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Flanders’ innovation ecosystem for life sciences

In Flanders, your life sciences business has access to an innovative ecosystem of top-class universities, academic hospitals, research centers and (bio)incubators. The region also opens up a dense network of pharmaceutical, biotech industry players and enablers.

Enablers for life sciences in Flanders

Universities and academic hospitals

Flanders not only has 5 universities with internationally renowned life sciences departments and research teams; the region is also home to 4 academic hospitals for research collaboration:

  • UGent and UZ Gent;
  • VUB and UZ Brussels;
  • UAntwerpen and UZA;
  • KU Leuven and UZ Leuven;
  • UHasselt.

Research centers

Flanders boasts several research centers with strong academic roots and collaboration ties with the industry. Those relevant to life sciences include:

  • VIB – Research institute for biotechnology.
  • VITO – Institute for technological research in cleantech and sustainable development. It focuses, among other things, on independent research and infrastructure – from lab testing to upscaling – for chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech processes. 
  • Imec – Research institute for nanotechnology and digital technology.

Key organizations

Important sector and network organizations for the life sciences industry in Flanders include:

  • FlandersBio – Dedicated networking organization for the life sciences sector in Flanders. 
  • CINBIOS – Flanders-based organization that aims to provide a network for companies and knowledge centers active in industrial biotechnology.

Science parks and bio-incubators

At Flanders’ science parks, you can find state-of-the-art bio-incubators and accelerators at various locations:

  • BIOSCAPE (Ghent) – This life sciences incubator is designed for companies to grow within a modular, customizable lab environment. Easily accessible, it offers services such as a conference and learning center, a business lounge, front desk service, etc.
  • Bio-accelerator (Ghent) – Part of the Flanders bio-tech valley, this business accelerator provides state-of-the-art laboratories, offices, meetings rooms, etc.
  • Eiland Zwijnaarde (Ghent) – Also known as Tech Lane Ghent, this location dedicates 17 hectares to the establishment of high-tech companies (along with offices, laboratories and production rooms), and 18 hectares for mostly water-bound transport, distribution and logistics facilities.
  • VIB bio-incubator (Ghent) – This facility consists of one incubator room, one cold room, and six to seven air-conditioned laboratories that conform to bio-safety class 2 activities (easily upgradable to class 3).
  • KU Leuven Bio-incubator (Leuven) – Leuven-based counterpart of the VIB bio-incubator in Ghent.
  • Incubator Darwin (Antwerp) – Associated with the University of Antwerp, this incubator center offers laboratories and office space at Science Park Antwerp.
  • BioVille (Hasselt) – Located near the Hasselt University campus in Diepenbeek, this bioincubator targets the specific needs of (young) organizations active in the health and care industries. 
  • VIB Core Facilities – At different locations in Flanders, the VIB life sciences institute offers dedicated services and facilities. These include sequencing and genotyping, proteomics analysis and protein production, and purification.

Welcome team

Created by Flanders Investment & Trade, VIB, FlandersBio and Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship, the Flanders life sciences welcome team is dedicated to supporting and guiding foreign life sciences and biotechnology investors in Flanders.

Strong related industries and clusters

Biotechnology

Flanders has always been at the heart of biotechnological innovation: from pioneering biotech businesses – Citrique Belge has been biologically producing citric acid since 1916 – to the groundbreaking molecular research by World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Marc Van Montagu. This crosspollination occurring between biotech research and business is very much alive and kicking. 

Pharmaceutical industry

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, GSK Vaccines, UCB, Roche Diagnostics, Novartis, Sanofi, Amgen: nowhere in the world is there such a high concentration of biopharmaceutical companies as there is in and around Flanders. As a result, biopharma R&D investments in the region have been skyrocketing year after year.

AgBiotech cluster

Since the revolutionary research of Prof. Van Montagu and Prof. Shell at Ghent University, Flanders has developed into one of the world’s major AgBiotech clusters. The region is home to leading companies such as Syngenta, Bayer and BASF – each with their own specialized R&D centers. In addition, these industry players work closely with local research centers like VIB, which has resulted in staggering R&D investments and several spin-offs.

Biobased economy

Flanders plays a leading role in the development of a biobased economy – right at the heart of one of the world’s biggest (petro)chemical clusters. As such, the region opens up a close-knit biobased ecosystem that interfaces novel feedstock resources, biobased business and research enablers with solid market potential.