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Biotech in Belgium: What's new, and why should you work there?

Posted on: 30 Oct

Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals are big business. In a competitive market, and one where rapid advances in technology are paving the way for development in everything from R&D to Medical devices, many international pharmaceutical companies are looking to expand- and increasing numbers of them are choosing Belgium as the place to do so. 

Belgium has become one of the world’s best destinations for Pharmaceutical and Biotech firms hoping to make the next breakthrough in medical science, in the best possible environment. With more than 140 Biotech companies operating in Belgium, it’s also the ideal destination for medical professionals and students who want to work in an environment that will allow them to flourish. 

Here’s why you should be considering taking up a Biotech career in Belgium.

The state of the industry

Belgium has a long tradition of innovative excellence when it comes to Biotech, and this is reflected in its 16% share of the European biopharmaceutical industry. A recent survey by the OECD established that Belgium’s strengths - which include the strong collaborative relationships that Biotech companies have with each other, the high number of graduates in the workforce, and the importance that the government gives to the Biotech sector - have resulted in the country boasting the highest number of drugs in development per million inhabitants in the world.

The country’s productivity in the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries makes it a heavy-hitter worldwide, and this is thanks to consistently high government investment in the sector, especially in health-related biotechnology, which makes up 80% of national activity. This consistent modernisation and investment makes it an excellent place to work for people who are looking for an ideal environment in which to make their mark. 

The chance to keep learning

For those looking to keep learning over the course of their career, the Biotech sector’s longstanding involvement with Belgian universities is an obvious benefit. This relationship has produced some stellar scientists and created a sector that is famed for its R&D focus.
Belgium contains two of the world’s top 100 universities for Life Sciences, as well as some of the best scientific and technological training in Europe. The system is built to maximise the potential of graduates, and features organisations like Welbio and VIB, which are themselves important centres for research worldwide. The VIB is a world leader when it comes to Biotechnological research, receiving €75million a year in annual funding, and it also works closely with top Belgian universities to train students and support the biotechnology sector. By promoting exchanges between universities and businesses, it produces a steady stream of highly-trained Biotech professionals straight from the classroom.  

Perhaps this also accounts for the fact that Belgian workers are some of the most productive in Europe. 

The foreign investors

The Belgian government has long been attempting to attract multinational pharmaceutical companies to the country, and their efforts are paying off. Belgium is a hotspot for foreign investment: attracted by a quicker-than-usual patent approval rate, the country’s strategic location in the centre of Europe, and very attractive tax rates and investment opportunities, many international pharmaceutical giants have made Belgium a base for their European operations. The country is also one of the world’s best when it comes to attracting international research, and indeed 50% of Belgian medical patents are owned by foreigners. 

Given that more than 140 Biotech companies operate in Belgium, with particular areas of interest being Flanders, Wallonia- where Biotech has become the area’s main source of industry- and Brussels, expect there to be a wide range of job openings available in everything from R&D to Medical Sales, wherever you want to work.  

The future

Continued developments in technology are opening the doors for Biotech companies to do amazing things, from making breakthroughs in the fight against cancer to creating cures for rare diseases (for more information on orphan drugs, check out our article here). Thanks to the government’s continued support of the sector, and the excellence of its researchers and developers, expect more companies to make the move to Belgium, creating a healthy future for the growing industry and opening up a whole range of job opportunities to make the most of.

At IQVIA, we’re proud to offer cutting-edge jobs in the best Pharmaceutical markets, worldwide. Belgium is just one of the many countries we operate in: have a look at our jobs here, or find out more about our operations in Belgium here.