Manoj Ladwa speaks to Kris Peeters on the untapped potential of Flanders…
Flanders has launched an ambitious programme called “Flanders in Action”. By 2020, Flanders wants to be among the best performing regions in Europe.
To achieve this, Flanders in Action is focused on breakthrough actions. Such an action plan entails more than just slow improvement or a few growth percentage points. It points to an evolution that fundamentally alters the Flemish landscape and society. One does not achieve breakthroughs by taking everyday measures. Breakthroughs demand drastic interventions that really will make the difference so as to strengthen and breathe new life into the Flemish economy and its society in a number of crucial aspects.
2. Please explain why Flanders would be an attractive destination for Indian companies, in particular?
People, know-how and connectivity are three factors that make the difference.
Besides its central location, Flanders can provide Indian companies with added value at many other levels. The combination of a strongly focused research and innovation programme, a highly educated and productive workforce with a fluency in languages, and a highly developed transport and communication infrastructure ensure sustainable growth. Through its very open economy, Flanders fits perfectly in this age of globalisation.
For Indian companies in particular, we have daily direct flights through the European hub of Jet Airways. There is a strong Indian community in Antwerp because of the diamond industry and there is an advantageous social security treaty between Belgium and India.
3. In which sectors do you see opportunities for joint ventures with Indian companies?
Flanders puts a lot of effort into niche sectors along the following lines:
Logitech: International studies such as Cushman & Wakefield describe Flanders as the top location in Europe for distribution centres. To keep up this position, Flanders is constantly focusing on new trends in logistics.
Health-tech: Flanders is a region that uses new ways of putting science to good use for the benefit of millions of people worldwide.
Meditech: Technological innovation in healthcare is playing a major role. Industrial biotechnology is very much on the rise in terms of applications in the food industry.
Nanotech: Flanders houses the leading European independent research centre in micro- and nanoelectronics.
Ecotech: Flanders has been making great strides in the development of new technologies for renewable energy. These can primarily be found in the fields of biomass, wind power and solar energy.
4. Would language be a barrier to some of the goals?
The Flemish people have a very good knowledge of foreign languages. Apart from the mother tongue (Dutch), all students learn English and French. Many even speak German and/or Spanish. So, language is absolutely no barrier.
5. Your academic institutions are said to be world class but we hear very little about them?
Flanders is home to seven universities with an international reputation in a wide range of scientific research fields. These institutions have forged partnerships with numerous industries to supply graduates with a strong package of applied skills.
In the Vlerick Leuven-Ghent Management School, two of Flanders reputed universities (Ghent and Leuven) have joined forces to develop a business school with international standing.
Flanders has an impressive track record when it comes to discovery research and innovation across a wide range of disciplines and a variety of sectors. The region houses four Strategic Research Centers that collaborate with the academic and business worlds.
Kris Peeters is the Minister-President of Flanders since 2007. As the head of the Flemish government, he is responsible for its economy, agriculture and foreign policy.