Ghent’s biotech valley welcomes investors to international conferences


Two events this week brings together investors and startups in a city whose biotech industry is growing at an impressive rate

Innovative strength

Ghent is hosting international investors at two conferences this week that will allow the city’s fast- growing biotech industry to showcase its wares.

Local companies are developing a range of technologies, from medicines for infectious diseases and cancer to agricultural products. Investors currently have a chance to explore the opportunities the sector has to offer at the Bio€quity conference, which brings together companies from across the world at the University of Ghent. Later this week, the city will host Belgium’s own Knowledge for Growth conference. The events will also give plenty of space for the multitude of start-ups in the region to access funding. 

“That more than 100 young growth companies from all over the world have the chance to convince investors in Ghent is important for the growth and the innovative strength of the sector,” says Willem Dhooge, managing director of sector organisation “It also fits in perfectly with the internationalisation strategy of the Flemish economy.”

Belgian listed biotech companies have a combined market value of about €12 billion with an increasing proportion of international investors; close to half come from the US. They represent about 18% of the total sectoral market value across Europe. Aside from its large contribution to economic growth, the sector is also a large employer in Flanders, accounting for about 20,000 direct and 80,000 indirect jobs.

Good news for start-ups

An important development for the sector is the growing interest among international investors in local start-ups, which is a signal of increased confidence in Belgian biotechnology and bodes well for the future.

“What’s new is that international investors also want to invest in start-ups, while previously they mostly stepped in at later phases when the risks were lower,” says Johan Cardoen, head of Flemish biotech research institute VIB. “So today we are less dependent on local investors.”

Each year, there are about 10 to 15 new start-ups in Flanders, according to Dhooge says this is “a number evolving surprisingly quickly to medium-sized companies with a clear international focus”.

The conference organisers chose Ghent for this year’s conference because of the large number of biotech firms based there and in the surroundings, helping make the area one of the largest industry clusters in Europe. The event has previously been held in Paris and Copenhagen. 

Photo © VIB