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New figures make it abundantly clear that Belgium and the country’s northern region Flanders are a hotspot for R&D and innovation. In 2021, the number of patent applications from Belgian companies, universities and research institutes to the European Patent Office (EPO) rose by 3.3% compared to the previous year, reaching an all-time record of 2,485 applications.

In the European top 10

Zooming in on Belgium’s three regions, Flanders leads the scoreboard with 1613 applications or 65% of all Belgian patent applications in 2021, followed by the Walloon Region (19.8%) and the Brussels Capital Region (15.3%).

Compared to other European regions, Flanders is among the best in class when it comes to patent activity. As such, the region comes in at number 10 in the ranking based on number of EPO patent applications in 2021.

Life sciences & health ecosystem on top

The number of EPO patent applications by Belgian companies and organizations rose particularly sharply within the pharmaceutical domain. With a growth of 34.3% compared to 2020, the pharma industry was Belgium’s most prominent patent applicant in 2021. Biotech comes in second, followed by medtech. In other words, the three most patent-active tech domains in Belgium and Flanders as a region are all related to life sciences & health innovation. 

This is no coincidence, as Flanders is home to a prolific business and research ecosystem consisting of both local and international life sciences & health players. Want to check it out? Take a virtual tour through the ecosystem via Flanders360.

140 patents from imec, Flanders’ nanotech & digital hub

Zooming in on individual patent applicants, two major forerunners stand out. The number one spot is reserved for chemical player Solvay, which is headquartered in Brussels and operates sites across Flanders. The company applied for a total of 276 patents in 2021. Coming in second with 140 applications is imec, Flanders’ strategic research center for nanotech and digital innovation with sites in Leuven and Ghent. 

Prolific universities and research institutions

What’s more, with three of Flanders’ universities (KU Leuven, UGent and UAntwerp) and two of Flanders’ strategic research centers (imec and VIB) in the top, no fewer than five of the ten most active patent applicants were higher education and research institutes in 2021. That’s more than in most other European countries. 

Learn more about R&D and innovation in Flanders. 
Take a tour through Flanders’ innovative life sciences & health ecosystem.

Reported by
website VRT News

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