bio.be/essenscia promotes Belgian biotechnology at BIO International Convention, the world’s largest event within the sector
36,956 employees, 5.1 billion euros in Research and Development and 83 billion euros in exports. In the last ten years, the Belgian life sciences industry has generated more than 10,000 jobs and more than doubled its exports and R&D spending. To continue this trend, Belgium must remain the gateway for biotechnology in Europe, especially thanks to tax incentives. The pioneering spirit within the sector puts it in an excellent position to accelerate digitalisation and talent training to attract more people both nationally and internationally. These are the messages brought by the Belgian federation for life sciences and biotechnology bio.be/essenscia to the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest biotechnology forum taking place in San Diego, USA from 13 to 16 June 2022.
After two years marked by the coronavirus, the Belgian biotech valley is once again proudly flying the black, yellow and red flag on the international stage. Following the economic mission to the UK last month and the one to the United States last week, bio.be/essenscia is representing the Belgian biotech sector at the BIO Convention, the annual biotech mecca that brings together over 3,000 organisations.
10,000 additional jobs in 10 years
The sector is performing well. In 2021, 36,956 people were employed in the biotech and biopharma sector, over 1,500 more than in 2020. During the past decade, this industry has seen continuous employment growth: more than 10,000 employees have joined the life sciences sector since 2011. Meanwhile, research and development spending has more than doubled in that period, increasing from 2.1 billion euros to 5.1 billion euros last year. Sector exports are also increasing, strongly boosted by the worldwide export of Covid-19 vaccines, they rose by more than 50% last year, reaching 83 billion euros. The latest available figures also show a positive trend for value added, representing 11.6 billion euros in 2020.
Focus on digitalisation, talent and investment
Despite these impressive figures, the life sciences sector cannot afford to sit on its laurels. Many challenges lie ahead and need to be addressed. To remain competitive, Belgian companies are digitalising their research and development tools and production equipment. Artificial intelligence, ‘machine learning’ and digital twins are increasingly common terms on the Belgian biotech scene. In collaboration with Deloitte, bio.be/essenscia supports companies on this journey and paves the way for greater symbiosis between ‘data’ and science.
Another challenge: train more STEM talent (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to support sectoral growth. The federation is involved in creating the EU Biotech Campus, a state-of-the-art training centre for national and international talent, boasting a business accelerator. Supported by the Belgian recovery plan, the project should be operational by 2025. It is complementary to the extension of the aptaskil Competence Centre in Wallonia, and the deployment of ViTalent, the training centre dedicated to life sciences in Flanders.
The biotech and biopharma sector has long since been associated with research and development. Today, there is a new dimension with growth in investment in biomanufacturing. Now, it is important to promote this asset internationally and attract investment to strengthen this expertise. In collaboration with the Walloon Export and Foreign Investment Agency (Awex), essenscia wallonie recently launched the website www.kickstartbiomanufacturing.be for foreign investors.
“Belgium is big in biotech ! This is the message I am bringing to the BIO International Convention”
Tineke Van hooland, Deputy Secretary General of bio.be/essenscia
Tineke Van hooland, Deputy Secretary General of bio.be/essenscia : “Belgium is big in biotech ! This is the message I am bringing to the BIO International Convention. Our national expertise in the development and production of coronavirus vaccines has been proof of that once again. Let’s not forget our agility and creativity which has set us apart for many years. I am delighted that in October we launched the latest R&D biopharma platform, in collaboration with the Belgian government and major players from the sector to further strengthen the international position of the life sciences industry. Let’s be sure to keep the Belgian and regional tax incentives so that we can continue to support innovation in an increasingly competitive European market. Belgium is the gateway to the sector in Europe, let’s not underestimate that.”
The BIO International Convention is the world’s largest biotechnology event. This year’s gathering takes place from 13 to 16 June in San Diego, United States, with the theme ‘LIMITLESS’. More than 50 Belgian organisations are representing our country at this international forum. As well as bio.be/essenscia, Awex (Walloon Export and Foreign Investment Agency), FIT (Flanders Investment & Trade) and the BioWin and flanders.bio clusters, the event also welcomes many companies that are the pride of the Belgian sector, such as Exothera, GSK, Kaneka Eurogentec, Mithra, Novadip, OncoDNA, PDC*line Pharma, UCB and Vésale Bioscience.