Flemish companies unite for international success


A new branding toolkit reinforces the international reputation of Flanders’ chemical and materials eco-system, bringing them together to strengthen their appeal to potential clients and investors

Upgrading exports

The new branding toolkit of Flanders Investment & Trade (Fit) helps chemical and materials companies to join forces on the global scene, with a focus on their shared expertise in sustainability.

At the beginning of May, Fit, the government agency that promotes export and attracts foreign investment, introduced a digital toolkit with promotional materials that make it easy for business actors – companies, sector federations, government organisations and strategic research centres – to provide a coherent overview of Flanders’ assets to potential clients, partners or investors. The aim: to upgrade export and investment action in the region.

The tools – a video, ads and PowerPoint slides – cater to five economic areas: Life Sciences & Health, Food, Solution Driven Engineering & Technology, Smart Logistics and Sustainable resources and Materials & Chemistry. The choice for those areas is linked to Flanders’ general international promotion plan, called Vlaanderen Versnelt (Flanders Accelerates).

Better representation

Tine Schaerlaekens helped Fit define the goals related to the area of Sustainable resources and Materials & Chemistry. She combines the job of innovation advisor at Essenscia Vlaanderen, the federation representing the chemical industry and the life sciences, with that of internationalisation advisor at Catalisti – a cluster organisation working with chemicals and plastics manufacturers on transitioning to green industrial processes through innovation.

“From the start it was important to make sure that the various sectors were adequately represented in this economic area,” Schaerlaekens says. “The area unites the sectors of chemistry, plastics, bio-based materials, cleantech, recycling, circular economy and waste management.”

The tools represent a big step away from unnecessary modesty and towards more recognisability as one region of excellence

- Tine Schaerlaekens

She was closely involved in the development of branding tools for this economic area, through a series of workshops with business stakeholders. “It was essential that the promo materials demonstrated that there is a strong eco-system in Flanders, in which the different industrial sectors work together intensely with each other but also with research groups,” she says.

It’s no coincidence that the name of the economic area starts with “sustainable resources” and the tagline for its promo materials is “refreshingly sustainable”. “We concentrated on showcasing the expertise in sustainability, for example concerning sustainable chemistry, recycling, bio-based materials and cleantech.”

That focus on the green transition fits well with the core tasks of Catalisti, which was recently appointed co-ordinator of the ambitious Moonshot programme launched by Flanders’ innovation minister, Philippe Muyters. The government earmarked €400 million to be invested over the next 20 years to develop breakthrough technologies for the transition towards a “carbon-smart” industry. The funding should boost the region’s efforts to become carbon-neutral by 2050.

Another important project driven partly by Catalisti is the Matter initiative, which evaluates the recycling of mixed plastic waste streams and uses the generated data to optimise the plastic waste management system.

Time to catch up

According to Schaerlaekens, the new branding tools can facilitate collaboration between the Flemish companies and their counterparts elsewhere in the world. “Flemish companies are not connected enough to business and research networks in other countries,” she says. “Participating in cross-border projects can indirectly lead to new commercial opportunities, as it improves your reputation abroad.”

She also feels the tools help Flemish companies to speak the same language, thus forming one group towards potential clients and investors abroad and making it easier to gain their confidence. “This has not yet been done sufficiently in Flanders, unlike in competing regions, so it’s great that we’ll be catching up from now on,” she says. “The tools represent a big step away from unnecessary modesty and towards more recognisability as one region of excellence.”

This is the third in a three-part series on Fit's branding tool. See links below for parts 1 and 2