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Flanders’ healthcare innovation landscape

The healthcare industry can count on the presence of world-leading ecosystem for research and business development in Flanders.

Innovation partners for the health and care industry

Strategic research centers

  • Imec – As Flanders’ center of expertise for nanotechnology, imec plays a key role in developing electronics for the healthcare industry. The research center also develops, among other things, advanced microsystems for diagnosis and long-term treatment (such as neuroprobes, lab-on-chips and chips for DNA sequencing).
    Additionally, imec has vast expertise in digital technology specifically for health and care applications: the development of robotic care assisting services, the automation and optimization of medical devices, prosthesis production, care services planning, etc.
  • VIB – As Flanders’ institute for biotechnology, VIB performs basic research in numerous life sciences domains for pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial applications. Some of its research areas relevant to the health and care industry are cancer, cardiovascular medicine, inflammation and immunity, neuroscience, etc.

Incubators

  • BioVille – Limburg-based bio-incubator that focuses on start-ups, companies and other organization in the health and care industry.
  • BlueHealth Innovation Center – Located at StartupVillage in Antwerp and supported by Microsoft, the BlueHealth Innovation Center was created through the fusion of MIC Vlaanderen and BlueHealth Antwerp. Its goal is to drive digitization in healthcare and guide health-tech start-ups when it comes to coaching, financing, internationalization and more. To that aim, the innovation center has government agencies, healthcare providers as well as knowledge and industry players among its members.
  • StartupVillage – With StartupVillage, Antwerp provides affordable office space for innovative start-ups. This, in the city center near Antwerp’s main incubators and other start-up initiatives. In addition to the BlueHealth Innovation Center and a base of the imec research center for nano- and digital technology, StartupVillage is also home to CoFoundry – an incubator of the Cronos Groups that helps start-ups with a minimum viable product find growth financing. What’s more, accelerator Netwerk Ondernemen offers promising growth companies networking opportunities and access to specific expertise through its extensive network of company leaders.
  • CareVille – Headquartered in the province of Limburg, Careville provides a real-life test environment for companies and (care) organizations looking to develop an innovative answer to both current and future care needs of the elderly, specifically in terms of mobility.
  • Feed Food Health Campus – Located in Tienen (which holds the reputation of being a ‘food town’ thanks to the presence of numerous nutrition companies), the FFH Campus consists of a science park, an incubation center and a high-end innovative companies zone. Its goal? To support the development of innovative, healthy food and feed products as well as technologies for food production and distribution.
  • Happy Aging – Happy Aging, formerly known as LifeTechValley, is a community of business managers, academics, healthcare providers and seniors that work together to increase the quality of care for the aging population by boosting innovation.

Cluster and sector organizations

  • FlandersBio – Sector federation for the life sciences in Flanders.
  • beMedtech - Federation of the medical technology industry.
  • Healthcare Belgium – Established by the most prominent local hospital groups, Healthcare Belgium offers unique collaboration opportunities, such as: academic and clinical knowledge transfer, centers of excellence, health technology implementation, patient treatment improvement.
  • Agoria’s Healthcare Technology Club – Supports companies that supply products, solutions and services for the local or international medical sector. Examples include: eHealth, electro-medical appliances, medical consumables, sterilization and diagnostics solutions.
  • Flanders’ Care – A program of the government of Flanders, Flanders’ Care focuses on driving innovation and entrepreneurship in the care industry. Its mission is to enhance the quality of care services in a demonstrable way through innovation, and to stimulate corporate responsibility in the care economy. Flanders’ Care offers access to practical and financial support to help care entrepreneurs grow their business, along with innovation funding, advice and guidance.

University and university hospital clusters

In Flemish Brabant

Leuven University and University Hospital

The expertise of Leuven University and Leuven University Hospital in life sciences – from medical technology and medicines to food and health – is clearly expressed in the Health Sciences Campus. Home to 8,500 employees (including 1,300 researchers) and 2,000 beds, the campus enables steady cross-pollination between research and patient care.

Leuven University also has various healthcare research centers, including:

  • Leuven Medical Technology Center (L-MTC) – L-MTC coordinates dozens of research groups in biomedical and engineering sciences. Its areas of expertise include: medical imaging, robotics and automation in healthcare, bionic systems, controlled administration of drugs, tissue regeneration and biomonitoring.
  • Center for Drug Design & Discovery (CD3) – This technology transfer platform supports innovative projects for small molecule drug discovery. Over the years, CD3 has taken the first steps in developing new medicines for AIDS, hepatitis C, cancer, arthritis, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.

