tanghe, Science & Technology Counselor in Guangzhou
Focus domain: Digital Tech
Peter Tanghe specializes in Digital Tech and has extensive experience as a consultant for leading Chinese tech players. He also supported numerous tech scale-ups from Flanders in the Chinese market. As Managing Director at Accenture China, he was responsible for digital transformation and commercial collaboration projects with technological clients. Together with imec.istart, he also advised the China strategy of Flanders-based tech scale-ups.
Due to the speed of its innovation efforts and the scale of its own market, China has emerged as a leading technology player alongside the US. This creates opportunities as well as challenges for innovative technology companies from Flanders in a variety of sectors. As a Science & Technology Counselor, I wish to contribute to the success of Flanders-based tech companies on Chinese soil, while promoting Flanders among Chinese tech players.”
:: Ralph Moreau, Science & Technology Counselor in Palo Alto
Focus domain: Climate Tech
Before becoming Science & Technology Counselor in Palo Alto, Ralph Moreau held the same position in Singapore and New Delhi. In Singapore, he was responsible for developing markets in both South and Southeast Asia and Oceania; in New Delhi, he focused on the Indian subcontinent. Following 20 years of experience in Asia, including various professional stopovers in Taiwan and Vietnam, Ralph has now landed in America’s Silicon Valley. In an even more distant past, Ralph was also a founder of the imec/iMinds office in Singapore, started his own company in Taiwan and worked for several years at tech giant IBM.
Flanders is among the absolute best for water, energy, waste and materials policy. As a technology ambassador, it gives me great satisfaction to represent this kind of expertise of Flanders-based companies and knowledge institutions – especially in the US. The American market is at a tipping point to fully embrace sustainable developments. With their unique applications, knowledge companies from Flanders are the perfect partners for this trend.”
:: Wim Sohier, Science & Technology Counselor in Palo Alto
Focus domain: Digital Tech
Wim Sohier moved to the US in 2014 and is based in Silicon Valley. In addition to growing the local diplomatic representation, he focuses on digital technology. However, he gained the lion’s share of his 15 years of experience at European-American technology multinationals. He worked as an engineer at Barco, as Product Manager at Technicolor and as Technical Marketing Manager at Philips. For imec, he previously started and expanded the office in Taiwan. Wim is a laureate of the Prince Albert Fund and founder of the Ghent University Alumni chapter for Western America.
Flanders has been the Silicon Valley of Europe for decades. Our companies, entrepreneurs and researchers prove this every day in practice. Since 1989, FIT has been accelerating this with an office in San Francisco Bay. Being able to put your shoulders to the wheel as a Science & Technology Counselor is a calling rather than a job!”
:: Jan Wauters, Science & Technology Counselor in Paris
Focus domain: Digital Tech & Health Tech
After nearly 14 years as Science & Technology Counselor in New York, Jan Wauters moved to Paris in 2021, where he now also puts Flanders on the map as a high-tech feeding ground for numerous innovations. Before that, he worked at strategic research center imec in various roles, from policy advisor to industrial relations responsible. He organized international missions and helped set up the OECD working group on nanotechnology. From 2006 to 2009, Jan was also active as Executive Director of the Flanders Nano Bio Alliance. For several years, he has been leading the American chapter of KU Leuven Alumni.
As Science & Technology Counselor, I come into contact with interesting technologies and fascinating people every day. This gives me a helicopter view of what is going on in Flanders’ innovation landscape as well as in my field of work. I am constantly building on this knowledge and take it with me from one conversation to the next with entrepreneurs from Flanders who have international ambitions. Every contribution that I can make to this dynamic makes my day – and hopefully the entrepreneurs’ day even more!”
:: Pieter De Maeght, Science & Technology Counselor in Munich
Focus domain: Digital Tech & Health Tech
As a bio-engineer with a master’s degree in business administration, Pieter De Maeght brings 14 years of experience from the chemical industry with allnex and Solvay, where he introduced and marketed new technologies and applications as new business development director at allnex, among others. He has already worked in an international setting with research institutions as well as start-ups and established companies. He was also actively involved in the digital transformation at allnex. Pieter has experience abroad, mainly in the US and Germany.
The 4th industrial revolution is in full swing, with spearheads in both digital and health technologies. I like to work as a catalyst by breaking down barriers. Connecting knowledge and talent from Flanders with different regions in Germany, Austria and Switzerland is challenging, necessary and exciting. Finally, I think it is important to create societal added value. To this end, Flanders as a region must take its destiny into its own hands with a sense of initiative and decisiveness.”
The Science & Technology Counselor in Tokio (Focusdomein: Health en Digital Tech) take office on 1 September 2021.
The people behind the tech
Want to know what a day in the life of our Science & Technology Counselors looks like? They’re happy to tell you in their own words:
Broader strategic picture
The goal of our tech mission is to help make Flanders one of Europe’s most innovative regions and strengthen the region’s international competitiveness. To this end, we have established a roadmap. In collaboration with our partner organizations, we are focusing on strengthening our international network by adding Science & Technology Offices, sharpening the marketing and branding of Flanders, providing even more tailored guidance for companies and adopting a stronger tech focus at FIT internally.
This technology focus is also embedded in a broader internationalization strategy for Flanders’ economy: ‘Flanders Accelerates!’. The purpose is to promote Flanders’ potential even more around the world, in 5 key areas:
- lifesciences & health;
- solution-driven engineering & technology;
- smart logistics;
- sustainable resources, materials & chemistry.
Reach out to:
For more information about the Science & Technology Offices, please get in touch with: