Brussels loves AI

Why Brussels is the best place to open a European HQ for tech companies.

A recent report from EY shows that 2018 was an absolute record year for attracting foreign direct investments (FDI). A total of 278 foreign investment projects were initiated, representing a 29% increase on the previous year and creating an all-time high number of jobs (7,363). With this increase, Belgium is going against the European trend. More than 1500 international companies’ HQ are now already established in Brussels. The capital of Europe has everything a company needs: an open economy, business incentives and services, a strong infrastructure, and a talent pool of multilingual, highly skilled professionals in all sectors. Being the world’s 2nd most cosmopolitan city and located at the crossroads of Western European cultures, this is actually not very surprising.

Belgium has also essential assets regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI). 
It has a tradition of world-class AI researchers, some of whom were at the cradle of artificial intelligence. Additionally, Belgium ranks 9th in the “Digital Economy and Society Index” within the EU with a society that largely embraces AI as a novel and promising technology rather than a threat.

The Brussels Region had a pioneering role in AI since long before it became a buzzword, hosting, for instance, the first academic laboratory dedicated to AI in Europe at the University of Brussels. The most active research groups are The IRIDIA laboratoryThe AI Experience Centre  and The Machine learning Group

Hugues Bersini

Prof Dr Hugues Bersini, founder of the AI lab of the ULB


Ingrid Daubechies

Prof Dr Ingrid Daubechies, The most cited Belgian mathematician, recognized for her study of the mathematical methods that enhance image-compression technology


Belgian employees are among the leaders in the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace. 54% of employees are already confronted with artificial intelligence at work or expect this to happen in the next two years. The Belgians are also predominantly positive about the use of AI at work. More than six in ten say that AI has a positive effect on their productivity. 

The Brussels Region also supports companies in their AI endeavours, both from innovation, technical, finance and a business point of view.

  1. Innoviris, the Brussels Region funding body, has been providing significant support to AI-related research and innovation, steadily ramping up its support programs in this field, with a dedicated budget of € 20M over the past 2 years. In particular, an AI call (“Team Up”) aimed at fostering collaboration between academia and industry was launched in 2017. This program reflects the Brussels Region approach to AI development, which emphasises collaborative research and open innovation.
  2. For the technical aspects, one can mention the leading role of Sirris Brussels, through its Elucidata laboratory, and of the Icity.Brussels technology hub, both co-funded by the Brussels Region and ERDF
  3. The group SRIB/GIMB aims at providing financial support for the creation, reorganisation or expansion of private companies located in the region. In addition to investment, they support entrepreneurs in all phases of their company’s development. BRUSTART provides financial solutions to young innovative companies that are in the launching or starting-up phase. It supports technological innovation through the seed-capital fund, which is directed towards spin-offs.
  4. As for the business aspects, the Region Brussels Capital launched in 2017 the plan coordinated by and gathers main entities involved in AI in the Region. Moreover, and its cluster provide tailor-made support and advice.


One other important aspect of the Brussels is their support for the Tech communities. The Region expects to continue building on the success of the Data Science Community, made of AI experts and practitioners. This community counts several thousand members and organizes more than a hundred events per year and one European Data Innovation Summit.
The region has co-financed a dedicated tech and starter Hub called DigitYser where communities can gather to boost their digital skills and raise awareness on AI and data literacy. 

DigitYser also is the regional driver of AI4Belgium the community-led approach to enable Belgian people and organisations to capture the opportunities of AI while facilitating the ongoing transition responsibly. AI 4 Belgium has the ambition to position Belgium in the European AI landscape. We are currently assisting the newly elected government to define their AI strategy based on the European recommendations.

The Brussels’ AI strategy is based on 6 pillars

  • Data literacy and AI training for all
  • Support R&D and promote innovation
  • Setting up a responsible data strategy and promote open data
  • Promote the use of AI in the private industries & SME’s
  • Promote the use of AI in the public sector
  • Position Brussels as the driving AI city of Europe 

More skills development is made possible with the development of new training programs, namely with the Microsoft AI School, the Big Data Bxl and AI Black Belt initiative.

3 tech hubs are promoting AI actively:

  • Becentral – The digital campus of Brussels
  • Betacowork – Coworking and Community for freelancers & entrepreneurs.
  • DigitYser – The home of the AI & datascience community in Brussels

Brussels and Antwerp are in the top 15 hubs of artificial intelligence talent in Europe, according to a new report from the international venture capital firm Atomico. That is one of the conclusions in ‘The State of European Tech‘, a new report from venture firm Atomico and the Finnish tech conference Slush published in 2016. Atomico and Slush use LinkedIn data as a source for their conclusions. To be more precise: cities with the highest amount of LinkedIn members with AI skills.