In Brussels

VUB and Brussels University Hospital

University research centers
  • Center for Neuroscience – Coordinates and optimizes all neuroscience research activities at VUB and UZB, and mainly focuses on Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, neurovirology, sclerosis, cerebral infarction, affective conditions and central regulation of peripheral disorders.
  • Center for Reproductive Medicine (CRG) – CRG plays an international and pioneering role in the development and improvement of reproductive techniques, including in-vitro fertilization, embryo transfer and freezing, new schedules for controlled ovarian stimulation, egg cell donation, etc.
  • Diabetes Research Center (DRC) – DRC develops knowledge, methods and strategies for the early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diabetes.
  • Oncology Research Center (ORC) – ORC combines different types of expertise, conducts studies and shares information in the field of oncology. The research center provides opportunities to optimize and facilitate basic, pre-clinical, translational, psychosocial, clinical and public health research. 
  • Cardiovascular Center – The Cardiovascular Center at UZB boasts internationally-renowned expertise in all subspecialties of cardiology, from interventional cardiology and electrophysiology to non-invasive cardiac imaging and cardiac rehabilitation.
University departments
  • Department of Industrial Microbiology & Food Biotechnology – Conducts research in the use of new functional starter cultures that contribute to food safety and/or provide organoleptic, technological, nutritional or general health benefits.
  • Department of Electronics & Informatics – One of its strategic lines of research encompasses the generation and processing of physical images with medical applications, including 2D/3D imaging and 3D cameras, mm waves and THZ sensing. 
  • UZ Brussels Radiation Oncology Department – This department of Brussels University Hospital is the world’s first center to use the Vero system. This novel system makes it possible to locate tumors more accurately, leading to better treatment.
University laboratories
  • Laboratory for Molecular & Cellular Therapy.
  • Brussels Structural Biology Lab – This laboratory has an ultramodern Bio-Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) center at its disposal. NMR technology makes it possible to determine the dynamic structure of proteins, with promising results in the context of pharma research.
  • Cellular & Molecular Imaging Lab – Conducts pioneering research into in vivo imaging of cancer and immune cells.

In Limburg

The province of Limburg, is home to 11 hospitals and healthcare institutions (i.e. more than 4,000 hospital beds and a staff of 10,000+), as well as healthcare industry enablers, such as:

  • BIOMED (UHasselt) – With a staff of 140+ researchers and technicians, the Biomedical Research Institute offers novel biomedical research and services in such fields as neurosciences and autoimmunity, cell physiology and biophysics, and morphology and histology.
  • LifeTechLimburg – Partnering with Hasselt University, various hospitals and other organizations, LifeTechLimburg is a platform for promoting and enabling the development of biomedical life sciences, medical technology and healthcare in the region.
  • LCRP – The Limburg Clinical Research Program aims to reinforce medical-scientific platforms for better patient care. Three examples:
    • Mobile Health Unit – This multidisciplinary expertise center for mobile health (mHealth) applications studies the possible role of mHealth in improving illness prevention, diagnosis, rehabilitation and management in various clinical domains.
    • UBiLim – Short for ‘University Biobank Limburg’, UBiLim centrally collects, processes and stores well-documented and high-quality human tissues for research purposes.
    • Rehabilitation & Assistive Technology – This platform is currently under construction.
  • HospiLim – Organization that brings together eight Limburg-based general and specialist hospitals as well as four psychiatric hospitals. 

In East Flanders

With more than 1,000 beds, a staff of 6,000+ and over 3,000 patients per day, Ghent University Hospital is one of the biggest and most specialized hospitals in Flanders. Working closely with Ghent University, the hospital is investing heavily in both infrastructure and technology to transform into a Health Campus by 2020.

Meanwhile, Ghent University boasts several centers of expertise and research groups in the field of health and care. Some of them include:

  • Department of Basic Medical Sciences – The goal of research at this Ghent University department is the application of basic sciences in translational medicine at the preclinical level. To achieve that, the department can count on dedicated research groups for:
    • Anatomy and embryology;
    • Medical stem cell biology;
    • Medical physics;
    • Physiology;
    • Radiobiology;
    • Tissue engineering and biomaterials.
  • Inflammation Research Center (IRC) – IRC studies the molecular mechanisms of inflammation. In doing so, it focuses on investigating molecular signaling pathways in inflammatory cells and structural skin, lung, gut and brain cells.
  • Center for Medical Genetics – Focusing on medical services, research and education, the Center for Medical Genetics provides its expertise for the diagnosis and care of patients with hereditary diseases. Meanwhile, the center strives for a better understanding of hereditary diseases, translating this knowledge into education in a variety of disciplines.
  • Bimetra – Supports the translation of (basic) research into clinical applications from ‘bench’ to ‘bedside’.

In Antwerp

Thanks to its close ties with Antwerp University (UAntwerpen), the Antwerp University Hospital (UZA) is a renowned academic center for leading patient care, education and scientific research with a major international dimension.

  • UZA research departments and labs – For a wide variety of healthcare domains: cardiology, clinical biology, hematology, immunology, metabolic disorders, molecular imaging, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, pediatrics, physical therapy and rehabilitation, psychiatry, sleep disorders, thoracic oncology and surgery, and vascular research.
  • UAntwerpen Centers of Excellence – Several of the Centers of Expertise are relevant to the health and care industry:
    • VAXINFECTIO – The vaccine and infectious disease institute brings together the expertise of various labs in medical microbiology, experimental hematology and the evaluation of vaccines.
    • Infla-Med – The Infla-Med Research Consortium of Excellence conducts fundamental research in the pathophysiological processes of inflammatory diseases.
    • GENOMED – Short for ‘GENOmics in MEDicine’, the GENOMED is center of excellence participating in emerging frontline life sciences research in proteomics, genomics and metabolomics.
    • FAMCARE – Center of excellence for family dynamics and care.

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