Building bigger for Belgium’s maturing biotech scene

July 7, 2020 Sponsored Turnstone Communications

Biotech is booming in Belgium. To support the evolving needs of this world-class ecosystem, the Mariën family initiated and are realizing Obelisc: a new and additional Bio-accelerator in Ghent’s science park. The building will service the larger start-ups graduating from local bio-incubators as well as international companies looking to put down roots in Belgian soil.

Just south of Ghent’s medieval city center, canals and stepped gable houses give way to a world of sleek modern buildings filled with cutting-edge technology. You’ve arrived in Tech Lane: one of Belgium’s largest science parks. Home to Ghent University, VIB, and numerous biotech companies, this area employs about 9.000 highly qualified personnel and gives rise to an average of 10 new companies each year.

We decided that Obelisc would be a nice addition to what is already available in Ghent, because this new bio-accelerator caters to larger companies and therefore complements the other buildings already present in the science park. – Stefan Mariën, Biovest

Since its founding nearly 40 years ago, the expansion of the Ghent science park has reflected the dramatic growth of the life sciences industry in Belgium. A prominent figure in Belgian biotech, Rudi Mariën has been a part of the scene since the very beginning. After founding the country’s first biotech company Innogenetics, Rudi Mariën turned to investing in other promising start-ups and in biotech infrastructure projects. His investment company Biovest has turned into a family business, with Rudi’s son Stefan following in his father’s footsteps. Stefan Mariën gives us a bit of backstory:

“Ghent is the city where it all started. The city is well known for its life sciences ecosystem, thanks to VIB and Ghent University. Already a while ago, VIB established the first Bio-incubator in the Ghent science park. Subsequently, in 2008, they initiated the first Bio-accelerator together with several private investors, a building of 18.000 m2 where Ablynx is still a resident to this day. Due to the growing success of the biotech industry, soon even more space for start-ups and spinoffs was required. So, in 2015, our family created a new campus adjacent to VIB with brand new buildings: Bioscape.”

Read this previous BioVox article for more on Bioscape.

“Bioscape is now in full use with several resident companies including argenx, Eurofins and Inari. The purpose of this campus was to help young start-ups originating with VIB to find their feet, to promote their growth and development and eventually help them move on to the next phase of their lifecycle.”

Obelisc: a monument to a maturing ecosystem

The ecosystem has kept flourishing and several of the companies housed in Bioscape have started outgrowing their facilities. In parallel, Belgium’s reputation has started attracting larger companies from overseas, looking for suitable accommodations for their new European branches. In response, the Mariën family and the investors behind the first Bio-accelerator – including the listed infrastructure company TINC –  initiated and realized a new Bio-accelerator as an addition to the existing ecosystem: Obelisc.

You have to anticipate the future needs of the ecosystem. We’ve had people reach out to us directly, from VIB and companies in Belgium, for more infrastructure to support the next steps in this industry’s growth. – Stefan Mariën, Biovest

Like an older sister to Bioscape, Obelisc will cater to the next stage in the growth of the Belgian life sciences companies. As the ecosystem matures, the companies in it are growing larger and entering a different phase of development. The needs of a small start-up are different to those of a larger company, not just in scope and size but also in the type of facilities they require. Obelisc aims to provide for this next generation of biotechs.

“We always face the challenge of timing,” Mariën explains. “Because building projects like this take several years. So, you have to anticipate the future needs of the ecosystem. We’ve had people reach out to us directly, from VIB and companies in Belgium, for more infrastructure to support the next steps in this industry’s growth. We decided that Obelisc would be a nice addition to what is already available in Ghent, because this new bio-accelerator caters to larger companies and therefore complements the other buildings already present in the science park.”

Read this previous BioVox article for more on VIB’s role in the Belgian life sciences ecosystem.

Drawn to the talent

Obelisc won’t just be catering to Belgian companies: with the recent success of several flagship Belgian companies like Ablynx, Galapagos and argenx, this country’s biotech scene has been turning heads the past few years. In addition to local start-ups, we have also been hearing from international companies who are seeking to move their business to Belgium:

We’re predicting an influx of international companies wanting to leverage our expertise. This means that we need to have the adapted infrastructure for these international companies to be able to move here. – Stefan Mariën, Biovest

“We are very happy to have internationally renowned companies, such as Galapagos and argenx, that put Belgium on the map. The knowledge we have, thanks to our universities, VIB and the support of the government, is becoming well-known. With Belgium’s growing reputation, we’re predicting an influx of international companies wanting to leverage our expertise. This means that we need to have the adapted infrastructure for these international companies to be able to move here. Obelisc will fit the bill perfectly, providing ‘plug and play’ laboratories and offices suitable for both local and international companies looking to grow.”

Header Image: Obelisc, the new bio-accelerator in Ghent’s science park.


Turnstone Communications
Turnstone Communications

We are a specialized consultancy agency providing communications, marketing and strategic support to companies and organizations in the life sciences industry. We share client articles on BioVox providing insight into new and established players in the Belgian ecosystem, from innovations and research breakthroughs through to finance and industry trends.

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