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Flanders' digital industry: a hotbed for innovation in the heart of Europe
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
When deciding to establish activities or headquarters in Flanders, your digital business can reap the rewards of:
- government subsidies and support for investments in R&D and innovation, strategic transformation, ecological efforts, growth and other domains;
- tax incentives to fund a broad range of business activities;
- fiscal options to help you cut labor costs.
Flanders offers access to several tax incentives that are particularly relevant to research-intensive sectors like the digital industry. Examples include:
- the innovation income deduction – up to 85% of a company’s net innovation income can be exempt from corporate tax.
- the R&D investment deduction – 13.5% of the investment value (at once) or 20.5% of the annual depreciation (staggered).
- the R&D payroll tax exemption – 80% of the withholding tax on professional income for researchers and academic personnel.