7 November 2023

The entrepreneurial landscape in Belgium is flourishing, according to recent figures from 2022. Almost 127,000 companies were founded in that year, according to new results from Statbel, the Belgian statistics office. That amounts to an annual growth rate of 4.5%. But what do the figures really say about added value creation in Belgium?  

Creation of added value  

The Belgian economy, like any modern industrialised economy, is characterised by the increasing importance of services. The non-financial market-oriented economy had 848,04 enterprises in 2022. The biggest evolution can be seen in the ‘professional, scientific and technical activities’ sector (224,068 companies), the ‘wholesale and retail trade; repair of cars and motorbikes’ sector (15,734 companies), and the ‘construction’ sector (157,378 companies).  

In 2022, commercial services (including wholesale and retail trade and financial and insurance activities) accounted for 53.4% of total GVA, compared with 17.7% for manufacturing and 5.4% for construction. But manufacturing by sector, and the value added to the Belgian economy, looks like this (2021):  

  • Manufacture of food, beverages and tobacco products: €9.1 billion  
  • Manufacture of textiles, clothing, leather and leather products: €1.3 billion  
  • Manufacture of wood, paper and paper products, printing: €3.2 billion  
  • Manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products: €1.7 billion  
  • Manufacture of chemical products: €9.7 billion  
  • Manufacture of pharmaceutical raw materials and products: €10.3 billion  
  • Manufacture of rubber and plastic products and other non-metallic mineral products: EUR 5.6 billion 
  • Manufacture of basic metals and fabricated metal products, excluding machinery and equipment: EUR 8.3 billion  
  • Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products EUR 1.6 billion  
  • Manufacture of electrical equipment: EUR 1.2 billion  
  • Manufacture of machinery and equipment: EUR 3.7 billion  
  • Manufacture of transport equipment: EUR 2.8 billion  
  • Manufacture of furniture and other manufacturing, repair and installation of machinery and equipment: 3.4 billion euro  

Constant growth and added value by size  

Figures growing constantly. Belgium generated 264 billion in added value in 2021. But this is unevenly distributed across size classes.   

The vast majority of enterprises active (95.9%) are micro enterprises. Only 0.1 % of enterprises have 250 or more employees. Logically, the share in the number of persons employed for micro enterprises is much lower (34.2 %) and for large enterprises much higher (35.3 %) than their share in the enterprise population.   

SMEs (enterprises smaller than 250 persons employed) make an important contribution to employment: about two in three (65%) persons employed are active in an SME. The value added per person employed is 107,000 euros in large enterprises (with 250 or more persons employed), a lot more than in micro enterprises (between 0-9 persons employed), namely 63,000.  

Larger enterprises thus generate more added value per capita than small enterprises.  

Striking regional differences in productivity  

A total of 82,494 enterprises were set up in Flanders, representing a remarkable 12% increase compared to the previous year. This impressive growth is not an isolated phenomenon, but a continuation of a positive trend that has been observed since 2009, with almost annual increases.  

Compared to the other regions in Belgium, entrepreneurial activity is significantly higher in Flanders. In 2022, the number of start-ups was 29,334 in the Walloon Region and 12,445 in the Brussels Capital Region. This puts the Flemish Region almost double the other regions, indicating a favourable environment for business start-ups and expansion.  

Each region has unique characteristics that make it attractive to businesses. Flanders, with its strategic location in the heart of Europe, offers access to diverse markets and has a well-developed infrastructure. The Walloon Region, known for its industrial heritage and natural resources, attracts companies operating in sectors such as manufacturing and logistics. In turn, the Brussels-Capital Region, as a political and economic centre, offers opportunities for companies seeking international connectivity and growth.  

Investing in innovative solutions  

A crucial factor contributing to the success of Flanders and the other regions is the focus on Research and Development (R&D) and Innovation. Flanders invests substantially in research facilities and incentive programmes that encourage companies to develop innovative solutions. This emphasis on R&D not only helps attract talent and investors, but also strengthens Flanders’ competitive position internationally.  

 The Walloon Region, with its history of industrial innovation, continues to invest in new technologies and sustainable development. This has led to a growing diversification of the economy and a focus on sectors such as aeronautics, biotechnology and renewable energy. These strategic shifts contribute to a resilient and forward-looking economy.  

The Brussels Capital Region plays a key role as an international hub for research and innovation. With its concentration of international institutions and companies, it provides fertile ground for cooperation and knowledge exchange on a global scale. Investments in technological ecosystems and start-up incubators reinforce Brussels’ position as an incubator for innovation.  

These regional differences in focus and specialisation make Belgium as a whole an attractive location for companies, regardless of their size or sector. The dynamic business environment, supported by targeted investments in R&D and innovation, creates fertile ground for growth and development.  

The rising number of business start-ups in Belgium does not only illustrates local trends but also reflects the wider success of the economy as a diverse and resilient business destination. It remains crucial for companies to be aware of regional differences and exploit the unique advantages each region has to offer, while benefiting from the overarching favourable business environment across the country. 

With FI Group as your reliable partner, you can navigate the evolving landscape of R&D funding and fully leverage the available incentive measures. 

Yvette Poumpalova 

× How can I help you?