While Belgium makes up just 2.6 percent of overall European GDP, they contribute to a significant percentage of the overall European life sciences industry. Belgium has active biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors and contributes to 4.7 percent of overall European pharmaceutical employment, 3.2 percent European pharmaceutical R&D, 7.8 percent of total sector expenditure, and 12 percent of sector exports.
The Belgian biopharma industry is an important contributor to the Belgian knowledge economy. In fact, Belgium has the highest concentration of life-science employees in the world, employing an equivalent of 32,000 highly skilled full-time workers in 2011, 67 percent of which had higher education or the equivalent. Belgium is also the third largest exporter of medicines in Europe – after Switzerland and Ireland – and the largest developer of medicines in the world per capita, providing 32,500 jobs for highly educated researchers in 2012 alone.
There are over 140 biotechnology companies operating in Belgium, and Belgium had more than 5,500 jobs in R&D in the life sciences sector in 2011, which was a 37 percent increase since 2000. Since 2000, about 10,000 new jobs were created for highly educated researchers, and there were a total of 32,500 jobs in 2012. This interest has resulted in a large number of pharma sector investments, both from the private and public sector. Over 1.5 billion euros are invested in R&D in Belgium yearly from the private sector, which represents 40 percent of all private investment in R&D in Belgium and is double the European average. The Belgian government also supports R&D through tax incentives, discounts, and assistance to highly qualified researchers.
In the future, Belgium looks to increase its presence in the global life sciences sector by collaborating with entrepreneurs, protecting intellectual property, supporting the existing Belgian biopharma industry, cooperating with the national Medicines Agency, and creating a “Stimulus Plan” to spur employment and education.