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R&D expenses

Largest private investor in R&D ​

Source : Commission for federal cooperation, Working group CFS/STAT; calculations Federal Science Policy Office, primary economic activity classification

R&D spending is a key indicator of how innovative an industry is, driving the technological advances that are vital for a sustainable future. R&D spending in the chemicals, plastics and life sciences industry totalled nearly 4.8 billion in 2019. This is twice as much as a decade earlier. The sector is the largest private investor in R&D, accounting for 65% of total R&D expenditure by all Belgian manufacturing companies in 2019 Life sciences companies account for 89% of the sector’s total R&D spending. Based on a survey conducted among essenscia members, R&D spending has increased by more than 20% in one year, reaching 5.6 billion euros in 2020.

About 70% of R&D spending occurs in-house, with the balance spent by third parties on behalf of a client company. This high level of third-party spending reflects the strong degree of collaboration between companies and technology centres to boost innovation.

The R&D-intensity of the Belgian economy (in both the private and public sectors) amounted to 3.2% of GDP in 2019. The R&D-intensity of the sector (expressed as in-house R&D spending/value added) reached 16.2% in the same period. Thanks to these efforts, the industry plays a key role in enabling Belgium to achieve the European target of investing 3% of GDP in R&D.