Train more talent and support more start-ups and scale-ups so that biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals, a key sector for the Walloon economy, prosperity, and employment, can develop internationally and be ready for the next generation of therapies and production processes. This is the ambitious mission of the « EU Biotech Campus », a leading-edge training centre, featuring a business accelerator, which should be operational by 2025, in a new building at Gosselies, near Charleroi. This flagship project is part of Belgium’s recovery plan, which was approved by the European Commission last week.
The « EU Biotech Campus » will be a multidisciplinary competency centre, specialising in talent development to support the growth of biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals in Wallonia. To this end, it aims to set up a state-of-the-art infrastructure, attracting top national and international experts, and providing the right infrastructure for a wide range of partners to offer their services.
This ‘one-stop-shop’ model will create interdisciplinarity, allowing the biotechnology and health sectors access to more talent with the right skills, and creating structural synergies between companies – be they spin-offs, start-ups or scale-ups, or international players – and the academic world. This will help strengthen the sector’s competitivity and appeal at international level.
It is also an inclusive project, aiming to train, retrain or upgrade the skills of students, jobseekers, and new recruits, as well as more experienced people within the sector. It applies to both low and high-skilled workers and has an international focus. With training programs perfectly adapted to the latest biotech production processes, the initiative aims to meet companies’ critical needs and prepare more talent for future jobs within the sector.
The « EU Biotech Campus » project is based on 4 pillars, each with their own training program.
- Promoting STEM: inspiring more young people to explore the wide range of employment opportunities in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical sector, having a positive impact on healthcare and society.
- New generation Biomanufacturing: training courses aligned to the latest therapeutical developments, and increasingly digital and automated manufacturing processes, thereby completing the training offer of existing training centres Cefochim in Wallonia and ViTalent in Flanders.
- Digitalisation: training to speed up digital transformation, equipping workers with the necessary digital and analytical skills, and helping companies digitalise their innovation and manufacturing processes through means such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.
- Soft skills & Mini MBA: helping start-ups acquire business know-how, and specific management training for the life sciences sector.
This broad yet focused approach must bring an adequate response to the challenges facing the sector. Not enough young people are opting for technical or scientific studies. Due to the lack of qualified and specialist workers, companies struggle to fill vacancies, even though studies have just shown the sector will need around 2,400 new employees over the next three years. An increase of 10,000 direct and indirect jobs are expected over the next ten years.
The « EU Biotech Campus » project was developed by Didier Malherbe, President of BCI-Pharma and vice-President of the Union Wallonne des Entreprises (UWE), and Frédéric Druck, Managing Director of essenscia wallonie and Secretary General of bio.be/essenscia.
Given the urgency of the situation, Didier Malherbe also developed a ‘short term’ initiative with the competitive cluster BioWin, as part of the “Get Up Wallonia” plan. In partnership with the Walloon government and with support from businesses such as Catalent, GSK, Keneka Eurogentec, Thermofisher, UCB and Univercells, it should be possible to have a clear view of training needs, thanks, in part, to the launch of the « EU Biotech Campus ».
Didier Malherbe, President of BCI-Pharma and Vice-President of the Union Wallonne des Entreprises (UWE): « I am delighted that these two perfectly complementary projects can launch and begin to meet the needs of the biotech and biopharma sector, which represents 40,000 direct jobs in Belgium, around half of which are in Wallonia, and whose growth is highly dependent on the availability of well-trained talent. It is encouraging that we are getting the required support from the regional and federal authorities. »
Frédéric Druck, Managing Director of essenscia wallonie: « The « EU Biotech Campus » is a major step forward in the long-term establishment in Wallonia of a strategic sector like biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals. It is mainly about investment in people. Training more talent with the right skills and digital know-how to help more patients, by producing the vaccines and therapies of the future in our region.»
Sylvie Ponchaut, General manager of BioWin: « BioWin is delighted to actively participate in the launch of this ambitious project alongside companies within the sector, and to develop, together with various public and private operators, innovative solutions to meet the urgent needs facing the Walloon ecosystem. »