How Boston can benefit from the leading Biopharma hub in Europe

May 12, 2022

Connect with 90+ life science companies and universities at MassBio Hub on June 10

Posted by Wallonia Trade and Investment

Over the past two years, we have seen a dramatic rise in the sector, especially with the covid pandemic. Scientists around the world have worked tirelessly to bring the best innovations into the life sciences space. 

While Boston/Cambridge remains the world’s No.1 Biotech Hub, other parts of the world are following closely in the race to improve the health of the global population. One country stands out, Belgium.


According to recent studies (BCG, Deloitte), the Belgian Life Sciences ecosystem is one of the best in Europe.  The country has been internationally recognized as best-in-class for many areas. Ranging from being the logistics center of Europe, ensuring a lower cost of living, and offering highly attractive R&D incentives to having the highest labor productivity. The country is now becoming the leading biotech hub in Europe driven by the expansion of the biomanufacturing companies and is now attracting additional investment across the whole life Sciences industry with unbeatable tax incentives (3,75% tax rate on increased net innovation income).

In 2022, Deloitte released a study that provide key statistics on clinical trials in Belgium and perform a benchmark of Belgium as a clinical trial location in Europe for the year 2020.  Discover the study here.


Belgium shows attractiveness in finance, human resources, the highest average year on year industry growth for biotech’s and is the leader in market capitalization for the European biotech industry doubling in 2020 with the start of the pandemic. 


Belgium as a Biopharma hub in 7 key points (source: Boston Consulting Group)

·       Belgium has a solid pool of talent and pro-active policies for talent development. The number of life sciences employees (3.2 per 1,000 inhabitants) is more than twice the European average. With 12 universities (two of which are in the top 100 in Reuters’ ranking of the most innovative universities) and seven university hospitals, Belgium has a strong pipeline of skills coming to the marketplace, including about 2,600 life sciences graduates per 1 million people (compared with an average of 1,400 for the EU). Several programs are in place to meet the increasing demand of new talents in an ecosystem in full and rapid development


·       It has a productive workforce (#5 according to the OECD), well-established workforce experience in specific platforms (such as vaccines), and a network of successful biotech entrepreneurs.


·       The country has a solid R&D base and a strong focus on innovation, ranking as one of the “innovation leaders” in the EU’s European Innovation Scoreboard. Belgium ranks among the highest in Europe in the absolute value of biopharma R&D investment. In 2020, there was €5 billion of R&D investment. Investment grew at about 14% a year from 2015 through 2020.


·       Belgium also has a strong track record in clinical trials. It is known for its high number of clinical trial authorizations (about 527 in 2018, #2 in EU per capita) and its strong reputation for the quality of clinical trial centers and expertise of trial investigators. It is also among the fastest countries in Europe for trial protocol approvals. 

·       There is strong industry presence with the leading global biopharma companies active in Belgium (including Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceutica), Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, UCB and Sanofi) and more than 300 biotech firms. Belgium is home to close to half of life sciences companies listed on Euronext by market capitalization.


·       Belgium has major expertise in selected platforms. It is a powerhouse in vaccines, with extensive research, development, and manufacturing capabilities. Belgium is also a leader in vaccine exports by trade value. In addition, Belgium has been successful in attracting cell and gene development (it ranks #2 and #3 globally in trials per capita, respectively) and companies (about 9% of EU cell and gene therapy companies are headquartered in Belgium).


·       Belgium ranks third worldwide in biopharmaceutical exports per capita (with about €54 billion exported in 2020). With a central location in Europe, Belgium also has a strong logistics network, including airports recognized by government and industry authorities for key biopharma capabilities and WHO for covid-19 hub, the port of Antwerp and Zeebrugge, and the continent’s highest density of motorways and rail lines. 


Want to know more about Belgium’s expertise in life sciences?

On June 10, 2022,MassBio Hub is hosting the delegation of the Royal Trade Mission led by HRH Princess Astrid. 90+ companies, universities and officials will showcase their expertise and create business and research opportunities and partnerships. Come and meet our Belgian Life Sciences delegation of innovative companies and grow your business with Belgian executives just before BIO US

Find the complete program and register to this event here !

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