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3 firms from Flanders presented with Export Lion Award

Wednesday 29 September 2021 marked the 20th-consecutive Export Lion Award, a prestigious ceremony through which Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) seeks to emphasize the importance of export for Flanders’ open and globalized economy. The anniversary edition also marked a first in the event’s history: for the first time, FIT presented not two but three Flanders-based firms with the award.

From left to right: Dirk Van Steerteghem - Head of Department Trade at Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), Mik Emmerechts - CEO Locinox, Tim Van Hulle - General Manager Sylva, Claire Tillekaerts - CEO FIT and Roel Van Holen - CEO Molecubes

Each in a different niche, the 2021 Export Lion Award laureates all use innovation to outsmart international competitors. During the ceremony – which involved a restricted circle of participants in Brussels, but could be followed via live stream – Molecubes, Sylva and Locinox received their awards from FIT CEO Claire Tillekaerts. Let’s discover the winners’ stories!

Two categories, three winners

Both small and large companies can be in the running for the Export Lion Award. This year, in the category of “Companies with up to 49 employees”, the final jury had a particularly difficult time choosing one winner out of the three rock-solid nominees. As successive rounds of voting kept resulting in a tie, there are exceptionally two winners in this category: developer of compact scanners for molecular imaging Molecubes (Ghent) and forest & hedging plant grower Sylva (Lievegem) won over expert in cargo securing Container Technics (Wijnegem).

Meanwhile, in the category of “Companies with 50 or more employees”, the much-coveted prize was awarded to Locinox (Waregem). This cutting-edge access control products developer outmatched container identification & tracking pioneer Camco Technologies (Heverlee) and telecom specialist OTN Systems (Olen).

Locinox
Molecubes
Sylva

Molecubes, health tech innovator

Ghent-based tech firm Molecubes was founded in 2015 as a Ghent University spin-off. The company’s compact molecular imaging scanners make it possible to visualize organs, tumors or the effect of medicines. Their compactness also makes them the only type of scanners that can be used in highly secured virological lab environments, such as those involved in COVID research.

The scanners of this born global company are already deployed in 14 countries. To take full advantage of its growth opportunities in the US, Molecubes set up its own subsidiary in Boston’s biotech and pharma hub. In addition to Molecubes’ current export markets, most of its prospects are situated in distant destinations such as China, Japan and South Korea. Ultimately, this combination of strong performance figures and great ambitions is what won over the jury of the Export Lion Award.

Four out of ten Ivy League research institutes use our devices, but we are already well represented in leading academic institutions in Europe, Japan and Australia as well. We are very grateful for being able to sell to such top institutes.

Ewout Vansteenkiste
cofounder of Molecubes

Sylva, sustainable plant cultivator

Sylva’s history dates to the 18th century when the Van Hulle family started a tree nursery. Today, the company is a reference in forest and hedging plants, growing around 25 million plants per year in the Ghent area. Despite the sector’s traditional image, the plant grower from East Flanders invests heavily in innovation. For example, Sylva developed a sorting and harvesting machine among other equipment, and the business is used to test mechanical weed control.

Sylva’s products are shipped to 40 countries, primarily in Europe. In the coming years, the company will mainly focus on promising non-EU markets such as Russia, Turkey, South Korea and China. This impressive international development path – within such a traditional industry – is predominantly what impressed the Export Lion Award jury members. It’s clear that, by investing in technology, the company has obtained a head start that will fully pay off in the coming years, not least in remote markets.

We grow plants in consultation with our customers to meet their needs. It’s not about the largest volumes or the lowest price, but about very specific plant species that are also grown perfectly and sustainably.

Tim Van Hulle
general manager Sylva

Locinox, a leader in access control products

Founded in 1990, Locinox has rapidly grown into the European market leader in its niche. The family business from Waregem develops and produces (electro)mechanical and access control products – such as locks, hinges, hydraulic pumps, e-motors, keypads and more – for fencing and gates manufacturers. Today, the lion’s share of Locinox’s turnover comes from exports, with the company mostly focusing on Belgium’s neighboring countries as well as Poland and the US.

The complex components developed by Locinox require continuous innovation. But the company also pulls out all the stops when it comes to digitizing and automating its production and support processes. Thanks to extensive digital marketing efforts, for instance, it already generates 30% of its turnover through its B2B web shop. This innovative mindset – in terms of its product range as well as underlying business processes – is mainly what convinced the Export Lion Award jury to crown Locinox.

Every innovation has to pass the sustainability test: we take the recyclability of our materials into account right from the design stage to ensure that every component can be dismantled and reused at the end of its lifecycle.

Mik Emmerechts
CEO of Locinox

Ambassadors of Flanders as an export hub

The Export Lion Award brings recognition and new opportunities for the winners – not just locally, but also internationally through FIT’s network abroad. Molecubes, Sylva and Locinox join a long list of laureates whose success stories serve as a source of inspiration for other companies to use Flanders’ strategic location, top infrastructure and talented workforce as the foundations for flourishing export activities.

With Molecubes, Sylva and Locinox, this anniversary edition of the Export Lion Award produced three new export ambassadors. That’s a first! At the same time, I believe that these winners clearly prove how an innovative spirit and passion remain the key ingredients for companies to push boundaries.

Claire Tillekaerts
CEO of Flanders Investment & Trade

The Export Lion Award winners not only have a clear export vision; they also demonstrate determination and audacity. I hope that these ambassadors of Flanders’ export world will inspire many other entrepreneurs to spread their wings.

Jan Jambon
Flanders’ Minister-President

More info

Export Lion Award (Leeuw van de Export)
Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade
29 September 2021

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