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Why pharma stands stronger than ever in Belgium [report]

The pharmaceutical industry in Belgium, particularly in the country’s northern region of Flanders, is growing across the board. Last year, Belgian pharma companies accounted for a proliferation of R&D investments and a positive impact on employment. Moreover, through its top-notch infrastructure, the local business environment repositioned itself as a global hub for pharma exports. This, in short, is the essence of the Pharma Figures 2021 report published by, the umbrella organization of some 130 (bio)pharma companies in Belgium. Let’s dive into some of the main trends!

R&D investments reach EUR 14 million per day

In terms of research and development (R&D), the Belgian biopharmaceutical industry scores particularly well, bringing about numerous innovations that contribute to people’s health and lives around the globe. In 2021, the sector invested over EUR 14 million per day in R&D (or EUR 5.2 billion in total for the entire year). This represents an increase of a whopping 35% over just two years. The number of active researchers in the sector also went up significantly: by no less than 24.4% over the past four years.

What’s more, last year, nearly 400 patent applications were filed in the pharmaceutical and biotechnological domain, accounting for around 16% of all patent applications in Belgium. That’s more than one patent per day!

Every job in pharma creates two more

Because of its scope and complexity, the pharmaceutical industry requires a very diverse talent pool of highly skilled workers in R&D, clinical trials, production, logistics, marketing, distribution and more. As a result, the sector is and remains a highly attractive employer. In 2021, 42,062 people were working for biopharmaceutical organizations in Flanders and Belgium as a whole. This represents a 14.9% increase in direct employment since 2017 and almost 9% of all employment in Belgium.

But the sector’s positive effect on employment doesn’t end there. In fact, for every job in the Belgian biopharmaceutical industry, two other – indirect – jobs are created in the local business environment, resulting in a total of more than 132,000 jobs.

EUR 230 million in biopharma products is exported every day

Belgium and Flanders also reaffirmed their position as an important link for global exports of pharmaceuticals and vaccines in 2021: exports increased by over 70% compared to 2019. Every day, over EUR 230 million worth of biopharmaceutical products is shipped from Belgium to countries all over the world. In total, the sector exported nearly EUR 85 billion in 2021, more than half as much as in the year before.

What’s more, over half of Belgium’s pharma exports go to destinations outside the EU, making the sector a truly global trade powerhouse. The high quality, connectivity and multimodality of the local infrastructure – particularly in Belgium’s northern region of Flanders – contributes greatly to these strong international trade results.

Exploring Flanders’ life sciences & health ecosystem

As the northern region of Belgium, Flanders is a major driver of pharmaceutical innovation in the country. The region is home to a diverse business and research ecosystem dedicated to life sciences & health. Want to unravel this ecosystem? Head to the Flanders360 platform and discover a myriad of successful life sciences & health companies, organizations, universities, R&D centers and incubators in Flanders.

Or, check out our industry overview to learn more about the available tax, legal and other incentives for establishing your life sciences & health hub in Flanders.

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Reported by press release and report
9 June 2022

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