You are here

Flanders' digital industry: a hotbed for innovation in the heart of Europe

From big data to smart cities. From 5G to the Internet of Things. When it comes to digital innovation, there is no better place to be than Flanders. The region is home to leading developers of cutting-edge technologies and excels in various strategic digital domains. Its secret? A close-knit ecosystem of private companies, research centers and a supportive government. 

Quick facts about the digital industry in Flanders

As a pioneer in digital innovation, Flanders boasts an impressive track record:

  • Flanders is home to imec.istart, Europe’s leading university business accelerator and 5th worldwide (source: 2019 UBI Global, World Top 10 University Business Accelerators). 
  • The region has one of the three best innovation systems in the world (source: 2020 ZEW Innovationsindikator). 
  • Flanders is part of the 14th-most-innovative economy around the globe (source: 2019 Bloomberg Innovation Index). 
  • Belgium – and Flanders as a region – is among the top 3 in Europe when it comes to digital infrastructure in terms of fixed and mobile broadband, speed and price (source: 2019 Digital Economy & Society Index, DESI).
  • Belgium and Flanders rank 3rd in the EU for percentage of enterprises (36%) providing training to develop or upgrade the ICT skills of their personnel (source: 2019 European Innovation Scoreboard). 

What’s more, numerous digital business leaders are active in Flanders, including Nokia (Bell Labs), Barco, Scientific Atlanta (Cisco), Siemens (Digital Industries Software, Healthineers), TDK (ICsense), Cyient , Agfa, NXP, Atos, Oracle, Vasco Data Security, Cochlear, Metris (Nikon Metrology), Hexagon (Luciad), Televic and many more. 

Leverage the power of Flanders’ digital ecosystem

Flanders has many research centers, cluster organizations and incubators aimed at driving digital society forward. Set up your company in Flanders and gain access to this close-knit business and knowledge ecosystem that includes: 

  • strategic research centers: imec (nanotech digital innovation), VITO (big data and societal innovation) and Flanders Make (digital manufacturing). 
  • research groups and innovation centers at Flanders’ universities as well as new media and communication research performed by the independent Sizing Servers Lab (part of Howest university college).
  • federations and key organizations such as Agoria (the sector federation for the technological industry), Sirris (the innovation center for the technological industry), DSP Valley (European cluster of excellence in smart electronic systems), FLEGA (Flanders’ gaming association) and VIGC (the innovation center for graphic communication).
  • numerous business incubators and accelerators, including Corda Campus, Dunden, C-mine and iCUBES.  

Multidisciplinary ICT Welcome Team
Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) has a dedicated ICT Welcome Team that provides tailored assistance to foreign ICT companies interested in setting up activities in Flanders. The team proactively targets companies active in four domains: 

In search of custom investment advice? Contact our ICT Welcome Team at michel.hofman@fitagency.be

Digital clusters drive innovation

In Flanders, we believe that innovation and expertise are the result of working together. This becomes evident at the region’s clusters, which include private companies, public organizations and academic institutes. Below are just a few examples. 

MEDVIA: on the cutting edge of digital healthcare innovation

One of Flanders’ spearhead clusters, MEDVIA connects patient care and digital innovation in new and exciting ways. 

The Beacon: leading the way to a smart world

To create a sustainable and smart living environment, The Beacon builds a bridge between knowledge institutions, governments and end users. 

Vast expertise in strategic digital domains

Flanders offers extensive know-how in several strategic digital domains, including nanotechnology, sensor technology, fintech, telematics & geo ICT, telecom and network equipment, digital audio, video and printing solutions, and software products.

IoT and smart city technology

Flanders connects world-class research, business initiatives, a strong ecosystem and government support for innovative companies looking to take their next big step. Take a deep dive into the region’s big data innovations, IoT applications and smart city and smart tech developments. 

Artificial intelligence

Action, support and collaboration are the keys of Flanders’ dedication to a dynamic sector like AI, these are indispensable. Benefit from the region’s dedicated government support, a powerful ecosystem and more to move your AI initiatives forward. 

Micro- and nanoelectronics

Flanders’ universities and the imec nanotech research center boast expert knowledge in this fast-growing and competitive domain. Numerous start-ups and innovative businesses transform this expertise into exciting new applications like smart wearables and textiles, ubiquitous artificially intelligent sensor technologies, revolutionary healthcare solutions and more. 

Robotics

When it comes to the development, production and integration of robotics technologies, Flanders leads the way. The region is home to a range of tech-related sectors that drive robotics forward and is among the regions with the highest robot density in the world.

Fintech

Fintech takes center stage in Flanders’ IT landscape, thanks to the presence of cutting-edge expertise, international decision-making institutions, a strong business ecosystem and a world-class payments infrastructure. Discover how to benefit from Europe’s fintech hub par excellence.

Cybersecurity

Flanders’ world-class cybersecurity industry is defined by relentless innovation. At its heart is a powerful ecosystem that unites private, public and academic sectors to safeguard our digital society. 

Creative media, gaming and animation

Flanders’ rich ecosystem of enterprises, researchers, institutes and associations is every creative media company’s dream. And thanks to the high availability of people, resources, information and support, the region offers everything businesses need to thrive in this highly dynamic and competitive industry. 

A wealth of digital talent

Flanders’ higher education system boasts dedicated, highly specific courses and training programs to foster promising talent in the digital field. In fact, local engineering curricula are considered some of the world’s finest. Some relevant education programs include: 

  • bachelor, master and research programs offered by engineering science faculties at UGent, KU Leuven, etc.
  • education and research programs offered by the VUB’s Faculty of Engineering Sciences and its Department of Electronics and Informatics (ETRO).
  • ICT research programs at Hasselt University’s Expertise Center for Digital Media (EDM). 

IT hub in the heart of European power

Brussels and Flanders are home to a strong concentration of American and European IT multinationals, especially those active in the fields of integration and business process outsourcing. As a result, the region is one of Europe’s most prominent IT hubs and most value-added service regions. The presence of international institutions like the EU, NATO and other governmental and non-governmental organizations makes Flanders the ideal location for businesses looking to establish or expand their digital activities in Europe. 

Financing your digital business in Flanders

When deciding to establish activities or headquarters in Flanders, your digital business can reap the rewards of:

Request a free copy of our brochure to discover more about government support in Flanders. 

Tax incentives for research-intensive activities

Flanders offers access to several tax incentives that are particularly relevant to research-intensive sectors like the digital industry. Examples include: 

Interested in doing business in Flanders?

Let us help you!

  • We can introduce you to other companies, banks and regulators
  • We organize site visits to real estate locations
  • We assist with all legal aspects of setting up a business
  • We're an official government agency
  • Our services are completely free
  • We are a team of international experts

Receive our handbook to growing your business in Flanders

  • It's completely free.
  • Get an overview of all incentives relevant to your company.
  • Tax system explained in-depth.
  • Learn how to set up your business quickly.
  • Discover the benefits of Flanders (in addition to the chocolate).

In addition to the ebook, I agree to receive one or two follow-up emails