Belgians need to believe more in themselves

30 May 2023

Belgen moeten meer in zichzelf geloven

Belgium is a complicated country, but also a country with many assets and possibilities. However, we are very often too modest to unpack with this, at least that is what many in the outside world think about us. That is why it is good that we are finally getting rid of this complex and that we are profiling ourselves in the world of tomorrow as a country that is open to innovation, cooperation and diversity. I have enjoyed working on it with the BBDO team over the past few months.

Open to innovation, collaboration and diversity

A strategic survey by the FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in 2022 shows that Belgium is generally highly regarded by the international community. Opinion makers worldwide expressed themselves positively about Belgium and emphasized our open-mindedness, drive for innovation, willingness to cooperate and commitment to the rule of law and human rights.

The survey also showed that Belgium enjoys a good reputation among researchers, opinion makers, investors and NGOs. However, it also emerged that Belgium has insufficient visibility and is often too modest.

The results of this survey served as the basis for a new brand strategy of Belgium, with an accompanying campaign highlighting Belgium's commitment to innovation, collaboration and diversity, summarised in the baseline "Embracing Openness". This campaign, which is aimed at investors and research talent abroad, was launched last week.

Belgian commitment to openness to innovation in difficult times

"Whether it's the production of COVID vaccines, cutting-edge research in biotech or semiconductors or our leading role in offshore energy, Belgium consistently demonstrates that openness to innovation is essential for our society. Embracing partnerships and diversity are part of that. Working together, building bridges and alliances with different perspectives lead to progress, both economically and socially. This is a fundamental part of Belgium's DNA. While others choose to isolate themselves, Belgium radically chooses openness as the way forward," Prime Minister Alexander De Croo underlined at the launch of the campaign in Brussels last week.

Embracing innovation - to meet the challenges of tomorrow

In order to tackle challenges such as climate change, European strategic autonomy and energy security of supply, the campaign puts the innovative side of Belgium in the spotlight.
Belgium is a vibrant centre of innovation with a proven track record of technological and scientific excellence. Notable Belgian achievements include pioneering roles in biopharmaceutical research and development, nanoelectronics and offshore energy, combined with world-class research institutions and universities.

Belgium is driving the high-tech chip revolution thanks to the collaboration between the IMEC laboratories and KU Leuven, named the seventh most innovative university in the world by Reuters. In addition, Belgium is at the forefront of medical discoveries related to life-changing conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer's and AIDS, thanks to research at Ghent University, the ULB and the VUB.

As far as the energy transition is concerned, Belgium is a founding member of the North Sea Coalition to create the largest renewable energy central in Europe. The aim is to quadruple the combined offshore wind capacity to 65 gigawatts by 2030 and to reach at least 150 gigawatts by 2050.

Driving progress and innovation with the support of partnerships

The campaign also highlights how partnerships contribute to innovation and sustainable solutions. After all, no single entity can tackle complex problems alone and seize all opportunities.
This sense of cooperation is ingrained in Belgium's DNA. It is no coincidence that Belgium, a founding member of the United Nations, NATO and the European Union, hosts important European and international organisations. Belgium will place particular emphasis on promoting innovation partnerships during its upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2024.

Prosperity through innovation based on diversity

More than ever, Belgium believes in the advantages of an open, tolerant and inclusive society to stimulate innovation and thus guarantee progress and prosperity for all.

"Embracing Openness" shows that Belgium is home to many communities and cultures, where diversity is central. This is demonstrated by, among other things, the second place in the Rainbow Index, the third place in the KOF Globalisation Index, the participation in the global SheDecides movement and the supervisory role in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

We only believe it ourselves when others tell us

However, Belgium is not known for highlighting its achievements. To do something about this, people from other countries were invited as part of the campaign to tell why they think Belgium is so great. Hence the theme of the campaign: "We don't say Belgium is great, others do".

The campaign focuses on people from other countries who talk about their experiences with Belgium and the Belgians in their own language. They share stories that focus on the three pillars of the campaign: innovation, partnerships and diversity. It is precisely this combination that makes Belgium unique.