How and why

Internationalization is the lifeblood of Flanders' economy. Companies based in Flanders need to cross borders if they want to grow and foreign investors are essential to strengthening the local economy. However, the global market is becoming increasingly competitive. To strengthen our competitive position, we need to shift things up a gear.

In 2016-2017, FIT brought together more than 300 economic partners, companies and knowledge institutions to jointly work out an internationalization strategy for Flanders. Together we found answers to the questions: “How can we improve the market positioning of Flanders with its strenghts?” and “What do companies need most to be able to internationalize?”.

The update of the Flanders accelerates! strategy was presented to the Government of Flanders on 12 March 2021. From January 1, 2022 to the end of 2026, FIT will join forces with a new team of 20 structural partners to support its implementation.  

Action points of the Flanders accelerates! strategy

Allowing more companies to internationalize and anchoring more companies here
  • Better reach and guide companies with international growth potential. Through more data analysis, more collaboration with incubators and start-up organizations and more peer learning.
  • Convince the entrepreneurs of the future (companies and students) of the importance of internationalization.
  • Compile knowledge and information from the government and offer it in a targeted manner to Flanders-based branches of foreign companies.
Reducing barriers for companies that want to internationalize
  • Address priority trade barriers to international business at the level of Flanders, Belgium and Europe.
  • Map out who companies can turn to for support and better align the services between the partners.
Reinforcing 5 strategic core domains of the economy of Flanders internationally
  • Our core domains are: (1) Life Sciences & Health; (2) Food; (3) Solution Driven Engineering & Technology; (4) Smart Logistics; (5) Sustainable resources, Materials & Chemistry.
  • Market the unique potential of these outstanding ecosystems in Flanders internationally and bring value chains in these domains to Flanders.

Achievements 2016 - 2021

Toolkit for Flanders-based clusters

Partnering with Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO), FIT developed an internationalization toolkit for Flanders-based innovation clusters. 

This toolkit gives cluster managers an outline for how to develop a broad internationalization strategy for their cluster organization and how to help the members of their cluster in an increasingly global market.

Web platform 'Conquer the World'

In April 2019, together with its partners, FIT launched the website, a one-stop digital agenda for Flanders-based companies looking to participate in international business events.

At the same time, 'Conquer the World' is a unique web platform for event organizers focused on companies in Flanders that are active internationally and are looking for collaboration and extra promotion.

Branding toolkit

In cooperation with partners and companies, FIT created a branding toolkit based on 5 strong domains of Flanders' economy: Life Sciences & Health; Food; Smart Logistics; Solution Driven Engineering & Tech; Sustainable Resources, Materials & Chemistry.
The toolkit provides photos, videos, useful texts and figures that make Flanders 'recognizable' abroad, emphasize our solution-oriented approach and help entrepreneurs expand their international activities.

Flanders International Economic Summit

On the 7th of May 2019, FIT presented the interim results of the internationalization strategy 'Flanders Accelerates!' (2017-2021) at the Flanders International Economic Summit (FIES).
During the event, attendees were inspired by speakers such as European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, then Prime Minister of the Government of Flanders Geert Bourgeois, and entrepreneurs Heidi Rakels, Sonja Willems, Wim De Waele and Jan Vander Stichele.

Five current projects

If our companies – both large and small – want to continue to grow, they will need to be able to efficiently market their ideas, products and services abroad. But in a world that’s digitizing and innovating ever faster, that can be a considerable challenge. That’s why Flanders Investment & Trade launched five innovative projects to run from 2020 to 2022.

The implementation of the projects below should enable us to provide even better assistance to companies with international ambitions, while at the same time further enhancing the competitiveness of Flanders as a region.

Boosting trade promotion with AI

Business trips, trade fairs, site visits... Many traditional methods of promoting international trade and investment are no longer an option due to the corona crisis.

That’s why FIT is focusing all the more on digitization and virtual events, with and for the business world. The basis is a well-thought-out digitization strategy with artificial intelligence (AI) as the cornerstone.

Optimizing our customer journeys

Companies’ needs are changing faster than ever. As is the way in which they come into contact with FIT: what we call the customer journeys.

In the coming years we want to get to know our customers even better, segment even more specifically and digitize our services even further. This will allow us to more rapidly detect and predict the needs of our customers.

Supporting start-ups to internationalize

Flanders-based start-ups are naturals when it comes to global operations. Nevertheless, they could use some extra support for their international go-to-market strategy.

FIT digitally maps the Flanders-based start-up landscape and develops tailor-made tools for them. In order to maximize the potential of Flanders as a thriving ecosystem of strong start-ups, scale-ups, incubators, accelerators, etc. even further.

Mapping trends in digital commerce

(International) digital trade has an immense impact on how companies produce, sell and maintain their goods, services and information. 

There are tremendous opportunities for Flanders-based companies. But they also have to contend with new forms of digital protectionism. FIT wants to provide the companies with optimal support in this regard. 

Helping clusters internationalize

Our cluster organizations in Flanders provide numerous innovations that not only benefit the cluster members, but also the business world and our society as a whole.

FIT is developing a methodology so that clusters can launch their innovative projects abroad more quickly. Because when innovation from Flanders scores internationally, we all benefit.

With the support of EFRO and Hermes Fund

In order to successfully implement 'Flanders Accelerates!', FIT can count on financial support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Fund for Accompanying Economic and Innovation Policy (Hermes Fund).

For the period 2017-2022:

  • FIT will receive €1,600,000 from the Hermes Fund;

  • the ERDF Fund will provide €1,800,000.

Flanders International Economic Summit 2022 (FIES)

The third edition of the Flanders International Economic Summit (FIES) took place on April 28, 2022.

FIES focused on the challenges for the internationalization of the economy and the international marketing of Flanders' tech ecosystem.

Curious about the team behind 'Flanders accelerates!'?

Discover our 20 structural partners.