Brussels : fertile ground for innovation

Article Summary

Brussels has a flexible business approach, high-quality infrastructure and a rich talent pool. All this is meant to encourage installing research and high-tech, retail, audio-visual, consultancy or public policy companies in the Belgian capital.

Brussels is recognized as a tech industry leader. It consistently ranks in the top two European cities for infrastructure, internet connectivity, and digital public services. Nearly 30% of Belgium’s IT jobs are held in the capital, as are 30,000 of the country’s tech sector jobs, and 30% of tech start-ups: Google, Microsoft and Twitter – and an ecosystem of smaller tech and digital players – have chosen Brussels as their European regional HQ.

Brussels’ tech strategy to boost investments in the sector combines facilitation for newcomers and ongoing training for the local workforce. This includes facilities, agencies that help access venture capital funds, incubators, accelerators, hacking spaces with a yearly cycle of hackathons – all supported by local industry and authorities.

Brussels also has a robust Fintech and sharing economy. It is home to European technology development networks, partnerships and investment programs, including projects launched by Horizon2020 – the EU’s €80 billion flagship Science & Technology program.

All these elements come together in Brussels to offer your business a well-oiled technology hub, a valuable test market (as a launch pad to the European market), and a rich talent pool of enthusiastic young and seasoned professionals, ready to add value to your business.


Brussels : At the top of Europe’s innovation scoreboard

We can’t deny that Brussels is a hotbed of innovation. With a strong culture of open economy and innovation, Brussels ranks among the sector’s leading regions in Europe.

As local SMEs innovate in-house and often collaborate with each other give Belgium a relatively high score in innovation rankings: while European projects have an average 11,8% success rate, Brussels projects with the European research and innovation programme are successful 18,8% of the time.

Brussels’ innovation performance has steadily increased over time, to the point where it reached the top of the Europe’s latest Regional Innovation Scoreboard. The Belgian capital can also thank its authorities for this enviable position on the European scene. Local government support for entrepreneurship, with dedicated guidance, financing, and localisation services encourages initiatives dedicated to research and development.


Robust government and private support

All are further stimulated through clusters of industry (SMEs and large enterprises), academia and the public sector in domains of smart specialisation like medical devices and e-health, audiovisual and new media (including VR and AR), sustainable construction, the circular economy and other fields focussing on innovation.

With start-up incubators specialising in technology and life sciences, services dedicated to innovating SMEs, business accelerators for green projects and ICT, and a whole range of financial instruments dedicated to boosting the development of innovation, it’s no surprise Brussels driving forces are inventing the future day after day.

Brussels regional agencies Lifetech, Brussels MedTech and eHealth are accelerators that help health sector startups and SMEs bring their ideas to market. These advisory and mentoring services provide funding, business planning, Intellectual Property support, and a platform for networking opportunities between entrepreneurs.

Belgium makes a significant contribution to biopharmaceutical science and innovation in Europe. Companies based here are leading producers, employers, R&D investors and exporters in global pharma and healthcare.

Brussels offers development support and financial incentives to help boost your Science & Technology investments, including a flexible tax environment for R&D – offering an 80% deduction on patent income, and an 80% wage tax exemption for researchers.


Brussels : a qualified, creative workforce 

But none of this would matter without the high level of education and creative mindset of its workforce, and its worldwide reputation as a crossroads where leading researchers, expert engineers and theoretical scientists meet from all over Europe and beyond, to collaborate on ambitious projects.

In this regard, the 1927 Solvay Conference, and its historical picture reuniting 17 Nobel Prize winners, serves as a testimony of Brussels’s long and passionate tradition of exploring new grounds in the never-ending scientific adventure.

Brussels’ R&D sector has a well-developed infrastructure with talented scientists in many fields.

Some 200 pharmaceutical companies have made Brussels their home, employing 30,000 people. Brussels supports the sector with thousands of researchers working in nine university hospitals. This includes the state-of-the-art Bordet and Ludwig cancer research centers and the Brussels Life Science Incubator.


A fertile ground for life science 

From specialist incubators and state-of-the-art research institutions to flexible authorities and productive partners, Brussels is the perfect place to expand your life science business.

The life sciences sector in Brussels is a vibrant ecosystem, buzzing with new ideas, projects and achievements. The ecosystem supports and accelerates start-ups and scale-up companies, promoting collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas.

Flourishing partnerships between international companies, hospitals, private labs, research institutes, health funds (ziekenfonds / mutualiteit), chemists and doctors benefit everyone involved and help to increase direct employment in the sector by 50% from 2000 to 2013 (National Social Security Office).


How can Brussels help you?

The entire life sciences ecosystem is supported by the Brussels Capital Region. Thanks to our long experience with the sector, we know what companies need and want in order to achieve their ambitions, helping encourage further growth in the sector.

As an example, consider the importance of speed in the R&D lifecycle. When you first get your research idea, you can contact the local authorities (Federal Agency for Medicines & Health Products (FAMHP)) for assistance (if required). You’ll discover their international reputation for being flexible, open for new ideas and making fast decisions is well-deserved – as demonstrated by Belgium’s position as number 2 in Europe for clinical trials (

Every year over 500 clinical trials applications are submitted by the biopharmaceutical industry in Belgium (12% of the European total), with applications being processed and approved quickly before over 170,000 patients participate in phase 2 and 3 trials. This is especially important as getting recognition for your life science medicine or medical technology by one European agency, means it’s recognised across Europe (

Find out how Brussels can help you realize your future ambitions. Contact us.



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Success story : Canadian life tech Montrium finds a home in Brussels 

Montreal-based Montrium has been helping life tech players collaborate and innovate more efficiently, while maintaining the high standards regulated content in this sector is subjected to, for almost 15 years.

Connect, the service platform it created in 2007, enables all companies in the life sciences sector to collect and regulate clinical trial information. In view of its platform’s success, Montrium is expanding internationally, namely to the EU. And there’s no place like Brussels to launch a European platform. Especially with a local, attentive and proactive relay like to help it successfully deploy on European soil.

Paul Fenton, Montrium CEO, chose Belgium as its European base: its high concentration in companies active in life sciences was key in this choice. The adventure began when Paul Fenton pushed the door of the Belgian consulate in Montreal.


Talent, research and development

Soon, the first contacts were established between Montrium and the connection quickly established trust between the partners. The first mission of was to listen. The agency described Brussels’ corporate environment to its new Quebecois friends: tax system, commitment regulations, R&D financing…

Of course, finding a balance between the conduct of operations in Montreal and Brussels was incredibly important, as well as, very concretely, finding the best accountant, social secretariat and a bank for this specific type of endeavour, among many other administrative steps in the process. Thankfully, was there to accompany and facilitate the whole procedure.


“Had not intervened, it would have taken us much longer to integrate into the Brussels ecosystem.”

Paul FENTON, Montrium CEO & President


But time is a critical resource better devoted to development! There’s basically none to spare. And there’s nothing like a peer ecosystem to help your business develop faster. So, immediately referred Montrium to its health and healthcare cluster.


Brussels, a lighthouse for Canadian ships

Montrium’s offices are now located in the heart of Brussels and will continue to grow under the leadership of The objective? To gain ground in the life sciences ecosystem, but also – with support from the embassies – to promote Brussels as a host city for Canadian companies seeking to cross the Atlantic. The traditional friendship between the two countries certainly won’t hurt, but there’s no lack of objective reasons, like administrative and logistical support, for Canadians to bring their businesses over to Brussels.


“Our collaboration with is dynamic, efficient, creative, open, business-oriented and friendly. They have helped us to set up our European hub quickly and transparently.”

Paul FENTON, Montrium CEO & President