The State of the Flanders Startup Ecosystem 2022

Behind the picturesque cities and landmarks, the Flanders region is home to a rapidly growing startup and scaleup ecosystem. The combined enterprise value of the Flanders’ startup ecosystem has reached €32.6B, up 6.0x since 2016, and is currently home to 2k+ startups, 200+ scaleups and 6 unicorns.

Made in partnership with Flanders Investment & Trade, Dealroom’s latest report builds on the newly-launched Flanders’ Startup Ecosystem Database: a collaborative database showcasing the full scope of the Flanders ecosystem from startups, scaleups, acceleration and incubation programmes, to university spin-offs and more.

Dive into our in-depth analysis of the Flanders region and discover one of Europe’s fastest-growing tech hubs.

"The startup ecosystem in Flanders is growing fast and attracting more international attention. Flanders is the place to be for foreign companies and investors in life sciences and other high-tech fields. It’s so gratifying that we can rely on the support of the whole ecosystem, from cities to incubators, and get the word out that Flanders is the ideal place to accelerate your business."

Claire Tillekaerts, CEO at FIT

Report - The state of Flanders startup ecosystem 2022

2021 was a record year for the VC funding in Flanders.

In 2021 Flanders startups raised over 550M, an increase of 2.8x since 2017. 2022 had a strong start with 292M raised by April and created the potential for the ecosystem to raise a total of 876M by the end of the year.

While Flanders’ VCs raised over €160m in 2021, following trend of outlier funds raising capital. Currently, VC activity in Flanders has reached €234M in Q1 2022, its second-highest ever quarter.

Flanders showing signs of a developing unicorn hub.

Unlike many European countries’ startup ecosystems, Belgium’s unicorn companies are broadly distributed throughout the country. Belgium’s most valuable new-gen innovation business, antibody therapeutics discovery platform argenx, is based in Ghent.

In all, 75% of Belgium’s unicorns were born in Flanders, and Flanders academic and research centres have proved fertile breeding ground for high growth businesses, with a particular strength within Health and Biotech. Belgium’s second ranked unicorn by valuation, enterprise data intelligence platform Collibra, spun out of the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB).

Flanders is one of Europe’s most proportionally funded R&D regions.

Gross domestic expenditure on Research & Development (R&D) is remarkably high in Flanders, proportionally one of Europe’s most R&D funded regions. The equivalent of 3.3% of the region’s GDP is invested in R&D (2019), which makes the region an outlier in the EU and a reputed knowledge hub in Europe. While strongly funded, the region has not been able to effectively convert these initiatives into disruptive products and startups.

However, Flanders has been changing the narrative in recent years as its world-renowned universities and research centers are producing an increasing number of successful spinouts. Startup acceleration and incubation programmes are also helping founders scale faster and better. And, critically, funding opportunities are also abundant to increase Flanders’ startups scale.

Flanders still has room to grow.

Flanders is facing a paradox: it is one of Europe’s top R&D spenders and home to one of the densest startup ecosystem in western Europe, it also ranks amongst the lowest in terms of VC activity. In 2021, VC investment reaching Flanders-based startups amounted to a little over 85€ per inhabitant.

The good news is that Flanders’ ecosystem is growing faster than most of its neighbors, second only to Germany. And while (in terms of value) Flanders is smaller compared to others, its ecosystem has a higher growth rate of 6.0x since 2016. The Belgian region is also positioned in terms of value compared to similarly-sized ecosystems across Europe and shows promising growth.

Discover the full scope of Flanders’ startup ecosystem and how investors can be a part of this growing region by downloading our full report.

Report - The state of Flanders startup ecosystem 2022