Gone are the days when innovation took place within a single company. In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world only a handful of companies have the necessary knowledge and resources to do everything themselves. From research, to development, to commercialisation. To stimulate innovation that crosses company, sectoral and geographical boundaries, the FEB has launched BRIEC, the ‘Belgian Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Community’. This new initiative builds on the FEB Innovation Forum of October 2016 (“Innovation across Borders”). That showed an important need among companies and sector federations for more information exchange and stronger cooperation between the various innovation players. We don’t have the intention to replace existing initiatives but to maximise our innovation potential by improving collaboration.
Edward Roosens, chief economist at the FEB and the driving force behind this project: “BRIEC wants to stimulate innovation-collaboration between academics, research institutions, clusters, sectors and large and small companies. It wants to do this via thematic network events around six major societal challenges. Company or sector A often has a solution to the problem of sector or company B, but they do not know each other. This is especially true when B is located in a different Belgian region. The FEB wants to change this with BRIEC.”
Is Belgium a good innovator?
Belgium ranks 8th in the European Innovation index. This means we’re not one of the 6 European ‘innovation leaders’ but only one of the ‘strong innovators’ whose performance is similar to the EU-average. From our neighbouring countries, only France ranks lower. The primary cause for this is our below-average score on the impact of innovation on employment and sales. We export considerably less medium and high-tech products than on average in Europe.
On the positive side, investments in R&D is on the rise: in 2016, Belgian companies invested 1.73% of GDP in R&D compared to 1.31% in 2008.
Why this initiative?
A growing group of companies already collaborates with universities, research institutions and other companies and closely follows the start-up landscape in search of exciting innovations. Unfortunately, cooperation is too often limited to a single sector, somewhat rare and unplanned. The FEB wants to bring together entrepreneurs and innovation players from all Belgian regions and sectors on a regular basis to strengthen information exchange and cooperation. BRIEC will do this through thematic networking events around six social challenges: Aging & Health, Energy & Climate, Free Time & New Media, Mobility & Urbanization, Tasty & Healthy Food and Finance & Insurance.
Edward Roosens: “Although Belgian companies don’t perform poorly regarding R&D and cooperation in a European context, there’s still room for improvement. There are still too many barriers between academics and companies, between sectors and companies and between innovation players from different regions. With BRIEC, the FEB wants to help overcome those barriers.”