BioWin, a health cluster based in Wallonia, Belgium, has released data saying 2016 was a record year for investment in R&D projects, with €24.3 million ($25.8M) funding for eight projects, including €7 million ($7.4M) in private investment. The total budget allocation for these projects is the highest since the cluster was founded in 2006.
These projects fall within the cluster’s priority areas, which include the application of digital technologies in bioproduction, implanted medical devices, drug discovery and the use of radiation in healthcare. The digital technology projects are in line with the current growth trend and alone account for a quarter of the total investment.
The pharmaceutical industry is Wallonia’s leading business activity in terms of added value, responsible for 25 percent of the region’s exports. Wallonia represents more than 54 percent of the pharmaceutical sector jobs in Belgium, providing direct employment for 16,960 full-time employees. If the 33,000 indirect jobs are added, the industry accounts for a total of nearly 50,000 jobs.
“We are pleased with these positive results, which reflect the vitality of the Wallonia region. 2016 was a solid growth year for our members, in all aspects: investment, jobs and private capital,” said Sylvie Ponchaut, managing director of the BioWin cluster. “We will continue to provide support in 2017 to raise the profile and increase the appeal of the Wallonia region, particularly with regard to R&D, skills development, international outreach for our members, and obviously, a continued focus on investment.”
In 2016, the cluster created a ‘Europe unit’, which aims to help Wallonia’s SMEs develop European projects in response to calls for proposals from Horizon 2020, amongst others. As well as providing assistance with project set-ups, the unit also aims to develop BioWin’s standing with European Union bodies.
To this end, BioWin accompanied delegations of cluster members to major international trade fairs for the biotech sector (Bio-Europe Spring in Stockholm, Sweden, Fall in Cologne, Germany; Bio US in San Francisco; Bio-Japan in Yokohama and more). It also attended targeted networking initiatives related to specific European regions and thematic areas critical for the cluster (European Regenerative Medicine Forum in Nantes, networking with German Fraunhofer research centers in Wallonia).
BioWin is also involved in investment initiatives to support its members’ growth. The cluster co-organized a day to provide the general public with the opportunity to meet a number of listed companies active in biotechnology, healthcare and medical technology; including UCB, IBA, ASIT biotech, Bone Therapeutics, Celyad and Mithra Pharmaceuticals.
Founded in 2006, the Wallonia, Belgium based, health cluster is the region’s key player for all stakeholders in innovative R&D projects and/or skills development in the field of health biotechnology and medical technology (business, research centers and universities). The cluster has undertaken numerous initiatives to promote Wallonia’s scientific and industrial excellence on the international stage. As of 2017, BioWin has 164 members, including seven major corporates, 24 medium-sized and 129 small companies, as well as four research centers. Members are active in a number of fields: biopharmacy and vaccines, cell therapy and regenerative medicine, bioproduction, diagnostics (in vitro and in vivo), radiopharmaceutical applications, implantable and non-implantable medical instruments and devices, and digital health care.