Brussels, the capital of Flanders (Belgium), is home to numerous international corporations and intergovernmental decision-making organizations, such as the EU and NATO. It can easily be considered Europe’s lobbying capital as well: more than 3,800 diplomats are active in the city – a number that is only surpassed by New York City. It is also the world’s second international conference center by number of events, and the second largest center for advocacy after Washington DC (US).
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Why invest in Flanders?
Strategically located in the heart of Europe
Flanders can be found at the very center of Europe’s most prosperous region. The purchasing power of its residents and those living within 500 km of the region makes it a prime business location.
As such, Flanders takes center stage within a megalopolis stretching from the London region to the Netherlands, Belgium, and parts of Germany and France. This area is home to no less than 60% of Europe’s purchasing power and covers one of the world’s highest concentrations of people, money and industries.
In short, there’s just no better place than Flanders to prepare your business plans or start up your business activities in order to reap the rewards of commerce in the European mainland, the Middle East and Africa.
Brussels, the center of Europe
Brussels by numbers
- over 10,000 lobbyists
- 700 professional associations
- 400 organized interest groups
- 150 international consulting firms
- 150 law firms specializing in European law
- 30 chambers of commerce
- over 1,000 accredited journalists
- representation of over 220 regions and federal entities
- 1,300 European HQs or subsidiaries of foreign companies
61% of companies base their public affairs office in Belgium or employ lobbying firms based in Brussels.
World-renowned knowledge centers and R&D initiatives
To the World Economic Forum and many other international spectators, Flanders ranks among the world’s elite when it comes to R&D and innovation.
Flanders is a top 5 knowledge region in Europe and home to world-famous knowledge institutes and universities. Its strategic research centers – imec, VIB, Flanders Make and VITO – are known the world over. In close partnership with Flanders’ universities – KU Leuven, UGent, Antwerp University, VUB and UHasselt – and the global business world, they contribute to the realization of a sustainable future.
Flanders ranks in the top 15 worldwide when it comes to “company spending on R&D”, “availability of the latest technology” and “capacity for innovation” (WEF Global Competitiveness Report 2017-18).
Europe’s logistics hub
Flanders’ excellent infrastructure offers a one-of-a-kind array of advantages when it comes to setting up European logistics or distribution activities.
- The seaports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Ghent and Ostend are the perfect ocean-going gateways for the fast handling of goods to and from anywhere in the world.
- Shipping by air? Brussels Airport, Antwerp International Airport and Ostend-Bruges International Airport have you covered.
- Even further, the road, rail, waterway, and pipeline connections of Flanders are among Europe’s densest – ensuring fast connections with the European hinterland.
Our connectivity is well-praised by the Financial Times Intelligence’s list of “European cities and regions of the future 2016-2017”. Furthermore, the Prologis or World Bank Logistical Performance Index confirms our logistical supremacy in Europe and the world.
Affordable logistics space abounds
Thanks to lower inbound transport costs, advantageous rental prices for warehouses and attractive fiscal conditions, supply chain costs in Flanders are very competitive. According to fDi Intelligence, prime rent in Belgium – and Flanders – is one of the lowest in Western Europe.
5th-most productive, highly skilled workforce
The workforce of Flanders is multilingual, highly educated, and loyal. It’s also one of the most productive labor forces in the world, thanks to its diverse culture and top-ranked universities and educational institutions.
Flanders’ educational system is internationally renowned. Especially in math and sciences, Flanders boasts excellent results. Our engineering training programs are very practice-oriented.
Each year, many multitalented and multilingual engineers graduate from universities of Flanders, offering unique capabilities for cross-cultural collaboration and problem-solving (WEF).
Lifelong exemption of social security contributions for a first employee hired
The government provides companies and employees with the right employment framework, significant reductions in social security contributions, different types of labor incentives and appealing labor schemes. These include temporary unemployment and flexible working hours. In this way, the effective labor costs are highly competitive compared to other locations throughout Europe.
Support for your R&D project
For the R&D of innovative products and processes, the government of Flanders awards generous grants and subsidies (up to a rate of 60%). According to Deloitte (US), Flanders even offers the best R&D related incentives in Europe.
The result? Heavily reduced employment costs, which give Flanders-based companies a major advantage over competitors in neighboring countries when it comes to attracting talent.
In addition, Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) offers a one-stop-shop for non-refundable grants in direct support of R&D programs.
High quality of life
Low cost, high quality; this is what makes Flanders one of the top locations for businesses and their employees. It’s a safe and affordable region with a rich cultural heritage and unique art-de-vivre. Flanders is also home to various international schools and offers some of the highest-quality health care services in the world. To top it all off, the people of Flanders are great lovers of life, with a penchant for excellent food, top-notch products and profound social connection.
Ideal test market
Situated at the crossroads of three major cultures — Germanic, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon — the people of Flanders are open to all sorts of influences. In addition, international business cities like Antwerp and Brussels have thriving expat communities. This, and the high purchasing power, makes Flanders the ideal test market for innovations and new products.
Set up a base in a splash
True to the region’s no-nonsense culture, setting up a subsidiary in Flanders is fast and easy.
- Notarial deed and a one-stop registration process.
- No government approvals are required.
- Up and running in less than 10 days (except for certain registration and publication formalities, which may take 2 to 4 weeks after incorporation).
- No public register of share ownership.
- No formalities regarding share transfers, other than registration of the transfer in the company’s share register.
Antwerp: the largest chemical cluster in Europe
Easily accessible, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges is key to Flanders’ renowned chemical industry. The port's Antwerp area houses five oil refineries and four steam crackers. With over 300 different chemicals and 500 chemical companies, it has the most diverse portfolio in the world. A state-of-the-art pipeline network facilitates product interchange.
Antwerp is not just the largest integrated chemical cluster in Europe, but also the second-largest worldwide. Companies benefit from this cluster configuration, as it enables them to integrate their activities with those of other companies – e.g. suppliers – in a stable business environment.
One of the world’s top 15 exporting countries
According to the World Trade Report, Belgium – including Flanders – is one of the top 15 exporting countries in the world. Its exportation per capita is among the highest worldwide. To put this in perspective: Flanders is responsible for the vast majority of Belgian exports and imports.
Professional support in setting up your operations
Need assistance in getting your business settled in Flanders? Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) offers a variety of professional tools, services and expert resources that will have you up and running as soon as possible. FIT offers locally tailored support, confidentially and free of charge around the clock.
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).