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Why JLABS chose Flanders as its European incubator hub

Healthcare powerhouse Johnson & Johnson values innovation above all else. So much so that the American firm allocates a significant yearly budget to both internal and external innovation projects and partnerships. “Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s JLABS incubators are a major part of this strategy,” says Tom Aelbrecht, senior director of Operations J&J Innovation at JLABS EMEA, which is located in Beerse, Flanders.

With JLABS, Johnson & Johnson aims to provide start-ups with big company benefits. First, it offers specialized infrastructure: state-of-the-art lab environments where they can conduct their research. Additionally, start-ups can access operational support and receive mentorship from a global network of Johnson & Johnson experts, along with entrepreneurial education programs. Finally, JLABS also functions as an investor hub, matching experienced investors to high-quality start-ups in order to help create mutually beneficial relationships.

A solid foundation

Today, Johnson & Johnson Innovation manages 13 JLABS and JPODS (affiliated incubators) across the globe, but only one in Europe – located in Beerse, Flanders. Tom: “As Europe is a geographically smaller area where innovation hotspots are relatively close to each other, we chose to set up one overarching incubator for the entire continent. We decided on Flanders as our European JLABS location for three main reasons: the presence of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica, the regional governmental support, subsidies and funding, and the rich local biotechnology and medtech ecosystem.”

Close-knit campus

“In Flanders, we were able to set up a close-knit campus that employs more than 2,000 R&D employees and researchers,” Tom adds. “What’s more, we received substantial financial support through a government grant funded by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship. In addition, the region houses some of the world’s most innovative universities – including KU Leuven and UGent –, renowned research centers such as imec and VIB, as well as a variety of global leaders in biotech and life sciences. All of this made Flanders the logical choice.”

The highly favorable regional R&D incentives played a key part in the choice of Flanders as our European JLABS location.

Tom Aelbrecht
Senior Director of Operations, J&J Innovation – JLABS EMEA

Strict criteria for strong innovation

To gain access to all JLABS has to offer, start-ups have to meet five criteria. Tom: “The science or technology has to be transformative, respond to an unmet medical need and be strategically relevant for Johnson & Johnson. The team behind it also has to be experienced, either in the field of science or entrepreneurship – preferably both. And last but not least, the companies must have the ability to meet the financial obligations of the license agreement.”

European companies that meet these criteria can enjoy the benefits of JLABS either in Flanders at the JLABS @ BE physical location on the Janssen Pharmaceutica NV Campus, or virtually. “For start-ups that do not require the physical infrastructure of labs or offices, we offer the benefits of mentorship, educational programs and investor introductions in a virtual environment,” Tom concludes.

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Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade
25 November 2020

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