In 2017, Belgian businesses and institutions applied for 779 patents in the field of chemistry. The European Patent Office (EPO) granted 417 of them. This is a record for Belgium, according to sector federation essenscia, earning the country 11th place worldwide for chemical patents. Chemical labs in Belgium and Flanders generate one or two inventions per day.
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One invention a day: Belgium chemical innovation champion
Flanders’ chemical industrial activity is concentrated in and around the Port of Antwerp, the second-largest (petro)chemical hub in the world. Global top 10 chemical companies like Bayer, BASF, Evonik, and Dow are found in Antwerp, alongside oil refineries such as Total and ExxonMobil. Belgian multinationals including Solvay and Agfa-Gevaert gladly make use of this booming chemical hub, which has also attracted international biotech and pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer. Other international giants, such as Procter & Gamble, Huntsman and Eastman, also rely on Flanders as a base for their European research centers.
“The proximity of production and innovation, businesses and universities, incubation centers for start-ups and laboratories boosts the number of innovations. This explains why the number of patents granted over the past three years has risen by 62 percent and why R&D expenditure in the last 10 years has doubled to 4.4 billion euros,” says Gert Verreth, spokesperson for essenscia.
The key to Flanders’ worldwide chemical success is also found in the presence of several nearby research institutes. Another reason for the industrial scale of the chemistry sector in Belgium is the overall availability of raw materials, expertise, infrastructure, laboratories and logistics hubs such as the Port of Antwerp and Brussels Airport, which was awarded a quality label for vaccine transport. All these factors create an extraordinary innovation climate and a thriving chemical industry.
With Dutch as its official language, Flanders (Dutch: Vlaanderen) is the northern region of Belgium. The capital of both Belgium and Flanders is Brussels.