Countering climate change requires the development of innovative technology as well as a sustained global commitment to bring about a clean energy economy. In Flanders, both policy makers and businesses regard energy and environmental issues as opportunities for developing innovative technologies. The region’s prominent renewable energy companies, pioneering research centers, knowledge platforms, and government pave the way for a flourishing, sustainable cleantech industry.
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Flanders’ cleantech industry
By setting up operations in Flanders, you will gain access to a close-knit business and knowledge ecosystem that will benefit your cleantech activities. How? By allowing you to tune into numerous sector-specific organizations for research, business incubation, and more. These include: energy research institute EnergyVille, maritime research center BlueGrowth, and knowledge hubs such VIB (life sciences), imec (micro-, nano- and digital technology) and Flanders’ Smart Hub.
Flanders offers dedicated, highly specific education and training programs to foster promising talent in the field of cleantech, including:
- research programs under the frame of SET (Sustainable Energy Technologies), which clusters 15 research groups of Ghent University;
- unique academic training at the Materials Research Center of KU Leuven: an interfaculty collaborative center providing a coordinating link between materials science and technology research groups;
- research programs at the School of Expert Education of UHasselt;
- challenging study programs at the Department of Materials and Chemistry of VUB.
Companies with or deciding to set up their activities or headquarters in Flanders can reap the rewards of:
- various government grants and subsidies for transformation, ecological, R&D and growth investments;
- unique tax incentives for various types of business activities and investments;
- a set of employment subsidies to further reduce your salary costs as well as fiscal remuneration advantages;
- a number of funding options to help you get off the ground.
Flanders offers several incentives that are particularly relevant to research-intensive sectors like the cleantech industry. Examples include:
innovation income deduction – up to 85% of a firm’s net earnings from innovation is tax exempt;
investment deduction for R&D – 13.5% of acquisition value/qualifying asset or 20.5% of the depreciated amount;
exemption of payment of 80% – of the personal income withholding tax of researchers in certain scientific fields.
Flanders has a system of ‘green certificates’ to promote energy generation from renewable sources. Put in place by VREG, the regulator of the electricity and gas market in Flanders, the system is two-pronged:
- on one hand, producers of electricity from renewable energy sources can receive green certificates, which they may sell;
- on the other hand, power suppliers must submit a specific number of green certificates to avoid a fine.
- Flanders has played a role in the development of wind turbine technology from square one? The world’s first large-scale wind energy park was built in Zeebrugge, West Flanders.
- … Vleemo, a renewable energy company, is building Flanders’ biggest onshore wind energy park at the port of Antwerp?
- … Belgium (Flanders) ranks 3rd on the list of countries with the highest number of solar panels per capita?
- … Flanders is part of the “energetic Silicon Valley of Western Europe”? This region includes the ‘North Seas’ countries Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. In June 2016, these nations signed a declaration containing a roadmap for the construction of an integrated network of offshore wind parks.
- … Janssen Pharmaceutica, renowned worldwide as a leading developer of pharmaceuticals, is the first company in Flanders to use deep geothermal energy? This renewable energy source cuts back energy costs and reduces CO2 emissions by no less than 30%.