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How Flanders leads the way in novel biopharma [study]

In May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, sector federation published its 2019 key figures on biopharmaceuticals in Belgium and the country’s northern region of Flanders. The main takeaway? Local biopharma players are churning out new vaccines and treatments, all while employing an increasing number of people, investing intensively in R&D and exporting across the globe. Here are some of the main facts and figures from the study.  
direct jobs
€3.8 B
invested in R&D
€49.8 B
in exports
patent application per day

“Belgium and Flanders are able to play a major international role in the fight against COVID-19, thanks to their solid and continuously evolving biopharma industry,” explains Catherine Rutten, CEO of, in the study’s editorial. “In recent years, a unique cluster of large and small companies, international players, spin-offs and start-ups has grown here, opening up new scientific horizons. With its major research, production and export activities, the biopharma industry is not only one of the strong pacesetters of the Belgian knowledge economy, but also a major force worldwide.”  

Increasing number of employees

Compared to 2015, employment at Belgian biopharma companies increased by 13% to a total of 38,500 employees in 2019. In addition to direct employment, each job in the biopharmaceutical sector creates at least two indirect jobs. Consequently, the total employment impact in this industry exceeds 121,000 jobs. Nearly two out of three of these employees have a higher education diploma.  

Greater focus on innovation

In 2019, Belgium’s main biopharma companies invested no less than EUR 3.8 billion in R&D, an increase of 7.7% compared to 2018 and a rise of almost 50% compared to 2015. The number of researchers in biopharma has also further increased, now numbering 5,400 or 26.7% more than in 2015.  

As a result of these increased R&D activities, Belgian biopharma companies are also applying for more patents. In fact, in 2019, one biopharma patent application was submitted every day on average in Belgium, representing an increase of 48.3% compared to 2015.

Vaccines and medicines exported worldwide

Belgian exports of medicines and vaccines grew by 16.3% in 2019 and almost reached the EUR 50 billion mark, representing 12.5% of Belgium’s total exports. This further strengthened its position as one of the world’s most important hubs for the distribution and supply of medicines and vaccines.

About Belgium and Flanders

With Dutch as its official language, Flanders (Dutch: Vlaanderen) is the autonomous northern region of Belgium. The capital of both Belgium and Flanders is Brussels. 

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Reported by website
23 June 2020

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