Foreign investment Flanders

Foreign investment in Flanders remains strong in 2020, despite crisis

In 2020, according to the latest data from Flanders Investment & Trade, foreign companies invested around €2.39 billion, started 224 new projects and created 4,717 new jobs in Flanders. Due to the economic effects of the pandemic, these numbers are all down year-on-year, but are still far better than expected – which is great news for the region!

For years, the United States has been the most important country of origin for foreign investments in Flanders. However, it was beat to the top position in 2020 by the Netherlands, which performed slightly better with 42 new projects (18.8%). The US was not far behind with 37 investment projects of its own (16.5%), making it the only country in the top 5 that does not neighbor Belgium.

Those 37 new US projects include examples like Cargill’s investment in a new advanced biodiesel plant in Ghent worth €150 million and AVAIO Capital and AECOM joining forces to build a new desalination plant in the Port of Antwerp.

Flanders is once again successfully attracting new investors as the share of greenfield investments grew to 67.4% of total foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020, up from 55.8% in 2019. The share of mergers and acquisitions fell to 18.8% from 30.6% in 2019, while expansion projects remained steady around 13.8%.

In the aftermath of COVID-19, many investment projects have been delayed due to lockdowns worldwide. [...] Still, Flanders continues to hold its own as an attractive investment location, especially for innovative players.

- Claire Tillekaerts - CEO of Flanders Investment & Trade

Foreign companies in Flanders invested mainly in activities linked to sales & marketing (30.4%), manufacturing (23.7%), logistics (20.5%) and research & development (19.2%).

Jobs in the R&D sector tripled compared to 2019, from 300 to 898, which means that 1 out of 5 jobs created in Flanders in 2020 was related to R&D. Flanders is a thriving innovation hub which gained worldwide attention for its role in the development, production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, with important facilities of companies such as Pfizer and Janssen Pharmaceutica located in the region.

Foreign investments are not only key drivers for the Flemish and Belgian economy but are also necessary to help put Belgium on the path to economic recovery and growth.

In our updated Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium (PPB), AmCham Belgium sets out recommendations in five key areas (country governance; mobility & infrastructure; taxation; healthcare and the labor market) where we think further improvement will help Belgium, including Flanders, attract even more FDI. And there is one common denominator across all five areas: collaboration between the international business community and local policymakers.

We strongly believe that international companies are part of the solution, and we fully support all efforts to improve Belgium’s attractiveness for foreign direct investment. Let’s work together to get even more companies to say #Yes2Belgium!