For one week, Ghent will become the European capital of biotechnology and life sciences. On May 14, 15 and 16, Bio€quity brings together the most important biotech investors and growing companies. On May 17, 1200 European biotech experts and business leaders will meet at the knowledge for growth conference. In Flanders, the biotech sector accounts for more than 20,000 direct and 80,000 indirect jobs. This is shown by figures by sector organization flanders.bio.
The investors' congress Bio€quity chose Ghent because the city counts over 70 biotech companies, for example in the Science Park in Zwijnaarde.
"Flanders is one of the five most important life sciences clusters in Europe", says Claire Tillekaerts, CEO at Flanders Investment & Trade. "If our region wants to keep on playing at the highest level, it has to market its potential more internationally".
"That over 100 young growing companies from all over the world get the chance in Ghent to convince investors is important for the growth and the innovative strength of the sector", says Willem Dhooge, Managing Director of sector organization flanders.bio. "It also fits in perfectly with the internationalization strategy of the Flemish economy "Flanders is accelerating!" for which Flanders Investment and & trade is currently developing a Life Sciences & Health branding toolkit", says Claire Tillekaerts.
Together with VIB (Flemish Institute for Biotechnology), FIT (Flanders Investment & Trade), VLAIO (Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship) and City of Ghent, flanders.bio succeeded in persuading Bio€quity to choose Ghent.
"The life sciences industry is growing strongly in Flanders. Every year, 10 to 15 start-ups are set up here, including some from the academic world and large companies. A number evolving surprisingly quickly to medium-sized companies with a clear international focus", Willem Dhooge knows.
The knowledge for growth conference, at ICC Gent, has also become one of the most important regional biotech and life sciences conferences in Europe with more than 1200 Belgian and international experts and business leaders from more than 450 organizations in the life sciences.
Willem Dhooge: "Flanders has a leading position in the life sciences within Europe. Just think of VIB (Flemish Institute for Biotechnology) and IMEC which are world leaders in their research domains. In addition, there is an ecosystem of strongly growing or established companies, such as Ablynx, argenx, Galapagos and Janssen Pharmaceutica. That is why flanders.bio wants to be an active collaboration platform between our stakeholders and the more than 300 companies in the sector."
Belgian companies represent 18% of the stock market value of all European biotech companies (122 billion euros). Almost half of the capital in our companies comes from the United States. In the meantime, 4 Belgian biotech companies have been listed on Nasdaq. Argenx went to the American technology fair Nasdaq last year. This shows the strong international character of the sector in Flanders.
The life sciences and biotech sector has a growing number of vacancies.
Willem Dhooge: "Flemish companies recruit specific expertise worldwide. We also notice a general shortage on the labour market for personnel with the appropriate competencies. This points to the maturity of the companies in the cluster."
In 2013 there were still 90 products in the pipeline, including innovative medicines for cancer or infectious diseases. In 2018, barely 5 years later, the sector already has more than 150 products under development. A growing number is almost ready to enter the market.
flanders.bio, an independent life sciences cluster organization based in Flanders (Belgium), keeps the media informed about the biotech & life sciences news of its member companies.