Study confirms importance of cluster organisations for Flemish companies

Flemish companies maintain their advantages over foreign competitors partly thanks to high-performance cluster operations. A recent study by VUB concludes that the six Flemish spearhead clusters fulfill their role very well and are extremely successful in bringing together many parties.
20 February 2024

Consensus on the role of clusters

Knowledge institutions, companies and local authorities are unanimous that the six Flemish spearhead clusters foster knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer and contirbute to 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, climate challenges and the problems of a tight labor market.

As a global player in chocolate, Barry Callebaut wants to remain at the forefront in terms of innovation. Through Flanders' FOOD, we work together with other top companies in Flanders such as Vandemoortele and Soubry to make a big leap forward in digitalisation in our factories. The leverage resulting from this collaboration has a positive impact on the entire food industry. Cluster organisations are crucial to connect us in innovation.

Barry Callebaut Group

Barry Callebaut Group

Cluster Memorandum

At the request of the spearhead cluster heads, Vrije Universiteit Brussel conducted a study to analyse with a constructive-critical view what optimal role a cluster organisation can play in the rapidly evolving economic and social landscape. The cluster heads want to use the output of the study to refine their strategic and operational goals.

Based on the insights, a memorandum will be developed 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 every company has to go through today.

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

Kiurt Van Doninck Nike

Kurt Van Donink


Each spearhead cluster is unique

The spearhead clusters are diverse in their organisational structure and management. This results in differences in emphasis and priorities. The members come from different sectors, technologies and disciplines, each with their own specific challenges. Spearhead clusters are catalysts and gatekeepers par excellence.

The study, which included a literature study as a benchmark compared to other countries as well as the organisation of a number of focus groups consisting of business people, knowledge institutions and other innovation actors, confirms that this diversity among the spearhead clusters is crucial to ensure that tailor-made services can be provided. 

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 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 Iacovella ThermoVault

Sandro Iacovella


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, the Flemish 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 capitalise on this strength in Europe in the coming years.

Speerpuntclusters & VLAIO
De Vlaamse speerpuntclusters & VLAIO


InnovFest is an influential networking event that highlights 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.

On this 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 labour market. The event offers a unique insight into the dynamic landscape of innovation and growth in Flanders.

Innovfest 2.0

Who are the six Flemish spearhead clusters?

The six Flemish spearhead clusters are:

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