Train more talent, support more start-ups and scale-ups, so that biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals, such a key sector for the economy, prosperity, and employment in Wallonia, develop internationally and are ready for the next generation of therapies and production processes. This is the ambitious goal of the EU Biotech School & Health Hub, a state-of-the-art training centre with a business accelerator, which should be operational in a new building in Gosselies, near Charleroi, by 2025. This flagship project is part of Belgium’s €25 million recovery and resilience plan.
The EU Biotech School & Health Hub will become a multidisciplinary competency centre specialised in talent development to support the growth of biotechnology and biopharmacy in Wallonia. It aims to set up a cutting-edge infrastructure, attract the best national and foreign experts and provide the appropriate infrastructure for a wide range of partners to offer their services.
The ‘one-stop-shop’ platform model will create interdisciplinarity, which will not only allow the biotech and health sector to access more talent with the required skills, but also to create structural synergies between companies – whether spin-offs, start-ups, scale-ups, or international players – and academia. This will help strengthen the sector’s international competitiveness and appeal.
It is also an inclusive project that aims to train, retrain, or upskill students and jobseekers, as well as newly recruited or more experienced employees in the sector. It involves both low and high skilled people and has an international focus. With training programmes tailored to the latest biotechnology production processes, the initiative aims to meet companies’ critical needs and prepare more talent for future employment in the sector.
The EU Biotech School & Health Hub project is structured around four pillars, and a training programme will be developed for each one.
- STEM Promotion: to encourage more young people to consider the many employment opportunities in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical sector, having a positive impact on healthcare and society.
- Next-generation biomanufacturing: training adapted to the latest therapeutic developments and the increasing digitalisation and automation of production processes, thereby complementing what is already offered through existing training centres Cefochim in Wallonia, and ViTalent in Flanders.
- Digitalisation: training to accelerate digital transformation by providing employees with digital and analytical skills and helping companies to digitise their innovation and manufacturing processes by means such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.
- Soft skills & Mini MBA: helping start-ups acquire business knowledge and specific management training for life sciences.
This broad but focused approach should provide an appropriate response to the challenges facing the sector. Too few young people opt for technical or scientific studies. This lack of qualified and specialised workers makes it difficult for companies to fill their vacancies, while studies have just shown that the sector structurally needs 2,400 new employees in the next three years. Even an increase of 10,000 direct and indirect jobs is expected over the next ten years.