Flanders Technology & Innovation (FTI) is a uniting social project that aims to promote belief in progress and counteract growing societal discontent. FTI’s objective is to connect people and knowledge to bring about innovation that improves industrial competitiveness and social well-being in a sustainable way.
The Flemish Region and the Flemish Community will use a market call to select a number of private companies to establish a new ‘besloten vennootschap’ company together with non-profit FTI VZW.
The new company will be a public-private collaboration, where the private parties will always have a controlling position. Private companies can find more information about participation in this venture via the link below.More information
Flanders Technology & Innovation was launched on October 4, 2022 and signals a step towards the future. Or rather: a step towards making the future happen.
Because that is exactly what Flanders Technology & Innovation is aiming for. To act. To make people wonder. To amaze. To bring about change and progress. FTI is a platform that brings together the Flemish government, entrepreneurs, companies, universities, federations, and interest groups to tackle tomorrow’s big issues in a structural way.
Watch the launch video here.
Flanders Technology & Innovation connects people and knowledge. FTI’s objective is to gain a technological advantage and develop innovations that benefit us all. We want to achieve this in our own special Flemish way. By doing things instead of just talking about them. By experimenting and stubbornly refusing to give up. By always keeping our clear social purpose in mind. Not by developing technology for the sake of technology, but by working on concrete projects that start tackling tomorrow’s challenges today.
This is how we are turning Flanders into Europe’s laboratory, an ambitious place where the bar is constantly being raised making FTI a sustainable and progressive driving force for the prosperity of the whole of Flanders.
We will achieve this through concrete initiatives. By making things happen. And by focusing on 5 specialist areas.
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Data are the new gold. No other raw material in the 21st century offers more potential. Leading business players, such as Facebook and Google, have developed worldwide empires in less than 20 years based on all types of data. However, it is not only through likes, photos, and searches that people leave data behind, either knowingly or unknowingly. We also actively leave data behind in our favourite shops, at school, at work, while banking, in healthcare and government. Everywhere in fact. As a result, gigabytes of sensitive information about every citizen are floating around in a digital universe in which we can no longer see the forest for the trees. Moreover, occasionally privacy breaches occur and unfortunately, we are also under threat of cyberattacks.
As a result, many people in Flanders are concerned and are becoming distrustful or even resentful towards this fast-growing data society. This constitutes a genuine ‘data paradox’: on the one hand we love the convenience of data-driven services but on the other hand we fear them. People worry about what the big tech players can do with our personal data. However, we have no choice, as there is no going back. Innovative data technology will make our lives much easier and prosperous, provided we use it judiciously and with care. The big challenge facing us today is to restore the trust that people and businesses have in data while ensuring the smooth and safe exchange of available data.
Flanders and Flanders Technology & Innovation will be playing a pioneering role in this process. We are the first country or region in the world to establish a data utility company which will centralise, manage, and protect the personal data of all our citizens, as well as ensuring its smooth usage. The Flemish Data Utility Company must act as a catalyst, and even as a driving force, for our society as well as the European data economy. And we are ready to take up that role. The Flemish Data Utility Company is unique thanks to its revolutionary data vault technology.
Nowadays, the data of citizens and businesses are still widely spread over numerous isolated data silos, which prevents useful links and relations. As a neutral party, the Flemish Data Utility Company is able to replace compartmentalised thinking with a platform that enables companies, citizens, and government to exchange data securely. A personal data vault enables every citizen and company to grant authorised access to specific pieces of their data, as well as for what purpose and period of time.
Flanders has built significant expertise in the field of data technology, but we are not alone in this. The Flemish Data Utility Company works in collaboration with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, for example, who can rightfully be called the founding father of the world wide web alongside our countryman, Robert Cailliau. In conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sir Tim Berners-Lee also developed the so-called Solid standard. This ensures that citizens themselves become the proprietors of their data and that privacy remains guaranteed. The Flemish Solid platform is unique in Europe.
Developing our data economy is crucial. Just like water flowing from a tap or electricity from an electrical socket, our data must be made available in Flanders in the future by means of secure, reliable, high-quality, and standard methods. This is not an objective in itself, but a vital prerequisite for economic and social growth. As a result, the importance of the Flemish Data Utility Company and innovation in the field of data management cannot be underestimated.
Life expectancy in Flanders is one of the best in Europe and the world, thanks to our first-rate curative medicine. We are world leaders in the field of medical innovation thanks to research centres, such as IMEC. We are also known across the world for our pharmaceutical and biotechnological expertise. However, to prevent is better than to cure and there are still enormous gains to be made in the near future in terms of prevention. Just like in many other fields, digitalisation provides the key to preventive healthcare. The personal data vault will provide the Flemish population with an excellent tool to monitor their health and even improve it. As all healthcare apps will have their place in this vault.
Many people already use a diet app to monitor their eating habits, a pedometer to record their daily exercise, and Strava or another application to archive their sports activities. However, this information is usually fragmented so there is no overall picture. To foster a healthy mind in a healthy body, it is extremely important to assemble all the pieces of the puzzle. This is what Flanders Technology & Innovation will fully focus on. The personal data vault can improve the awareness and the quality of life of every single person in Flanders.
However, we can also collectively take a huge step forward in terms of innovation. Anyone who is open to that idea can choose to voluntarily provide anonymised data to science and the healthcare sector, which gives hospitals and research institutions a wealth of valuable information. On the one hand, this will considerably improve preventive healthcare in Flanders. On the other hand, smart usage of collective data can also considerably reduce this sector’s expenditure. From a financial point of view, prevention is much better than cure. At the time of their demise, many people in Flanders make their body available to science, but during our lifetime, data technology can already benefit our lives and well-being.
Flanders is a trendsetter in Europe in the field of media, events, and entertainment. We have a thriving festival industry – Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter being global benchmarks – plus, media companies such as DPG Media, Mediahuis, and Studio 100 are engaged in remarkable international expansion. In addition, our public broadcasting services are top tier when it comes to creativity and relevance. Furthermore, our gaming sector is booming and flourishing, owing in part to the excellent Digital Arts and Entertainment programme at Howest College based in Kortrijk, Belgium.
With Flanders Technology & Innovation we will anchor this stellar reputation into an incubator site in Flanders. This will become the European hotspot for research, innovation, and creation in entertainment, gaming, media, and festival technology. The FTI Entertainment Lab will be where start-ups, spin-offs, and international top players find each other. It will operate as an incubator for generating and maturing promising new developments and cross-pollination.
The current energy crisis is forcing us all to face the facts concerning the challenge to our society and economy of transitioning from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources. It is blatantly obvious that green hydrogen will be an important piece in the jigsaw of this energy transition, and Flanders is determined to lead the way in the development of green hydrogen.
We have two important assets to help us achieve this. Firstly, we have a unique value chain with a cluster of companies and research institutions working on green hydrogen. Secondly, we already have all the infrastructure and ports needed to play a crucial part in a European-wide hydrogen network.
In the future this will result in a completely new model for the housing market. In conjunction with the main players in the market, we will be launching a new energy brand and a unique subscription model for green energy. As the necessary hardware can be leased, citizens will no longer have to invest first. This means that in exchange for digital data, Flemish consumers will benefit from unprecedented and cost-efficient user-friendliness. While we are starting up in Flanders, this model has already gained ground in the Netherlands.
How will we prepare everyone for the new jobs of 2030? FTI will create a central hub from which we will offer (existing and potentially also new) training and re-training projects. Every Flemish citizen, regardless of their technological knowledge, must be able to develop and advance. The ‘Academy’ will also be developing into a technological club which attracts geeks as well as complete novices.