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The pharmaceutical industry in Belgium continues to grow

In 2016, Belgium’s pharmaceutical industry posted excellent growth figures in terms of exports, R&D investments and job creation. This is confirmed by – the general pharmaceuticals association – in its annual report.

Innovative R&D hub

“Belgian universities and research centers work closely together. Not only does this create a stimulating environment for innovation, it also translates into major R&D investment figures in the pharmaceutical sector,” comments Catherine Rutten, CEO at

Last year, pharma players channeled no less than EUR 2.89 billion in R&D – reaffirming that the pharmaceutical industry is Belgium’s most innovative sector. What’s more, this figure is not only up 11.6% over the year before, but also sets a new record.

The number of highly qualified researchers in the sector also continues to go up. Last year, 4,500 Belgians employed in the pharmaceutical industry are active in research activities. This represents an increase of 5.5% compared to 2015.

€ 2.9 bln
R&D expenditure in 2016

World champion in exports

Pharmaceuticals are also a driving force behind Belgium’s economy, representing more than a tenth of its total exports. In 2016, the sector exported EUR 40.7 billion in medicines and vaccines, nearly reaching 2015’s record value of EUR 41.01 billion.

“Our unique location in Europe, easy access to international markets and excellent infrastructure for the distribution of pharmaceuticals are the main reasons for this success,” Rutten points out.

Some remarkable facts and figures about Belgium’s pharma exports:

  • nearly half of the exports (47.6%) is outbound to countries outside the EU;
  • around a fifth (20.6%) is destined for North American markets; and
  • approximately one-eighth (12.6%) goes to markets in Asia.

Major employer

“In addition to top-notch infrastructure, pharma companies of all sizes have access to a broad pool of highly-educated talent in Belgium,” Rutten concludes. “This facilitates not only the research and development process, but also the production and export of innovative pharmaceutical products.”

The talent pool is only getting bigger in Belgium. In 2016, the local pharma industry employed no fewer than 35,250 people, creating 552 additional jobs (an increase of 1.6% compared to 2015). 

More than half (57.7%) completed higher education studies, and nearly one in three (29%) attended university

About Belgium and Flanders

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

25 April 2017