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A glimpse of Flanders’ innovative cybersecurity industry

The digital age comes with new technologies that make almost every aspect of our lives richer, simpler and more productive. However, as data and digital systems become increasingly important, the need to protect them from unauthorized access is stronger than ever. Thanks to its strengths in ICT and its strategic location in Europe, Flanders is the ideal environment for cybersecurity innovation.

Quick facts about cybersecurity in Flanders

Within a relatively small surface area, Flanders offers a world-class cybersecurity industry:

  • The next generation of talented cybersecurity experts is being educated at 5 top-ranked universities in Flanders: KU Leuven, UGent, UAntwerpen, UHasselt and VUB.
  • 3.6% of Flanders’ total GDP is spent on R&D, a major driver of cybersecurity success.
  • imec, Flanders’ strategic research center for digital innovation and nanotech, performs world-leading research in cybersecurity.
  • More than 60 cybersecurity firms are headquartered in Flanders.

Flanders’ ecosystem for cybersecurity innovation

Today’s increasingly digital society comes with new security risks. It’s no wonder that organizations rely on ICT players to develop sophisticated software to protect their data.

As a frontrunner, Flanders knows how to meet this demand. It is home to a dense ecosystem that unites the private, public and academic sectors in long-term collaborations that safeguard our digital society.

Gain access to Flanders’ local cybersecurity community:

Imec – world-leading digital innovation hub

One of the main drivers of cybersecurity co-innovation in Flanders is imec – the region’s strategic research center for nanotechnology and digital innovation. Its research is easily accessible for private-public collaborations and covers relevant domains such as IoT, big data, wireless communication, CMOS development and scaling, data processing and encryption.

Agoria – accelerating the growth of technology-inspired businesses

Sector federation Agoria paves the way for all technologically inspired companies in Belgium and Flanders as a region that strives for progress through the development and application of high-tech innovations.

Cyber Security Coalition – bringing together cybersecurity skills and expertise

The Cyber Security Coalition is a non-profit association that brings together the skills and expertise of the academic world, the private sector and public authorities, aiming to foster information exchange and implement joint actions.

LSEC – spreading cybersecurity expertise across the EU

LSEC is an international IT and information security cluster founded by Leuven University (KU Leuven) and supported by European Commission. LSEC leads a unique, private, pan-European partnership that interacts with public institutions.

Recognized scientific expertise

Internationally, Flanders stands out from the pack by distinguishing itself in 4 main areas of expertise:

Application and software security
• Secure software development life cycles (SDLC)
• Program verification and security testing
• Secure programing languages and secure compilation
Strategic security services
• Identity management and authentication
• Authorization and audit
• Advanced encryption techniques and data access middleware
• Policy and regulation
System and infrastructure
• System security
• Network security
• Security monitoring and management 
Technological building blocks
• Secure hardware: roots of trust anchored in technology foundations
• Cryptographic algorithms
• Cryptographic protocols
• Secure and efficient cryptographic implementations

Rijndael algorithm – Flanders’ most famous cybersecurity reference

The most famous reference to come out of this innovation hotspot is without a doubt the Rijndael algorithm, the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

Rijndael Algorithm was developed at Leuven University (KU Leuven) – where 15 professors and 150+ researchers specialize in cybersecurity – and has since been approved by the NSA to protect classified, secret and top-secret information. Today, AES is used to encrypt Wi-Fi signals, web communications and hard disks as well as to protect bank transactions around

Smart financing options for your business

Thinking of setting up activities or establishing the headquarters of your business in Flanders? You may be eligible to benefit from the following support measures offered by the government of Flanders. Government support is offered in two different forms: direct and indirect.

Direct support

  • dedicated cybersecurity budget – EUR 20 million per year, only for cybersecurity-related projects;
  • general R&D budget – up to EUR 3 million in funding per R&D project; 
  • payroll incentives – 80% of the withholding tax on professional income recovered, 25% of social security contributions and up to 80% of the total cost of a PhD candidate (Baekeland mandates).

Indirect support

  • innovation income deduction for R&D – up to 85% of a firm’s net earnings from innovation;
  • investment deduction – 13.5% of the acquisition value deducted or 20.5% of the annual depreciation deducted.

Flagship companies in the picture

In setting up cybersecurity activities in Flanders, you’re definitely in good company. Get to know cybersecurity pioneers from Flemish soil:

Guardsquare – global reference in mobile application protection

Cybersecurity firms in Flanders benefit from the presence of outstanding universities and research institutes as well as from the region’s international focus. Universities like KU Leuven generate a steady stream of highly qualified people needed to drive innovation in the quickly evolving field of cybersecurity.

Roel Caers
CEO of Guardsquare

Belgian Mobile ID – the company behind the itsme application

In 2003, researchers developed the electronic ID card. This invention set the tone for many more to come, all requiring diverse expertise in secure solutions design.

Remy Knecht
COO of Belgian Mobile ID (itsme)

Secure Code Warrior – on a mission to help developers write secure code

Flanders is home to incredible people with the skills to make digital lives safer and to work toward a higher standard of software security. We’d love to offer these talented people the platform to make their mark and enhance their careers within a global company that’s driving positive change in application security.

Matias Madou
co-founder and CTO of Secure Code Warrior

Did you know …

  • … KU Leuven (Flanders) developed an authentication method to guarantee the integrity of the signals from European satellite navigation system Galileo?
  • … American payment specialist Mastercard has its European headquarters in Belgium, where it decided to locate its first cybersecurity office outside the US?
  • … Intel Corporation decided to support cybersecurity research at KU Leuven (Flanders) after two breaches were discovered by the university’s researchers?

What's in the ebook

  • Flanders’ cybersecurity ecosystem
  • Flanders' scientific expertise in cybersecurity
  • Government support and incentives

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