Our main argument is that Brussels is also a very pleasant place to live and a family-friendly environment blessed with a welcoming heart. A business city teeming with opportunities, but also a relaxing home, ideal for enjoying life’s sweeter side. Lying at the crossroads of Western Europe’s cultures while being home to so many citizens from all over the world definitely makes Brussels a human-sized global city where local culture and cosmopolitanism get along perfectly.

So in summary here are the top 7 reasons to put Brussels in your shortlist:

  1. Located in the centre of Europe, 
  2. Low cost of living and high quality of life,
  3. Available AI talent at an acceptable price 
  4. Top universities and innovation programs, 
  5. Practical Regional & Federal support, 
  6. Very active AI communities and expert groups
  7. Tech & starters’ hubs to host and support your new venture  

Looking at this it is not surprising that Brussels has become the best place to open a European HQ for a tech company.


About the author: 

Philippe Van Impe is the driver of the AI & data science community of Belgium, the founder of DigitYser – the tech & starters’ hub of Brussels and a business coach for companies who wants to start their European HQ in Brussels.


Job – E&Y – Data Scientist – Financial Services Organization (EMEIA FSO)


Patrice LATINNE Patrice LATINNE Executive Director | Enterprise Intelligence at E&Y  suggests you take a close look at this vacancy

Data Scientist – Financial Services Organization (EMEIA FSO)



Check out this job! & join the next meetup on Dec 18th at VUB tackling bigdata topics and data science.

Job description

The EMEIA FSO Enterprise Intelligence, Data & Analytics practice offers a broad range of advice to the financial services industry (banking, capital markets and insurance) in domains such as:• Data governance strategy• Information roadmap, use case definition and CDO’s agenda• Business & data architecture, data quality and data ingestion process design

• Technology architecture, rationalization and enablement – including Big Data ecosystem

• Information design, standard and regulatory reporting, management dashboards and enterprise performance management

• Advanced analytics in risk management and customer intelligence

• Program and project management

Within the EY EMEIA Financial Services Organization (FSO) region, we have a strong network of over 350 Enterprise Intelligence professionals focused on the financial services industry, and our ambition is to double the team by 2016.

We are currently looking to strengthen the Analytics team in our Enterprise Intelligence competency within FSO Advisory at EY Belgium with capable, motivated professionals interested to join the team asData Scientist at various levels, depending on experience: (Senior) Consultant or Manager.

Tasks & responsibilities:

• Apply statistical or machine learning techniques design and development of processes meant to operationalize derived analytical models into business applications

• Participate in the design, acquisition and completion of large EI transformation projects within the complex multinational financial services landscape (Banking / Insurance / Wealth & Asset Management)

• Engage with financial services clients and identify new business opportunities driven by an innovative quantitative, data and analytics approach

• Support transformation processes towards a data centric culture

• Work closely together with colleagues from our Performance Improvement practice and FSO EMEIA “Global Analytics Hub”, in the domains of risk management and customer intelligence.

Desired Skills and Experience

Profile:• Relevant Master degree (Statistics, Physics, Applied Mathematics, Applied Sciences, Econometric Engineering, or related fields)
• 2 – 7 years of professional experience working with advanced analytics and data visualization techniques, ideally within Financial Services
• Proficiency in data sourcing, data capture, data transformation and data preparation techniques
• Good understanding of, and practical experience with analytical techniques and tools for predictive analytics and advanced visualization as well as programming skills (for example C, R, Python, Perl, Unix shells)
• Hands on experience in the area of Enterprise Intelligence (e.g. Data Warehousing, Data Management, Business Intelligence, Analytics, Big Data ecosystem)
• Fluent in Dutch and/or French, with business level of EnglishEnthusiasm for financial services is a must. We are looking for dynamic, entrepreneurial people, who thrive in international teams and who have a global mindset! You have a one-step-ahead attitude and a strong interest in new technologies, innovative solutions and rapid business market evolutions in line with our client expectations.Offer:

• A career path within a leading consulting firm, working with prominent national and global institutions
• A dynamic working environment and a job with autonomy and a high level of responsibility
• The opportunity to develop your own skills into a professional specialization, focusing on the sector of your interest
• An attractive salary package with fringe benefits.

About us / Who we are:

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. With this breadth of service offerings you have the opportunity to develop your career through a variety of experiences, mentoring and formal learning to ensure our employee value proposition –Whenever you join, however long you stay, the exceptional EY experience lasts a lifetime – is a reality.EY Financial Services Organization (FSO)EY is the only one of the major professional services organizations with a dedicated Financial Services practice that is integrated across Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA region). A multidisciplinary, international team of professionals based in 13 countries, are working across industries and borders in all service lines: Tax, Transactions, Assurance and Advisory.EY FSO Advisory

EMEIA Financial Services Advisory works with leading financial services clients across four key areas of specialism: Actuarial, Financial Services Risk, IT Risk and Assurance and Performance Improvement.

For more information and other exciting career opportunities with EY FSO, please visit our career site at !

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