Cluster organizations are crucial for the competitiveness of Flemish companies


Flemish companies succeed in maintaining their competitive advantages compared to abroad through efficient cluster operation. A recent VUB study concludes that the six Flemish spearhead clusters Catalisti (chemistry & plastics), De Blauwe Cluster (marine), Flanders' FOOD (food), Flux50 (energy), MEDVIA (health) and VIL (logistics) play their role very well. and succeed exceptionally well in bringing together many parties from their neutral and expert position.


Consensus on role clusters

Knowledge institutions, companies and local authorities are unanimous that the six spearhead clusters are responsible for knowledge sharing and knowledge flow and are partly responsible for the development of new knowledge. They also excel in safeguarding knowledge for future generations. This provides an innovation boost that allows Flemish companies to overcome the difficulties of the energy crisis, the scarcity of raw materials, the climate challenges and the problems of a tight labor market.

“As a global player in chocolate, Barry Callebaut wants to remain at the top in terms of innovation. Through the cluster, we work together with other top food companies in Flanders, such as Vandemoortele and Soubry, to make a big leap forward in digitalization in our factories. The leverage created through this collaboration has a positive impact on the entire food sector. Cluster organizations are crucial to connect us in innovation”

– Barry Callebaut

Cluster Memorandum

At the request of the spearhead cluster managements, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel conducted a study to analyze with a constructive-critical view what an optimal role a cluster organization can play in the rapidly evolving economic and social landscape. The management wants to use the output of the study to refine their strategic and operational goals. They are convinced that their good work must be continued and based on the insights, a memorandum will be drawn up with which the Flemish Government can work to ensure that Flanders remains at the top in innovation and cluster policy, a cluster policy by and for companies , a cluster policy that supports the transformative process that every company is in today.

“The spearhead clusters bundle the economic fabric and ensure that the acquired knowledge finds its way to companies quickly and transparently.”

Kurt Van Donink, Vice President European Logistics, Nike

Each spearhead cluster is unique

The spearhead clusters are diverse in their organizational structure and management. Different emphasis and priorities are therefore being placed. The study, which, in addition to a literature study as a benchmark compared to other countries, also organized a number of focus groups of company members, knowledge institutions and other innovation actors, confirms that this diversity is necessary to ensure that tailor-made services can be provided to members. After all, these members come from different sectors, technologies and disciplines, each of which has its own specific and different challenges. Spearhead clusters are the catalyst and gatekeeper par excellence. Sandro Iacovella, founder of ThermoVault confirms this:

“As starting entrepreneurs with an academic background, it was essential to have a sounding board that understands you, believes in you and thinks along with your specific challenges. The cluster played an important role in this and introduced us to the right parties. We are currently active in several countries with our own retrofit solution for residential heating systems, in combination with the global sales market of factory appliances through our strategic partner Ariston. I can safely say that without that support we would not have gotten this far in developing ThermoVault.”

Sandro Lacovella, founder ThermoVault

A focused VLAIO, strong clusters in Europe

The VUB study also confirms the strong position of Flanders, with clusters taking on many roles and tasks and being deployed very strategically. In particular, the role of VLAIO, agency for innovation and entrepreneurship, is mentioned, which is the source of success with a very targeted cluster policy. Unique to this policy is its industrial focus and company-driven operation. VLAIO must continue to capitalize on this strength in Europe in the coming years.


InnovFest is an influential networking event that emphasizes the synergy between the Flemish government, the six spearhead clusters and companies. On February 20 at Lamot in Mechelen, the results of the VUB study will be explained by Prof. Elvira Haezendonck. That day, the 6 spearhead clusters will also present, side by side, the latest technological breakthroughs in three break-out sessions to solve the challenges surrounding sustainability, energy and the labor market. The event offers a unique insight into the dynamic landscape of innovation and growth in Flanders.