Brussels, 20 September 2023 – During an impressive award show with more than 900 guests and in the presence of Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon, FIT announced the winners of the very first Flanders International Business Awards: Globachem (Sint-Truiden) – 'Exporter of the Year 2023', Plug Power (Antwerp) – 'Foreign Investor of the Year 2023', and Loop Earplugs (Berchem) – 'Startup of the Year 2023'. In the 'Startup of the Year 2023' category, FIT gave a special award to 3 'International High Potentials': Henchman (Ghent), OTIV (Ghent) and B4Plastics (Dilsem-Stokkem). In this competition's premiere, FIT is simultaneously giving recognition to an export company, a foreign investor and a startup that make Flanders shine far beyond its borders.

Congratulations to Globachem, Plug Power and Loop Earplugs, winners of the Flanders International Business Awards 2023. Together with the 6 runners-up and all candidates of this strong first edition, they are real ambassadors for Flanders. With their achievements, innovations, creativity and commitment, they help build a strong ecosystem in Flanders.
Joy Donné
CEO Flanders Investment & Trade

Globachem, Plug Power and Loop Earplugs win first Flanders International Business Awards 2023

Exporter of the Year 2023: Globachem

This family business from Sint-Truiden develops, registers and markets crop protection products.  First and foremost, it wants to contribute to the production of sufficient, safe and sustainably grown food for the rising world population. Globachem is active in 39 countries and focuses mainly on large agricultural countries such as France, Germany, the UK, Poland and Brazil.

Globachem beat to the finish agricultural machinery manufacturer Dewulf from Roeselare and IndigoCare from Tessenderlo, which develops smart call systems for hospitals and residential care centers. The final jury praised the winner's strong focus on innovation with a major social impact.

With its clear strategy, innovative approach and unique corporate culture, Globachem has managed to gain a strong place in a market dominated by multinationals. The intensive cooperation with relevant Flanders-based partners is also a catalyst for innovation.
Sonja Willems
Co-chair of the final jury and president of the FIT board of directors


  • Number of employees: 73.9 FTEs (Belgium)
  • Turnover (2022): € 287,966,588.61
  • Export share in turnover (2022): 95%
  • Share of non-EU countries in exports: 23%


Foreign Investor of the Year 2023: Plug Power

Plug Power is building a green hydrogen plant in the Port of Antwerp-Bruges. It will be located at the NextGen site, a hotspot for the circular economy, and is the first investment of the American green hydrogen company on European soil.  It will also be the first hybrid hydrogen plant. To liquefy hydrogen (H2), Plug Power has developed an extremely innovative technology.

Plug Power was competing against investments by the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the German Aurubis, world market leader in the production and recycling of copper. For the final jury, it was Plug Power's contribution to accelerating the energy transition that tilted the scales in its favor.

Plug Power is helping to build the basic infrastructure of our green energy supply of tomorrow. In addition, this American investment ensures significant job creation in Flanders.
Yin Oei
Co-chair of the final jury and CEO of Living Tomorrow

Plug Power

  • Type of investment: greenfield project
  • Investment amount: € 350-400 million
  • Job creation in Flanders: 50 jobs


Startup of the Year 2023: Loop Earplugs

Loop Earplugs was founded by two childhood friends with tinnitus. The startup from Berchem reshaped its industry in a short time and turned its stylish and always fitting high-quality earplugs into a sought-after fashion accessory worldwide.  The fast-growing team achieves 98% of its turnover in around 150 countries.

Loop Earplugs left in the dust two Ghent startups: developer of tracking technology Sensolus and AI player Techwolf. The final jury was impressed by the remarkable export results achieved by the Antwerp startup ever since 2016.

Loop Earplugs bounced back quickly after the Covid pandemic by radically renewing itself. They have managed to market an existing product worldwide in a unique, bold and stylish way. This requires not only creativity but, above all, a lot of courage and perseverance.
Sonja Willems
Co-chair of the final jury and president of the FIT board of directors

Loop Earplugs

  • Founded in: 2016
  • Active in: approximately 150 countries
  • Export share in turnover (2022): 98%


Special award for 3 International High Potentials of the Year 2023

In the Startup of the Year 2023 category, FIT is giving 3 'International High Potentials' a special award:

  • Henchman: using the smart processor of this Ghent-based legal tech startup, lawyers draft their complex contracts based on all the clauses, definitions and other unstructured data in their database.
  • OTIV: with its AI technology, this Ghent startup focuses on autonomous rail transport. Already in operation as a driver assistance system on industrial sites, on the public freight rail network in a few years.
  • B4Plastics: these 'polymer architects' from Dilsen-Stokkem develop alternatives in bioplastics for food packaging, cosmetics, automotive players and other industries.
Henchman, OTIV and B4Plastics are organizationally, financially and technologically on the verge of scaling up internationally. FIT and Startup.Flanders are rewarding them with one-on-one guidance by our experts in Flanders and by the Economic Representatives and Science & Technology Counselors abroad. They bring the startups in contact with the right partners and prospects in order to accelerate their international breakthrough.
Olivier Van Orshoven
Head of Startup.Flanders
Olivier Van Orshoven - Head of Startup.Flanders

How the final jury came to its decision

Before the summer 2023, a professional jury shortened the list of 100 contenders to 3 times 3 nominees. On 7 September they were invited to pitch their candidacy to the final jury, which chose one winner per category. The final jury based its assessment on the following criteria: global impact, robust performance, local involvement, innovative growth and motivation to take on an ambassadorial role.

In addition to co-chairs Yin Oei (CEO of Living Tomorrow) and Sonja Willems (president of the FIT board of directors), the final jury included: Piet Demunter (COO of Brussels Airport Company), Joy Donné (CEO of FIT), Guy Haesevoets (Senior Working Capital Advisor Transaction Banking at BNP Paribas Fortis), Ronnie Leten (chairman of various organizations), An Steegen (CEO of  Barco), Karel Vandeputte (Team Coordinator Underwriting and Account Management at Credendo), Mattias Vanderoost (VP New Business and Ventures at Telenet), Jan Van der Goten (Head of Janssen Pharmaceutica Campus & Strategic Partnerships Benelux)  and Erwin Verstraelen (Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Port of Antwerp-Bruges).

More information about the winners, runners-up and sponsors of the Flanders International Business Awards on

Press contact

Tine Van Valckenborgh, spokesperson Flanders Investment & Trade - +32 499 246 093

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