Advisory report 1: Attracting and Retaining Top International Talent

VARIO proposes 20 recommendations to increase Flanders' attractiveness to top international talent.

ADVIES 1: Internationaal Toptalent Aantrekken en Verankeren

You can find the pdf with the integral advice at the bottom of this page (only in Dutch, but with an English summary).

Press release: Brussels, 5 December 2017 - The Flemish Advisory Council for Innovation and Enterprise has submitted its first advice to Flemish Minister Philippe Muyters. Because the war on talent rages everywhere, the Council formulated a report in 20 action points to attract and keep the best students, researchers and professors in Flanders.

If Flanders wants to be one of the top 5 innovative knowledge regions, we must attract and anchor top international talent in addition to developing our own talent through education and training. In order to help the Flemish Government with this priority, VARIO has delivered its first advice on this theme. The advisory report was drawn up on the basis of a thorough quantitative and qualitative analysis and after extensive consultation with the professional field: the knowledge institutes, companies and business sectors, FIT, VDAB, etc. These findings were tested against the expertise and know-how of the VARIO board members built up over many years and then translated into an integrated and coordinated strategy consisting of four major recommendations, expressed in 20 action points.

A number of striking action points stand out in this report:

  • VARIO calls for an integrated and coordinated strategy to be developed with rapidly tangible results. The sense of urgency is high. VARIO therefore proposes to appoint a superintendant who, under the direct supervision of the Flemish Minister-President, will deploy the strategy, assign roles and monitor its implementation.
  • VARIO calls for Flanders to be placed in the international spotlight with a sophisticated one-brand policy and a lively knowledge and innovation ecosystem.
  • VARIO calls for a friendly welcome policy to be pursued: go for a one-stop-shop - of course radically digital - and set up a fast track procedure for top talent so that they can study, live and work here.

VARIO asks for an appropriate target group policy to be developed for top foreign students, top researchers and professors, with the aim that they spend part of their careers in our economic fabric and thus contribute to the prosperity of our region. VARIO requires that the attractiveness of our universities and knowledge institutions be increased and asks that internationalisation be rewarded with hard money.

Policy summary: VARIO advice: Attracting top international talent and anchoring it in Flanders

Work out an integrated and coordinated strategy that produces quickly tangible results.
1. Focus on sense of urgency amongst all partners to attract and anchor top international talent.
2. Develop an integrated and coordinated strategic plan to turn Flanders into an attractive innovation hub for top international talent.
3. Install a superintendent that coordinates, monitors and evaluates the strategy. The superintendent reports directly to the Flemish Minister-President.
4. The strategy places international top talent at the forefront, taking into account four broad factors: (1) attractive careers and jobs; (2) attractive knowledge and innovation infrastructure; (3) attractive living environment; (4) flexible migration policies.
5. Ensure a dynamic recruitment policy so that Flanders can react quickly to what is happening elsewhere in or outside Europe.
6. Organise a good knowledge base for the strategy and monitor the objectives based on KPIs.

Put Flanders in the international spotlight with a sophisticated one-brand policy and a lively knowledge and innovation ecosystem.
1. Develop a new and powerful Flemish branding to improve perception at the international level.
2. Continue to invest in a vibrant ecosystem of excellent knowledge institutions, entrepreneurship and innovation as an attractive breeding ground for international talent.

Work on a friendly welcome policy.
1. Create a one-stop-shop for top international talent that goes radically digital. This portal site links to several other websites where international talent can find all the necessary information and carry out all formalities by digital means.
2. Make the migration policy for international highly skilled talent flexible and proactive. Make use of the recommendations from the VIONA publication of 2013 on Flemish economic migration policy for the highly educated.
3. Prepare a fast track procedure for the Single Permit and family reunification. The new Advisory Committee on Economic Migration can play an active role in this respect.
4. Facilitate the decree rules on language in higher education. For the master's programmes, the quotas as well as the requirements for equivalent Dutch-language programmes must be dropped. For the bachelor's programmes, quotas should be increased but the required Dutch counterpart can remain.
5. Facilitate the language requirement for foreign teachers further to level B1 after five years.
6. Provide services in English, for example in municipal and urban administrations and with local authorities.
7. Continue to focus on affordable international schools.

Focus on top foreign students, top researchers and top professors, and reward internationalisation with hard money.
1. Develop an adapted target group policy for top foreign students, top researchers and top professors.
2. Increase the international attractiveness of Flemish universities and colleges of higher education; e. g. by earmarking a budget for internationalisation within existing financial instruments and defining smart KPIs for this purpose (e. g. part of the BOF key); by expanding the scholarships for international top students, e. g. in STEM.
3. Work out anchoring strategies to enable graduate and doctoral top international talent to enter the Flemish labour market, such as the development of smart KPIs in SRCs' management agreements; encourage intersectoral mobility; provide personal career guidance and planning.
4. Get more international top professors to Flanders by, among other things, earmarking part of the growth path for ZAP-personnel for international top professors, providing a transparent and internationally competitive reward package, increasing the percentage of foreign top professors within the Odysseus channel, further relaxing the language regulations for foreign teachers, etc.
5. Exempt a portion of the income of top international talent from taxes. Get inspiration from the 30% rule in the Netherlands.