After reaching revenues of EUR 2.323 billion in the first six months of 2019, UCB announced on December 18 that it will build an innovative multi-product biological manufacturing facility on their site in Braine l’Alleud, Wallonia, Belgium.


Headquartered in Brussels, UCB is a global biopharmaceutical company developing innovative medicines with a specialization in neurology and immunology. The Belgian company was founded in the 1920s and operates in approximately 40 countries with 7,500 employees.


Representing an investment of more than EUR 300 million, the new biotechnology plant is being constructed to support the company’s growth and prepare for an expanding portfolio thanks to a long-term supply of promising medicines currently under clinical development.


Construction of the facility is due to start in the first quarter of 2020 and anticipated to be operational in 2024 – making the biotechnology plant will be one of the largest and most modern in Belgium. Moreover, this investment will deliver a positive impact in the region by creating more than 150 new, high skilled jobs once the plant becomes fully operational.


Aside from the narrative of a Belgian company investing in its home market, this investment is a good indicator of Belgium’s positioning as a manufacturing and export centre for biopharmaceuticals in Europe.


Manufacturing activities account for about 20 percent of Belgium’s GDP despite the country’s annual industrial production growth being only 0.2 percent, making it the 168th country in the world for industrial growth rates. In particular, the production of pharmaceuticals generated revenues of EUR 10.77 billion in 2017 and the sector represents 7.6 percent of employees in the country’s entire manufacturing industry.


In addition to UCB, many other pharma multinationals are contributing to this statistic by having set up strategic manufacturing operations across Belgium. For example, GSK, Pfizer, Sanofi, and Janssen have all taken advantage of the attractive environment and established production facilities in the country.


Foreign trade accounts for approximately 70 percent of the Belgian economy, about 80 percent of which is with fellow EU member states. Belgium is ranked the second largest pharmaceutical export country in the world, making the industry a driving force behind the country’s economy. In fact, pharma products represent more than a tenth of total exports and in 2015 EUR 40.7 billion worth of medicines and vaccines were exported by Belgium.


For a globally operating company, capitalizing on Belgium’s strength in manufacturing and ideal position as an export hub, all the while keeping assets close together in the country, is a defining factor for future success. “We are convinced Braine l’Alleud is an ideal location for the implementation of this large-scale manufacturing facility. The presence of our Biotech Sciences Team, Bio-Pilot plant and diverse research capabilities on the same site will ensure accelerated product launches and supply reliability,” says Dr Kirsten Lund-Jurgensen, UCB’s EVP and head of supply & technology.