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Initially, the Walloon region wanted to create a “Life Sciences” competitiveness cluster. However, field research revealed that 80% of the region's biotechnology actors were focused on health (red biotech). In the light of those findings, it decided to make BioWin the health competitiveness cluster of Wallonia. It is to be noted that BioWin is the acronym of BIOtechnologies Wallonia Innovation.
BioWin's members are active in the main health biotechnology sectors, namely: pharmacy and biopharmacy, diagnoses, medical devices and equipment. They are all innovation driven, whether in the field of research and development or on the production side.
The Walloon region, as regards companies, and the French Community of Belgium (including Brussels), as regards universities and institutes of higher education, have a long tradition in the field of biotechnology and health care. As regards large companies, world leaders such as
are companies which have developed in the region from their roots in the local scientific and industrial fabric. Around 30% of the workforce of these companies is still dedicated to R&D. Baxter (biopharmacy, medical devices) has been active for more than 30 years in Wallonia (R&D and production) and continues to be a long-term investor in the region. Alongside these major industrial operators, there is a dense network of SMEs, including numerous university spin-offs.
From the point of view of higher education and research, 7 universities grouped together in the 3 academies of Brussels (ULB), Liège (ULg) and Louvain (UCL) have along tradition of scientific excellence in biomedical subjects and more than a quarter of their 70,000 students and a fifth of their doctoral students are still involved in these specialist fields. In addition, several well-known international research institutes are present in Brussels and the Walloon region:
- Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research (LICR)
- Christian De duve Institute of Cellular Pathology (ICP)
- Institute of Medical Immunology (IMI)
- Grappe Interdisciplinaire de Génoprotémonique Appliquée (GIGA)
- Institut de Biologie et de Médecine Moléculaire (IBMM)
- Institut de Recherche Interdisciplinaire de Biologie Humaine et Moléculaire (IRIBHM)
All these academic and industrial assets have convinced the Walloon authorities of the potential of health biotechnology as a key driver of the region's economic and social development in the coming years.