We are innovators

West Flanders equals entrepreneurship. The numerous small and medium-sized companies are crucial for the province’s economic development. Family-owned and operated firms continue to be strong pillars of regional growth. Several have even developed into major world leading companies. Building on this, the investment climate of West Flanders is vibrant and our people are productive, motivated, multilingual and skilled. Different innovation hubs, each with physical test facilities, underpin West Flanders sense of innovation and creativity.

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Test market

West Flanders is a small yet populous region. We are located in the centre of Europe, at the crossroads of three major cultures: Germanic, Roman and Anglo-Saxon. We are very diverse and multicultural, a true reflection of the European market and an ideal test market for innovations and new products.

  • 1.2 million inhabitants ready for innovation
  • 3,000 km² innovation ground
  • The sea is a unique driver for innovation (blue energy)
  • High purchasing power

College of Europe

The College of Europe was established in 1949 in Bruges. The “College Formula” ensures that, during 10 months, students follow an intensive programme in a challenging and highly stimulating educational environment – one which truly prepares them for an increasingly integrated Europe.

  • 340 students in Bruges
  • Average age 25
  • 50 different nationalities
  • 3 TO 4 - average number of language spoken

R&D support tools

In the corporate jungle, survival requires organisations to be innovative. A lot of regional, national and European support tools for your R&D activities are available. Innovative companies tend to look beyond company walls. That’s exactly what Flanders’ cluster policy is all about.

  • 11,500 jobs in creative industries
  • Generous grants and subsidies for innovations (up to 60%)
  • #9 worldwide for highest number of industrial robots
  • #9 worldwide for industry-universities collaboration

Blue energy

West Flanders offers a unique range of blue energy test facilities at, near and off shore of the blue energy port of Ostend.

  • 40 companies active in offshore industries
  • 8 different offshore projects
  • 1,000 direct employment
  • 398 turbines in offshore wind farms

University colleges

Howest offers professional bachelor’s degrees and applied research in highimpact fields like product design, digital arts & entertainment and server sizing. VIVES University of Applied Sciences provides industrial support in agrotech, biotech, product and process design, and care innovation.

  • Dedicated campuses
  • Presence in the heart of the economy, spread over 5 cities
  • 52 professional bachelor degrees
  • 18,000 students


KU Leuven has a world-class reputation in medicine and engineering and operates campuses in Kortrijk and Bruges. Ghent University operates campuses in Bruges, Kortrijk and Ostend and is universally known for its strength in blue growth, food technology and industrial design engineering.

  • 101,000 students
  • 35,000 staff
  • 19 campuses
  • 5 campuses in West Flanders

Innovation hubs

West Flanders hosts four innovation hubs with physical test facilities: Food, Blue Energy, New Materials, Machinery & Mechatronics. In these hot spots, companies, research institutes and governments work closely together to research, develop and test new products.

  • Food - Huis van de Voeding
  • Blue energy - Bluebridge
  • New materials – Circular Materials Center
  • Machinery & Mechatronics - Innovation centre with 5 labs


Flanders has selected six spearhead clusters. The focus of these large-scale triple helix initiatives is on increasing the competitiveness of the companies and improving active collaboration. The combination with other innovation facilitators like Centexbel and Sirris ensures easy access to a vast pool of expertise.

  • Food - Flanders Food
  • Blue Energy - The Blue Cluster
  • New materials - Catalisti & Centexbel
  • Machinery & Mechatronics - Flanders Make & Sirris