Between 2012 and 2014, 68% of the companies located in Flanders launched a product, process, organizational or marketing innovation. With this figure – confirmed in the Community Innovation Survey of the ECOOM expertise center for R&D monitoring – Flanders claims 2nd place in Europe.
The Community Innovation Survey (CIS) measures the innovation efforts of companies and research organizations within the European Union by means of a questionnaire. The results were published by ECOOM in February 2017.
By 2020, Flanders strives to secure a position in the top 5 of knowledge-intensive regions in Europe. This means that, by that time, 3% of its GDP should be funneled into research and development (R&D). Today, this figure stands at 2.5%. “Since the 1990s, and particularly in the past 15 years, Flanders has been investing in R&D continuously,” explains Koen Debackere, economics professor at Leuven University (KU Leuven) and CEO of KU Leuven R&D.
Private and public
“Today, we are reaping the rewards of these efforts,” Debackere continues. “The combined action of the private and public sectors is the reason behind Flanders’ R&D success, and the government continues to up the ante. In 2017, Flanders will channel an additional EUR 195 million into R&D projects. The government has plans to increase this number to EUR 500 million by the end of the legislative period. Companies continue to step up their games as well. In particular, there’s a clear increase in R&D investment at Flanders-based start-ups and SMEs.”
Policy pays off
Flanders promotes innovation in many ways. The region has 4 strategic research centers – each a leading reference in its field of expertise: VITO (multidisciplinary technological research), imec (nanoelectronics and digital technology), VIB (biotechnology and life science) and Flanders Make (manufacturing technology). In addition, government agency Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship offers access to a range of funding options and tax incentives for innovative players in Flanders.
ECOOM figures confirm that between 2012 and 2014, around 1 in 5 innovating companies active in the region received financial support from the government of Flanders.
Collaboration is becoming increasingly important to developing novel products and solutions. The ECOOM study indicates that 56% of innovative Flanders-based companies are working together to achieve just that. They typically collaborate with suppliers, customers, consultants and universities – both locally and internationally.
Within a European context, Flanders is leading the way in this respect as well. The region claims 3rd place in FP7 – the European Union's research and innovation funding program for 2007-2013 – when it comes to subsidy amount received in relation to the GDP. Flanders’ top FP7 participants are Leuven University, Ghent University and nano- and digital tech research center imec.