According to data from crossborder investment monitor fDi Markets, Amsterdam is the standout performer in the Benelux region – which comprises the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – receiving almost one-fifth of the total projects recorded between 2011 and 2015. More than one-third of these projects were in software and IT services, followed by business services (17.5%) and communications (15.3%).
The city has become a key investment hub in Europe, second only to London as a creative capital but offering a less saturated digital landscape and better value office space, according to investor motives recorded by fDi Markets. Initiatives such as StartupAmsterdam and the ACE Venture Lab as well as the city’s recent appointment by the EU as the innovation capital of Europe can only further improve the city’s standing in science and technology sectors.
The Dutch capital also ranked first in terms of inbound capital investment, obtaining almost 20% of total investment in the region, and FDI job creation, with more than 15% of total jobs.
Belgium's big two
Brussels, the most populous city in the Benelux region, recorded the second highest number of inbound FDI projects. Almost half were in business services, followed by software and IT services (12.7%) and financial services (10%). More than three-quarters of these projects were in sales and office operations. Foreign investors have noted Brussels’s location at the centre of Europe, with nearly half of companies citing the city’s proximity to customers and markets as a key reason for investing. Its convenience for EU institutions and legislators is also an important factor.
The city ranked third in terms of FDI job creation, experiencing an increase of almost 40% in FDI-related jobs between 2014 and 2015.
Antwerp, the largest city in Belgium's Flanders region, ranked third for both projects and capital investment. Antwerp Port is at the heart of European chemical manufacturing and this is reflected in its inbound FDI. About one-fifth of its total projects were in the chemicals sector and more than one-quarter were involved in manufacturing. Major investors include Germany-based chemical giant BASF, which established a €100m plant at its Verbund site in the city. A growing number of transportation companies are also establishing operations in Antwerp, with one-third of investment motives citing the city’s excellent infrastructure and logistics environment.
Rotterdam reaches out
Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands, ranked second in terms of FDI job creation and inbound capital investment. As the largest shipping port in Europe, the city has continued to receive high-value investments in logistics and manufacturing across the energy, transportation and chemical industries. The city’s inbound FDI in 2015 was particularly impressive, with capital investment growing by 566.8% from 2014 and jobs by 263.5%, due to a number of mega-projects. These capital-intensive projects included US-based energy conglomerate ExxonMobil’s $1bn investment in its hydrocracker operations in the city, which will see the creation of 600 new jobs. Denmark-based shipping giant AP Moller-Maesk also unveiled its new €500m container terminal, also known as Maasvlakte II, at the Port of Rotterdam.
Luxembourg ranked fifth in FDI project numbers despite its relatively low population compared with other cities in the region. The city’s top sectors were software and IT services (30.2%), financial services (23.8%) and business services (17.5%). Companies recognised the city’s importance as a hub for financial institutions, economic stability and the global business community. In fact, half of the businesses that mentioned their investment motives credited the regulations and business climate in Luxembourg as key factors for establishing operations.